In Case You Missed It: Washington Post Investigation Shows Ongoing Threat of Deadly Opioids Trafficked to the U.S. Through the Mail

A new investigative report from the Washington Post explores how international drug traffickers continue to exploit a loophole in the global postal system to send fentanyl and other deadly synthetic opioids to the U.S. through the mail. The article highlights that even as fentanyl “has fueled the deadliest drug epidemic in American history,” the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) still does not receive crucial security data needed to screen for opioids on a significant number of foreign packages.

The Washington Post reports that Congress passed the STOP (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention) Act in 2018 in order to mandate that Customs and Border Protection receives the basic shipping information needed to stop shipments of fentanyl, known as advance electronic data (AED), but the postal service missed key deadlines under the law.

By the end of last year, USPS was required to have AED on 100 percent of packages from China and 70 percent of packages overall, but has fallen significantly short – in addition to being late on submitting key reports on STOP Act compliance to Congress.

“Without a committed effort to secure our international mail system, fentanyl will continue to flow into our country unchecked. That leads to more tragedies and more American deaths that could have been prevented,” said Juliette Kayyem, senior advisor to Americans for Securing All Packages. “It’s unacceptable that the postal service is not meeting the requirements outlined in the STOP Act that are meant to keep us safe. Congress and the American people need to demand action and see concrete evidence that the postal service and all federal agencies are doing everything in their power to close this loophole and turn off the pipeline of drugs fueling this deadly epidemic.”

New tweets from President Trump further urged action to stop deadly mailed opioid shipments and warned of the risk of fentanyl sent from China, further emphasizing the glaring need to implement the STOP Act.

Read key excerpts from the article below and the full story at the Washington Post:

Chinese drug traffickers had some advice for American buyers of fentanyl: Let us ship it to you by regular mail. It might be slower than FedEx or UPS, but the opioid is much more likely to reach its destination through the U.S. Postal Service.

These cyber drug dealers wrote their U.S.-based customers — in emails later uncovered by federal investigators — that private delivery companies electronically tracked packages, allowing the easy identification of mail from suspect addresses and creating a bright trail connecting sellers and buyers of illegal fentanyl.

The Postal Service for years did not institute similar safeguards — and that gaping hole in the nation’s borders has not been fully closed despite legislation compelling its elimination. Fifteen percent of all packages from China are still not electronically tracked, and the figure rises to 40 percent for all packages from around the world entering the United States.

“What do we not know about these packages that are coming in?” Frank Russo, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection port director at John F. Kennedy International Airport, said in an interview.

“When you’re talking about a million packages a day,” he said, noting the amount of international mail arriving at JFK alone, “40 percent is a large number.”

In the fall of 2018, the Senate passed a bill introduced by Portman called the STOP (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention) Act. It required all senders of international mail packages to provide basic shipping information to CBP, including the name and address of the shipper and the recipient of the package.

…It required the Postal Service to have advance electronic data on 70 percent of all packages mailed from abroad and 100 percent on all packages mailed from China by Dec. 31, 2018.

Postal officials missed the deadline.