Report Reveals Wider Tracking of Mail in U.S.

In this Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, file photo, packages wait to be sorted in a Post Office as U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Michael McDonald, gathers mail to load into his truck before making his delivery run, in Atlanta. The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 it is revamping its priority mail program as part of its efforts to raise revenue and drive new growth in its package delivery business. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
In this Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, file photo, packages wait to be sorted in a Post Office as U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Michael McDonald, gathers mail to load into his truck before making his delivery run, in Atlanta. The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 it is revamping its priority mail program as part of its efforts to raise revenue and drive new growth in its package delivery business. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
In this Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, file photo, packages wait to be sorted in a Post Office as U.S. Postal Service letter carrier Michael McDonald, gathers mail to load into his truck before making his delivery run, in Atlanta. The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 it is revamping its priority mail program as part of its efforts to raise revenue and drive new growth in its package delivery business. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

WASHINGTON (New York Times) — In a rare public accounting of its mass surveillance program, the United States Postal Service reported that it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to secretly monitor the mail of Americans for use in criminal and national security investigations.

The number of requests, contained in a 2014 audit of the surveillance program by the Postal Service’s inspector general, shows that the surveillance program is more extensive than previously disclosed and that oversight protecting Americans from potential abuses is lax.

The audit, along with interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, offers one of the first detailed looks at the scope of the program, which has played an important role in the nation’s vast surveillance effort since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The audit, which was reported on earlier by Politico, found that in many cases the Postal Service approved requests to monitor an individual’s mail without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization.

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