A face and license plate scanning camera was torn from the ground outside a Colorado post office this week less than one hour after being discovered by local reporters.
The camera, run by the United State Postal Inspection Service, the postal service’s law enforcement unit, was hidden inside a utilities box near the exit of the Golden Post Office.
According to FOX31 Denver investigative reporter Chris Halsne, the camera was mysteriously removed almost immediately after he began asking unit representatives why the device was capturing local residents.
The U.S. Postal Service responded by denying that “random surveillance” was being conducted despite the camera appearing to capture every driver that left the property.
“(We) do not engage in routine or random surveillance. Cameras are deployed for law enforcement or security purposes, which may include the security of our facilities, the safety of our customers and employees, or for criminal investigations,” U.S. Postal Inspector Pamela Durkee said. “Employees of the Postal Inspection Service are sworn to uphold the United States Constitution, including protecting the privacy of the American public.”
Employees of the post office, who were allegedly unaware of the camera, told Halsne that the surveillance device was not linked into their normal security system.
Investigating the matter further, FOX31 was unable to locate any “criminal search warrants on file in city, county, or federal court” that related to the post office’s surveillance.
“FOX31 Denver filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests with the Postal Service, Postal Inspection Service, and Office of the Inspector General in an attempt to identify the cost and scope of the Postal Inspection Service surveillance program,” the article states. “None of the agencies could provide a written data retention policy, which would detail how long USPIS could keep the images agents have been collecting from the Golden post office camera and other cameras around the Denver area.”
Hop-On Incorporated, a company known to sell surveillance systems to the U.S. Postal Service, also refused to disclose information on whether they provided cameras for Colorado’s program.
“Our FOIA requests for federal contracts and financial information about Hop-On and other contractors who sell USPS and USPIS camera equipment were returned to us void of all information,” the article says.
The incident suggests that the camera was removed by the postal service in an attempt to hide the program’s details, unsurprising given the U.S. Postal Service’s long history of surveillance.
A 2013 article in the New York Times detailed the postal service’s Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, which records the metadata of millions of pieces of mail.
“In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime,” said Mark D. Rasch, a Justice Department employee said. “Now it seems to be, ‘Let’s record everyone’s mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.’ Essentially you’ve added mail covers on millions of Americans.”
Colorado’s surveillance program highlights how nearly every activity of the American public is under constant surveillance regardless of criminal activity.
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