In Case You Missed It: Postal Service Inspector General Reports Advance Security Data Finds 2,800 Suspicious Packages from just Two International Shippers

U.S. Postal Service Acting Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb testified last week that a pilot program underway by Customs and Border Protection and the Postal Service found more than 2,800 suspicious packages using advance electronic data from two international shippers over just four months. The first international sender identified was solely responsible for mailing more than 450 packages to American addresses, and the recipients were linked to thousands of other suspicious international shipments. If passed, the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which has gained widespread bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, would require electronic data used in the pilot program on ALL international packages shipped to the United States.

Excerpts from the Acting Inspector General’s testimony are below. The full text is available here.

“In July, our office started to examine whether we could use advance electronic data to determine the risks to postal employees from opioid parcels. Coincidently, at the same time, we joined a narcotics trafficking investigation that appeared to involve a Postal Service employee. The case was initiated because CBP had seized a parcel containing the opioid fentanyl from an international shipper to a U.S. address.”

“Using evidence from this investigation, we searched the advance electronic data for more parcels sent from the same international address. We found more than 450 additional parcels sent between February and June of this year. The parcels were destined for locations nationwide, and other indicators suggested that many were suspicious.”

“We took the analysis a step further to see whether the U.S. addresses that received these suspect parcels received other international parcels, and we identified an additional international shipper that sent parcels to some of the same addresses. When we searched the data for this second shipper, we found more than 2,400 additional parcels shipped between February and June of 2017.”

“When we asked CBP, they confirmed they had seized a parcel containing fentanyl from the second shipper earlier this year. It appeared to us that this second shipper likely shared some customers with the first shipper, and in fact, one U.S. recipient received a total of 23 parcels from the two shippers. Using data analytics, we were able to turn shipping data from one fentanyl parcel into information about two suspect shippers and more than 2,800 suspicious parcels.”

“Analyzing advance electronic data in combination with other postal databases could shine a spotlight on international drug trafficking through the mail and facilitate prevention efforts in the originating countries. Additionally, in many instances, parcels from suspect shippers can be identified while they are still in transit between countries, which should help ensure they are seized at our border. And for those parcels that make it into the domestic mail stream, analytics will help law enforcement track down the individuals who are trafficking or receiving these dangerous opioids.”

“We have already met with representatives from CBP, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, the Postal Inspection Service, and the Postal Service to share these discoveries and to discuss how to work together in the future using analytics.”