Officials Agree: Advance Security Data Needed to Help Stop Dangerous Drugs Flowing into the U.S.
Trafficking of Deadly Opioids through the Global Postal System is Focus of U.S. Senate Hearing
Washington, D.C. –
At a hearing of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, law enforcement, medical experts, government officials and representatives from the private sector convened to address a critical aspect of America’s opioid epidemic: the shipment of synthetic opioids into the United States via the global postal system.
At the hearing, “Stopping the Shipment of Synthetic Opioids: Oversight of U.S. Strategy to Combat Illicit Drugs,” testimony from officials made it clear that the pipeline of these drugs into our communities is exacerbating the opioid epidemic, and that requiring advanced electronic data on all packages entering our country would enhance officials’ abilities to detect and stop these dangerous packages.
There is growing bipartisan support for tackling this issue. Earlier this year, members in both chambers of Congress reintroduced the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which would close a global postal loophole and require electronic data on all packages shipped into the United States.
As the below testimony makes clear, requiring this electronic data would be an integral step in shutting down the pipeline of synthetic opioids into the United States. With more Americans dying in the opioid epidemic than from gun violence or traffic accidents combined, we can’t afford to wait.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO): “My staff tells me the United States Postal Service is underwriting the costs of mail coming here from China – and that just seems crazy to me. How in the world does that happen?”
Tammy L. Whitcomb, United States Postal Service, Office of the Inspector General: “Given the growth of international package flows to the Postal Service, there is a need to find more effective ways to manage inbound traffic… International postal regulations are beginning to change in recognition of the importance of posts providing advance electronic customs data. The Postal Service can also require this data through bilateral agreements it makes with foreign postal operators. However, our audit work found instances of bilateral agreements where the Postal Service had not requested this advance customs data.”
Senator Steve Daines (R-MT): “Yes we’ve got to work on our demand issues. But we can work together here on source. We’ll need the collaboration between the USPS, CBP, and our foreign post stakeholders. And if our foreign post stakeholders decide not to cooperate, I do think we need to take stronger action, and do put American first in this equation.”
Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND): “If we were happy with the speed to which the US Postal Service were dealing with this issue, you all wouldn’t be here. This is not moving fast enough. We see these drugs coming in. We have had numerous deaths in my state because of fentanyl abuse, and we know that the delivery point is the United States Postal Service… This is serious stuff, and it needs to be addressed, and we need to have a plan, it seems to me, with detailed timelines.”
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH): “My hope is that because of this hearing we’ll be able to move more quickly on this issue. We can get [the STOP Act] passed, to give you the additional authority I think you need to have…the tools to be able to identify the right packages, to go after them, to stop some of this poison, and also to increase the cost on the street. Because right now this stuff is so cheap and so deadly that it’s killing more and more people.”
Norman T. Schenk, United Parcel Service: “Even 17 years ago, it was clear that Customs and other federal agencies could not manually screen packages that were not accompanied by advanced data – purely because of volume – and that the most effective way of interdicting bad shipments was through the use of advanced electronic data… By 2016, the volume of packages entering the United States has increased many times over: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported that, in 2014, CBP processed approximately 340 million parcels arriving via foreign postal operators, most without electronic data. In 2016, foreign posts likely sent over 400 million packages into the United States, and the volume is rapidly growing.”
Robert Cintron, United States Postal Service: “For those items for which advanced electronic data, known as AED, is furnished, Customs has an enhanced ability to target items for inspection.”
About Americans for Securing All Packages
Americans for Securing All Packages (ASAP) is a bipartisan coalition composed of health care advocates, national security experts, businesses and nonprofits who believe it is time for the U.S. government to take action and ensure that all packages being shipped to the United States from any foreign postal service are adequately screened before arriving on the doorsteps of unsuspecting Americans.