Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Eavesdropping Snail Mail Style

Apologists for increased government power to fight crime and terrorism often tell us that the powers are only used to catch bad guys.

Reuters is reporting that Customs and Border Protection is opening international mail coming into the U.S. without warrant.
Sadly, this is legal.
Congress passed a trade act in 2002, 107 H.R. 3009, that expanded the Custom Service's ability to open international mail. Here's the beginning of Section 344:
(1) In general.--For purposes of ensuring compliance with the Customs laws of the United States and other laws enforced by the Customs Service, including the provisions of law described in paragraph (2), a Customs officer may, subject to the provisions of this section, stop and search at the border, without a search warrant, mail of domestic origin transmitted for export by the United States Postal Service and foreign mail transiting the United States that is being imported or exported by the United States Postal Service.

Government has always pushed the boundaries of what is legal when it feels it is in its interests to do so.  Why should we trust anyone (least of all, government) to use that judgment wisely?  That is why we have, rightly, setup a system by which government actors have to convince at least one other person that their actions are justified.

So when they tell me that NSA can eavesdrop on international telephone conversations – but trust me its just for the bad guys – I find myself more that a little skeptical

HatTip: Bruce Schneier

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