Concerning Mail Cover Surveillance

NACDL adopts a report and recommendations to address flaws through reform to the mail cover program.

WHEREAS, mail cover surveillance is the investigative practice of recording the information listed on the outside of mail going to or from a designated address, which has existed in the United States since the nineteenth century;

WHEREAS, the use of mail covers has been abused repeatedly throughout its history, undermining both First and Fourth Amendment principles, and potentially violating individuals’ constitutional rights;

WHEREAS, a 2014 United States Postal Service audit of the mail cover program revealed the breadth of the mail cover program as well as its systemic failures in authorization and monitoring;

WHEREAS, in addition to these administrative failures, the mail cover program, in some cases, violates the Fourth Amendment in light of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Jones and other cases;

AND, WHEREAS, the mail cover program, at least in some cases, chills individuals’ First Amendment rights to associate, receive information, and communicate anonymously;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers adopts the attached report and recommendations to address the aforementioned flaws through reform to the mail cover program, including:

  • Support for the recommendations of the Office of Inspector General in its May 28, 2014 Report;
  • Congressional passage of an exclusionary rule for any evidence uncovered as the result of a reckless or intentional failure to follow mail cover regulations;
  • Judicial use of United States v. Jones and other cases to impose Fourth Amendment limitations on mail covers;
  • Requirement of review of mail cover-related decisions of the Chief Postal Inspector or his designees, which are currently unreviewable;
  • Requirement of a higher standard of evidence to justify a mail cover;
  • Elimination of the current arbitrary eight-year data retention period, and requiring data retention for a short period of time, and a period grounded in reason.

Resolution of the Board of Directors
April 19, 2015
District of Columbia

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