After a US Postal Service customer alerted FOX31 Denver investigative reporter Chris Halsne of the fact that a hidden surveillance camera appeared to be monitoring and capturing images of customer’s faces and license plates after they dropped off mail at a Golden, CO post office branch, he launched an investigation. However, as he began asking authorities questions as to why the camera had been placed there, it mysteriously vanished. Said Chris Halsne in the above-embedded video footage, “Within an hour of FOX31 Denver asking the law enforcement branch of the US Postal Service why the camera was snapping away month after month, the surveillance device was ripped from the ground and disappeared.”
Witnesses claim that the camera had been in place as early as Thanksgiving of 2014. When officials with the US Postal Service indicated that they were unaware of the camera and that it had not been placed as a part of the facility’s security program, Halsne contacted the US Postal Inspection Service, the US Postal Service’s law enforcement division. US Postal Inspection Service officials declined to meet Halsne for an on-air interview, but admitted that the agency does use surveillance cameras. Postal Inspector Pamela Durkee responded to Halsne’s inquiry by sending an email, which said, “[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. Employees of the Postal Inspection Service are sworn to uphold the United States Constitution, including protecting the privacy of the American public.”
However, Halsne noted that the camera was not positioned such that it could monitor the doors to the facility or areas in which postal workers might be victimized by a security threat. Instead, the camera was positioned such that it could only monitor customers’ license plates and faces as they left the facility. Halsne also followed up on the theory that the camera was there to assist with a criminal investigation, but could not find any city, county, or federal criminal search warrants on file that would justify such a camera placement.
BenSwann.com previously reported on the US Postal Service’s “mail covers” program, a separate surveillance initiative in which it photographs the covers of parcels and stores the images in a database. An audit conducted last year noted that the program lacked controls to prevent law enforcement agencies from obtaining the data for unjustified reasons.
FOX31‘s Chris Halsne also filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the US Postal Service, the Office of the Inspector General, and the US Postal Inspection Service in an effort to ascertain some specifics on this newly-identified surveillance program’s costs, contractors, and what happens with the data captured by the Golden Post Office’s mysterious camera. However, none of the aforementioned agencies provided him with a policy on data retention, a list of contractors, or an explanation as to when federal authorities are allowed to use the photographs. He also attempted to contact Hop-On Incorporated, a surveillance camera manufacturer who claims to sell spy cameras to the US Postal Service, but did not receive a reply.