U.S. Customs Opening International Mail
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.
If I remember correctly, the ACLU was able to temper the amendment, and this language is better than what the government originally wanted.
Domestic First Class mail is still private; the police need a warrant is to open it. But there is a lower standard for Media Mail and the like, and a lower standard for “mail covers”: the practice of collecting address information from the outside of the envelope.