By Mark Nestmann – Nestmann.com –
FATCA and similar laws have eviscerated financial privacy in the US. And last year, thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden, the world learned the extent of the surveillance conducted by America’s largest spy agency, the NSA.
Now the Postal Service has joined in the game, introducing an NSA-style dragnet over mail delivery.
The most shocking aspect of the crackdown against financial and electronic privacy is the lengths that Congress, the Treasury Department, the NSA, and now the Postal Service have gone to subvert our constitutional right to privacy.
The lesson is the same, too. If you want privacy – of any type – you won’t find it in the US. But you will find it offshore.
How Treasury and the NSA Subverted Privacy in the US
Acting through the non-governmental organization called the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Treasury Department forced supposedly non-binding recommendations into law. This has had the effect of gradually subverting any meaningful constitutional protection of your financial privacy from the US government. Today, Treasury agencies are literally hardwired into America’s banks and must be notified instantly whenever a customer engages in a “suspicious transaction.” Your bank statement, individual financial transactions, and even copies of your checks are available for warrantless inspection by the IRS anytime….
The Supreme Court ruled decades ago that the government can’t open first-class mail, such as letters and sealed packages, unless a court issues a warrant backed by probable cause. (Newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and other printed matter have no such protection.) But the privacy advantages of first-class mail have mostly disappeared, thanks to the War on Terror.
Before 2001, the only way that the Postal Inspection Service could inspect mail was if it fit into broad “suspicious package profiles” the service had created. The profiles relied on dog sniffs carried out by animals trained to alert to narcotics, other contraband, or cash. Drug-sniffing dogs may check packages sent to or from “source areas for the distribution of narcotics and/or controlled substances.” It turns out that every major city in the US is such a “source area.”
After 9/11, that wasn’t enough for Congress. In 2002, it gave the Customs Service the authority to conduct warrantless searches of international first-class mail. And in 2006, President George W. Bush quietly asserted a new government prerogative to open any type of mail. In a “signing statement” attached to a reform act that was support to enhance postal privacy, Bush claimed the government could open any postal correspondence without a warrant, probable cause, or even suspicion that it contains dangerous materials or contraband. The only requirement is that the mail opening be related to “foreign intelligence collection.”
Of course, just about anything could conceivably be related to “foreign intelligence collection.” It’s a loophole big enough to drive a truck through.