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Mr. DISEROAD. We do have other electronic surveillance devices.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Would you provide the committee with a detailed list of such devices? We would appreciate that. Do you maintain a log as to the use of the other devices?
Mr. DISEROAD. We do.
Mr. COTTER. Mr. Chairman, might I just interrupt for a moment? Mr. KASTENMEIER. Of course.
Mr. COTTER. You know, the Postal Inspection Service is not too wellknown to the American people, but it is a very, very significant criminal investigative agency; in fact, it is the oldest criminal investigative agency in the Federal Government, going back to Benjamin Franklin.
Last year, for example, we made some 16,000 arrests. In the area of convictions, cases going to trial, we have a conviction rate of over 98 percent.
Now, the types of cases, for example, that Mr. Diseroad touched upon, burglaries of post offices; holdups of post offices; holdups of letter carriers on the street, which is getting to be a very worrisome problem; house letter box thefts of welfare checks of the needy, that is a very, very troublesome area; bombs in the mails. This past year we have had more pipe bombs going through the mails in the United States, and we have solved 16 out of 18 of these cases; we have the highest solution rate of any Federal agency.
One truck of our mail, for example, going from the GPO in New York City to the Kennedy Airport contained $40 million. I'm astounded that there haven't been more major crimes against the Postal Service and assaults against the Postal Service.
So, we have a very, very big task in the criminal world, and we have to use the most advanced technical devices to confront and to fight crime.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Wouldn't you employ the Federal Bureau of Investigation to pursue crimes against the Postal Service?
Mr. COTTER. No, sir. We work very closely with the FBI and meet regularly with the heads of the major Federal law enforcement agencies. For example, with the Internal Revenue, Secret Service, Customs, and Clarence Kelley. U.S. attorneys know well the involvement of postal inspectors and utilize the mail fraud statute that goes back to 1872; that is a highly effective tool, loved by the U.S. attorneys. They don't look to the FBI, they look to the postal inspectors who have intimate knowledge of how these crimes can be perpetrated, utilizing the mail, and so forth.
It is a big criminal operation, and these technical devices are essential tools that we employ to solve these crimes. For example, we had a case a year ago in New York City, down on Wall Street, where two fellows came up on both sides of a mail truck which had $14 million in collections from the Wall Street area. They came up and got nervous shot the guard to death; the driver stepped down and ran away.
Who solved that case, the local police, FBI? Indeed, everybody did. The local police were great; the FBI was great; the postal inspectors were great, too; and based upon intelligence from the FBI, technical devices were used, and within 40 days about six people were appre
hended in that conspiracy; there were three life sentences, very, very serious sentences. It was a joint effort, local police, FBI, and the postal inspectors.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. To go a little bit further, it is my understanding that there have been since 1968 two court orders for wire taps approved for the Postal Service. Is that correct?
Mr. DISEROAD. Yes, sir.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Therefore the Service's use of wire taps would be a bit tentative, they are neither used very much, or have you used them not at all. Presently, do you contemplate to use them, or currently have any plans to use them? Currently, I am talking about last
Mr. DISEROAD. I can't discuss the investigations which we might have, on which we might eventually use an interception order, a wiretap.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Let me ask you one final thing. You will submit to the committee, the subcommittee a copy of your log for the period 1968 to the present time?
Mr. COTTER. A copy of the log
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Yes.
Mr. COTTER [continuing]. Indicating?
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Indicating the use of surveillance devices as are carried out by the postal inspectors.
Mr. WIGGINS. Will the gentleman yield? Is it the purpose of the Chairman's request to include active investigations, as well as those
Mr. KASTENMEIER. If there is any sensitivity with respect to ongoing investigations, I would exclude them. What I have in mind is more or less the frequency and purpose, and the points of such devices. Mr. COTTER. The whole Nation, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. DANIELSON. Mr. Chairman?
Mr. KASTEN MEIER. Yes?
Mr. DANIELSON. If I might make a suggestion. I am certainly in favor of this committee in public knowing the general scope of this activity; but before we conduct ourselves like a bull in the china closet in something that might be highly sensitive, I would respectfully suggest that we would receive any such information in executive session. And then, after having had an opportunity to determine the sensitivity, then we could release whatever portion, which will not prejudice the investigations. But, you can't unring a bell. I think we ought to receive this testimony in executive session, and then determine what portion should be released, as we did in the hearings on the then proposed Vice President Ford.
As I recall, we had witnesses whom we heard confidentially, and most of the testimony was subsequently released. But we avoided at least
Mr. KASTEN MEIER. I certainly think that is a good suggestion, and we will proceed that way. The gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Railsback. Mr. RAILSBACK. I have no questions.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. The gentleman from California?
Mr. WIGGINS. I have no questions.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Mr. Pattison?
Mr. PATTISON. I have one other question. It occurred to me under a key decision of the Supreme Court relating to wire taps by the Attorney General in national security cases, it is required that significant foreign involvement be established in order to get the authority for a wiretap. Is that still the kind of standard that applies in national security cases when you issue a cover for them?
Mr. COTTER. No, sir. As Mr. Ansaldi brought to my attention, we are not talking about the opening of the mail itself, we are just talking about the exterior.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Would you place the mike in front of yourself? Mr. PATTISON. Obviously you would in an opening case, but in a cover case you are saying you would not.
Mr. COTTER. That would be up to the court, I guess, Mr. Pattison, to require that type of base for opening.
Mr. PATTISON. But in the case of a cover it is not required, the showing of significant foreign involvement?
Mr. COTTER. No, sir, that is correct.
Mr. PATTISON. Thank you.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. The gentleman from Massachusetts.
Mr. DRINAN. Mr. Cotter, could the case of Lori Paton happen once again? This was a 16-year-old girl who wrote to the Socialist Workers Party in New York City, asking for information. The FBI investigated her, her teachers and her family; and as you know, there is a law suit pending in the whole matter. Have you altered the regulations so that we can never have another case like Lori Paton?
Mr. COTTER. No, sir, but I hope we won't have another case like Lori Paton, that was human error. The mail cover was on the Socialist Workers Party. This young lady wrote a letter to the Socialist Labor Party, who are incidentally in the same building. The clerk got the mail mixed up and recorded her name on the list of mail going to the Socialist Workers Party, as I recall, and that's how the whole confused mixup started.
Mr. DRINAN. What do you mean it was human error? I mean, you had a mail cover on every bit of mail coming in to the Socialist Workers Party, that was at the request of the FBI in the name of national security, so what's the human error?
Mr. COTTER. The human error was in recording Lori Paton's mail, which wasn't even addressed to the Socialist Workers Party, on the list of the Socialist Workers Party.
Mr. DRINAN. I know that, that was a human error. But if she had written, correctly, you say now that cases like that can still happen; you made no alteration of the regulations. People writing to a political party, such as the Socialist Workers Party can get their mail inspected on the cover, and the FBI can get this information and begin investigating them.
Mr. COTTER. That is correct.
Mr. DRINAN. Isn't the Socialist Workers Party still the subject of a mail cover, all letters going in there are recorded?
Mr. COTTER. I don't recall offhand.
Mr. DRINAN. Can we get under the Freedom of Information Act, or any other way, a list of all of the organizations now that are deemed to be subversive by the FBI?
Mr. COTTER. If you address that, Congressman Drinan, to the FBI, I suggest it would be up to them to provide that information.
Mr. DRINAN. Would you want to disclose that information? Mr. COTTER. No, sir. I would not disclose information with regard to the identity of subjects of mail covers; I would refer the request to the agency which requested the mail cover.
Mr. DRINAN. Can this committee get a list of all the written requests of the FBI in the last 2 or 3 years for mail covers, in the name of national security?
Mr. COTTER. I would suggest, sir, that you direct your inquiry to the FBI.
Mr. DRINAN. Well, Mr. Chairman, I think this would be very valuable, then we would know what these 260 mail covers in the name of national security are. That information, it seems to me, should be available to this committee, if we are going to make any sensible judgment on that.
Mr. COTTER. I think, Congressman Drinan, for me to give that informtaion, I could very well be jeopardizing some very, very significant national security investigation. And I shouldn't be the one to make the judgment to release that information.
Mr. DRINAN. One last question about this reciprocity with the Canadians. Is there any written agreement that they can look at the cover of our mail, or we can do likewise?
Mr. COTTER. No, sir.
Mr. DRINAN. What do you mean by reciprocity, what actually transpires?
Mr. COTTER. In the mail cover area?
Mr. DRINAN. Yes.
Mr. COTTER. They have an individual in Canada-I'm hypothecating, I don't know the individual case-they have an individual in Canada, or an American citizen who walked across from the United States who is "filching" the people in Canada, a fraud scheme, perhaps, and is getting all the money through the mail and getting back to the United States. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police contact us and explain their problem, and ask whether or not they can get a mail cover on this individual so they can get some idea, so they can get some idea as to the scope and magnitude of this scheme; and we agree. And we provide that data to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Mr. DRINAN. But as to reciprocity, does the FBI request from the Canadian officials that they do a mail cover on mail coming from various American citizens?
Mr. COTTER. I do not know.
Mr. DRINAN. Thank you very much. I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. KASTENMEIER. Mr. Pattison?
Mr. PATTISON. I'm just wondering whether the increasing automation of the mail-will that make it easier or more difficult to operate a mail cover?
Mr COTTER. Well, a mail cover, Mr. Pattison, of course the information is recorded at the point of delivery.
Mr. PATTISON. Oh, I see.
Mr. COTTER. So, it still stops at one point.
Mr. PATTISON. So, it wouldn't make any difference, one way or the
Mr. COTTER. I think not, except, you never know what comes next; we may have it shoot down the street
Mr. PATTISON. OK.
Mr. KASTEN MEIER. The gentleman from California, Mr. Danielson. Mr. DANIELSON. I wish to correct a statement I made on the steel engraving I mentioned of Harry S. Truman, I meant the steel engraving of Franklin D. Roosevelt, shortly after he died in the late 1940's. One question. When you place a mail cover at the request of another agency, such as the FBI, for example, do you go behind the FBI's request; or if the FBI makes a request, within the parameters of what you are allowed to do, do you simply accept that and put it on?
Mr. COTTER. Generally speaking, Mr. Danielson, if they meet the standards we set forth, furnish the necessary information, and it makes sense to us, I do not go behind it.
However, there are occasions-and I don't recall any offhand, but from other agencies, where I say, "This doesn't make sense to me," and I send it back. Offhand I don't recall having to do that with the FBI because the FBI is a pretty effective organization.
Mr. DANIELSON. Fundamentally, though, if the request comes to you from one of the approved agencies, in the approved form, and prima facie states the case, you do not go behind their representation, you accept it at face value.
Mr. COTTER. That is correct.
Mr. DANIELSON. So, if we were to question the judgment of placing a mail order, our proper inquiry should be directed to the agency requesting it, rather than to your agency; is that correct?
Mr. COTTER. I think certainly, with certain agencies like the FBI, that is very, very true.
Mr. DANIELSON. Thank you, that is all.
Mr. KASTEN MEIER. Are there any further questions, Mr. Badillo? Mr. BADILLO. What has been the procedure that has been followed with respect to opening the mail, who does it, and how is the information referred to the appropriate agency?
Mr. COTTER. Mr. Badillo, we were talking here today with respect to mail covers, which, of course, involves the exterior of the envelope only, and not mail openings.
The only authorized mail opening within the Postal Service would be in the dead letter branch, where it is opened to see who the sender was, or opening a letter under a court order, those are the only three areas two areas, the dead letter opening, or the court order opening. Now, there is one more, the U.S. Customs Service is authorized to open mail coming into the United States from abroad to see whether or not it contains contraband, to check for the appropriate duty, and so forth; but they are not authorized to read it.
Now, with regard to opening, those are the only categories. Now, other openings would not be in consonance with the rules and regulations.
Perhaps, Mr. Badillo, you are referring again to the Colby observation, and that is another story entirely. Mr. Kastenmeier touched upon that earlier.