Prominent Michigan Cancer Doctor Pleads Guilty – intentionally and wrongfully diagnosing healthy people with cancer
Dr. Farid Fata, a prominent cancer doctor in Michigan, admitted in court to intentionally and wrongfully diagnosing healthy people with cancer. Fata also admitted to giving them chemotherapy drugs for the purpose of making a profit. The cancer doctor’s guilty plea shocked many in the courtroom, according to The Detroit Free Press. Fata owned Michigan Hematology Oncology, which had multiple offices throughout Detroit’s suburbs. Fata’s reach included offices in Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills, Lapeer, Sterling Heights, Troy, and Oak Park, Michigan. The doctor stated his plea in the absence of a plea deal and with tearful eyes, according to CBS News.
“It is my choice,” Fata said on Tuesday of his guilty plea.
In the Detroit courtroom, the cancer doctor named numerous, dangerous drugs that he prescribed to his patients. With each admittance he stated, “I knew that it was medically unnecessary.”
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade will seek life in prison for what she called “the most egregious” health care fraud case she has ever seen. McQuade said that in addition to insurance fraud, which involved a $35-million Medicare fraud scheme from 2009 until the present, Fata also harmed, and in some cased subsequently killed, his patients with dangerous chemotherapy drugs they did not need. According to government records, Fata’s medical practice included 1,200 patients. The formerly prominent cancer doctor will be sentenced in February before U.S. District Judge Paul Borman. The doctor’s bond was set at $9 million.
“In this case, we had Dr. Fata administering chemotherapy to people who didn’t need it, essentially putting putting poison into their bodies and telling them that they had cancer when they didn’t have cancer,” the prosecutor told the Detroit Free Press. “The idea that a doctor would lie to a patient just to make money is shocking… Dr. Fata was unique in that he saw patients not as people to heal, but as commodities to exploit.”
The cancer doctor, 49, is a married father of three who resided in Oakland Township. Hoping it would help his case, Fata’s lawyers attempted to get the case moved from the Detroit area, according to CBS News this summer. Fata became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 2009 and is a native to Lebanon. Court documents from also 2013 allege a charge of “Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization” for stating that he had not committed a crime in the U.S. that he was not found guilty of yet. In all, he pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering, 13 counts of health care fraud, and one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks.
“I’m numb,” Angela Swantek, a chemotherapy nurse and a whistleblower of the cancer-treatment doctor, told reporters. “I’m not surprised though; I wondered how his team was going to defend him. The charts don’t lie.”
“I left after an hour and half. I thought this is insane,” Swantek said about her short time in Fata’s office in 2010 where she noticed patients receiving chemotherapy incorrectly. She wrote a letter to the state suggesting an investigation that day. In 2011, the state informed her they found no proof of wrongdoing at Fata’s office.
“I handed them Dr. Fata on a platter in 2010 and they did absolutely nothing,” Swantek said, adding she was relieved when he was charged two years later. “I started crying. I thought about all of the patients he took care of and harmed.”
“At a time when they are most vulnerable and fearful, cancer patients put their lives in the hands of doctors and endure risky treatments at their recommendation,” Assistant Attorney General Caldwell stated. “Dr. Fata today admitted he put greed before the health and safety of his patients, putting them through unnecessary chemotherapy and other treatments just so that he could collect additional millions from Medicare. The mere thought of what he did is chilling.”
Some of Fata’s victims are disappointed that they didn’t get the opportunity to speak at a trial, according to Click On Detroit. Others are glad to hear him admit to his fraud.
“I don’t think there’s any justice. I lost my sister and her children lost a mother,” said Cindy Burt. “There’s just no justice for that.”
White Lake resident Karen Baldwin said her husband, Harrison, was treated for a diagnosis of brain cancer. She is unsatisfied with the guilty plea.
“To me true justice would be that Fata drops dead,” Baldwin said, adding, “And I go home and my husband’s at the table saying, ‘What’s for dinner? I’m hungry.’”
Dave Kroff was also put through years of unnecessary chemotherapy by Fata. Kroff says that the chemo suppressed his immune system so badly that he lost both of his legs.
“He’s one of several civil suits against Fata,” Donna MacKenzie, Kroff’s attorney, stated. “The feds have seized millions in Dr. Fata’s assets. Will any of these victims see any of it?”
Multiple civil suits have already been filed, according to Click On Detroit. For example, Donna Virkus, the daughter of one of Fata’s patients, says that her 78-year-old father, Donald, was referred to Fata by a concerned physician to rule out esophageal cancer.
“It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe we put our trust into a doctor that was supposed to take care of him and ended up killing him,” Virkus said.
Donna’s father never had the cancer, a review of Donald’s medical files showed. Yet, the prestigious cancer doctor ordered two years of chemo. The civil suit alleges that Donald developed a blood-related cancer as an effect of the chemotherapy treatments. Donald later died.
Civil suits filed against the Michigan doctor over fraudulent cancer treatments include other doctors and oncology nurses as well.
Read more at Inquisitor
Lesley McSpadden allegedly led a group of 20 to 30 people to a tent in a parking lot in Ferguson, Mo. on Oct. 18 to beat and rob vendors selling ‘Justice for Michael Brown’ merchandise.
The mother of Michael Brown could be charged with felony armed robbery for allegedly attacking people in a Ferguson, Mo., parking lot because they were selling T-shirts honoring the late teenager.
The Ferguson Police Department is currently investigating claims that Lesley McSpadden brought a group of people — including her own mother — to beat vendors and rob them of their “Justice for Mike Brown” merchandise Oct. 18, The Smoking Gun has learned.
One person was hospitalized in the reported attack and another unidentified alleged victim was reportedly beaten with a pipe.
McSpadden’s former mother-in-law, Pearlie Gordon, was among those beaten by “a large group of about 20-30 subjects” who had “jumped out of vehicles and rushed” the group of sellers, according to the police report.
Gordon, 54, was allegedly knocked to the ground and repeatedly struck in the head. She detailed the brief exchange she had with McSpadden at the time of the attack.
“You can’t sell this s**t,” McSpadden allegedly said, according to the report.
Gordon responded that “unless McSpadden could produce documentation stating that she had a patent on her son’s name (Gordon) was going to continue to sell her merchandise,” according to the report.
More than $1500 in merchandise and $400 in cash was allegedly stolen by the attackers.
Once the investigation is finished, Ferguson police will decide whether to charge McSpadden and the others with felony armed robbery.
Michael Hanline was convicted to life without parole for a 1978 Ventura County murder. On Monday, the 69-year-old was released after new DNA evidence didn’t match his. ‘It feels like I’m on the front of a missile going through space and stuff is just flying by. I mean it’s just incredible,’ he told reporters.
After spending more than half of his life behind bars, California’s longest-serving wrongfully convicted inmate is heading home.
Michael Hanline was released Monday from the Ventura County jail, where he served 36 years in prison for a 1978 murder.
“It feels like I’m on the front of a missile going through space and stuff is just flying by. I mean it’s just incredible,” he told reporters outside of the jail.
The white-haired 69-year-old walked away with the help of a cane and left the facility hand-in-hand with his wife, Sandee.
Hanline was convicted to life in prison without parole in 1980, the L.A. Times reported. Prosecutors said he shot and killed J.T. McGarry two years before. They claimed he murdered the biker and dumped his body off the side of the road for money McGarry owed Hanline’s then-girlfriend
Hanline maintained his innocence from the start. The California Innocence Project began working on the case 15 years ago — 20 years after he was first convicted.
But the group’s big break came this year, when DNA evidence didn’t match Hanline’s. Instead, the DNA of another person was found on the evidence, Ventura County Deputy D.A. Michael Lief said.
The mismatched DNA prompted a judge to order his release Monday — his 36 years behind bars is the longest a wrongfully convicted California inmate has ever served.
“Through the miracle of DNA, we’ve added an extra piece to the puzzle here that showed that the evidence he was convicted on was false and we now have this DNA evidence to show that he did not commit this crime,” California Innocence Project spokesman Justin Brooks said at a Monday press conference.
Hanline was released with a GPS ankle bracelet, which he’ll wear while the District Attorney decides weather or not a lunch a retrial.
For now, he’ll head home, to a brand new world.
“I can’t really express the feelings that I got inside me because it’s just like a whirlwind. It’s a whole new ball game,” Hanline said. “I mean, you know, it’s an age of cellphones and technology and all that stuff is new. I’m a dinosaur.”
Police are reinvestigating the 1978 murder, including the new DNA evidence.
PHOENIX, November 4, 2014 – Today, voters in Arizona approved a ballot measure that follows James Madison’s advice to stop federal overreach. With 80% reporting, the tally held steady and increasing at 51-49%.
Approved was Proposition 122, a state constitutional amendment that enshrines the anti-commandeering doctrine in the state constitution. The language amends the state constitution to give Arizona the ability to “exercise its sovereign authority to restrict the actions of its personnel and the use of its financial resources to purposes that are consistent with the Constitution.”
This language is consistent with the advice of James Madison, who wrote in Federalist #46:
Should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union; the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassments created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, difficulties not to be despised; would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter. [emphasis added]
The amendment language mirrors the well-established legal doctrine of anti-commandeering. The Supreme Court has consistently held that the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce and federal act or program.It rests primarily on four SCOTUS cases – Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842), New York v. US (1992), Printz v. US (1997) and National Federation of Businesses v. Sebelius (2012).
Prop 122 places language in the state constitution that would empower the state to pass referendums, bills or use other legal means to end cooperation with an unconstitutional federal act. Supporters of the amendment say the provision allowing the people to vote to refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will prove especially significant.
“Basically, it will allow Arizonians to hold a state referendum on federal policy, something I don’t think has ever been done before,” one supporter said.
While the people of Arizona could hold a referendum like this now, by constitutionalizing the process, it now allows Arizonians to hold a statutory referendum on each issue instead of a constitutional referendum. A statutory referendum requires less signatures to get it on the ballot, something supporters say will allow grassroots groups to initiate the process.The money necessary to get a constitutional referendum on the ballot makes grassroots efforts difficult.
The amendment allows the people of Arizona to deal with unpopular federal programs like Obamacare, gun control, surveillance, and more. Supporters say one of the first issues they plan to target involves federal rules that allow Arizona Child Protective Services to hide important information. This has become an issue in several investigations alleging agency misconduct in the deaths of children under their care. CPS used rules tied to federal funding to refuse to disclose information. Amendment supporters say they will use the new process to forbid state cooperation with any federal rule that shields transparency.
Simply put, the amendment enshrines a process to refuse state cooperation with unconstitutional federal acts in the state constitution. As Judge Andrew Napolitano has said, refusing participation on a state level can make federal laws “nearly impossible to enforce.”
ROAD TO THE BALLOT
In 2012, Arizona businessman and TAC lifetime member Jack Biltis spent $1.2M to get signatures in order to get his nullification question on the ballot. While he came up short that first try, he and others – including the tireless Arizona Tenth Amendment Center team – worked to get the measure on the ballot a 2nd time.
The ballot measure was put on the ballot this year after the Arizona state legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 1016 (SCR1016) in 2013. The state Senate passed it by a 16-12 margin, and then in the state House approved it 36-23. Bypassing a likely veto from Gov. Jan Brewer, the measure went to a vote of the people.
“Politicians in Washington are fond of passing far-reaching laws, but more often than not they depend on state and local governments – and state and local taxpayers – to implement them. This means that not only is Congress making life harder for Arizonans, they’re asking us to pay the bill,” according to the Yes on 122 website. “That’s why a bipartisan majority of the Arizona Legislature came together to pass Prop 122.”
Former Arizona Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, who died in August after being thrown from his horse, was the primary sponsor of the bill as it moved through the Legislature.
“I think we can all agree that the federal government is out of control. Look at Obamacare, excessive EPA regulations and the takeover of our automobile and financial industries,” Crandell wrote in the campaign literature sent out by the state. “The forest service and EPA are driving many of my rancher and farmer constituents out of business. The federal government has their hands in every aspect of our lives.”
PERSONAL DRIVE FOR FREEDOM
Biltis moved to the United States from Montreal, Canada 20 years ago. He says it worries him watching America follow the same path as his native country.
“I’ve seen this movie play out before, and I can’t risk my kids’ futures on it playing out again,” he said. “I’ve seen what an overreaching government can do. We couldn’t run a business. If we answered the phone in English, the language police could shut us down. We paid 70 percent of what we earned in taxes.”
Biltis said the move to nationalize health care in the U.S. particularly frightens him.
“Once the government had control of healthcare in Canada, things got even worse,” he said. “After surgery, my father-in-law couldn’t get a needed medication because it required government authorization, and the government office was already closed. The hospital admitted that he would die that night without the medication, but was not allowed to sell it to us because ‘that wouldn’t be fair to those who couldn’t afford the medication.’ We were eventually able to get the medication through the black market.”
Biltis calls the United States “the world’s last hope.”
“If America goes the way of Canada, there is no other place to escape. After seeing Washington’s takeover of the healthcare, auto, and financial industries, I realized that the government is not operating under any semblance of control,” he said. “Bringing back Federalism is the only way to make the government accountable and keep us free.”
So Biltis put his money where his mouth is, mortgaging his home and business to the tune of $950,000 to fund the drive to get the initiative on the ballot and passed in Arizona. And, that was just for the first round. Final figures have yet to be reported for what was invested to get Prop 122 passed.
“I have nothing personal to gain from this movement, other than the chance that my kids will grow up in an America as free as the one I knew,” he said.
Prop. 122 has the potential to be a real game changer. If supporters follow through and use it as a mechanism to successfully reject participation in major federal programs, it’s likely that more states will follow Arizona’s lead.
While not something that will happen in the immediate future, this kind of domino effect is what’s needed to spell doom for the destructive notion of endless federal supremacy. Because the feds rely on state compliance far more than they would like you to realize, these type of measures are incredibly important. They have the potential to create a chain reaction that could shake up the status quo more than anything we’ve seen in generations.
MORE at 10th Amendment Center
Ray McGovern was arrested while attempting to attend an event featuring former CIA head General David Petraeus, former right-wing Center for a New American Security president Lt. Col. John Nagl, and neocon foreign policy commentator Max Boot.
Seventy-five-year-old McGovern is a former CIA analyst (1963 – 1990), turned activist/political critic/social justice advocate.
On October 30, he was brutally and lawlessly arrested in New York. For exercising his constitutional rights.
Attempting to attend an event featuring former CIA head General David Petraeus, former right-wing Center for a New American Security president Lt. Col. John Nagl, and neocon foreign policy commentator Max Boot.
Charged with criminal trespass, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. It bears repeating. For exercising his constitutional rights.
Tickets cost up to $45. McGovern had one. He had every right to attend. Stopping him reflects police state lawlessness. In the so-called land of the free and home of the brave.
Guards blocked his entry. At the 92nd St. Y venue. Calling itself “a world-class cultural and community center.”
Connecting people “through culture, arts, entertainment and conversation. For 140 years.”
“(H)arness(ing) the power of arts and ideas to enrich, enlighten and change lives, and the power of community to repair the world.”
Not on October 30. Principled ideas were absent. Tyranny replaced them. 92nd St. Y officials have lots of explaining to do.
Why McGovern was denied entry. Brutalized for trying. Why neocons were featured.
Militarists. Spokesmen for imperial power. Permanent war. Extremist views demanding open challenge.
Activists from The World Can’t Wait, the Granny Peace Brigade, Brooklyn for Peace and Veterans for Peace urged people to protest police state harshness.
McGovern planned challenging Petraeus the way he questioned former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2006.
About false statements on Iraq’s WMDs and nonexistent Al-Qaeda ties.
He was arrested. Jailed overnight. Saying he was warned “as soon as (he) got to the ticket-taker. ‘Ray, you’re not welcome here,’ ” he was told.
Video footage showed him screaming in pain as police pinned his left wrist behind his back. During arrest, lots of blood was visible on his pants.
Given out-of-control violence and human misery in Iraq, McGovern planned asking Petraeus if he’d “come out of retirement and try to do it better this time to train the Iraqi forces?”
He’s “no saint,” he said. “(N)o great strategist. (A)n embarrassment to the US Army in which (McGovern) used to be proud to have served.”
In April 2011, he wrote about “Petraeus at CIA – Can He Tell the Truth?” Saying Obama’s choice “raise(d) troubling questions.”
“What if CIA analysts assess(ed)” his Iraq and Afghanistan performance as failure? Would he accept or punish “critical analysis?”
“The Petraeus appointment also suggests that the President places little value on getting the straight scoop on these key war-related issues.”
“If he did want the kind of intelligence analysis that, at times, could challenge the military, why is he giving the CIA job to a general with a huge incentive to gild the lily regarding the ‘progress’ made under his command?”
McGovern compared Petraeus to the “ghost of Westmoreland Past.” His Southeast Asia record included “deliberate distortion and dishonesty.” Intelligence analysts proved it.
Progress he touted was failure. Petraeus was Westmoreland redux. Lots of evidence confirmed it.
He’s gone. Critics debate whether by resignation or sacking. For sure, not for extramarital sex. Unless state secrets were compromised.
He wasn’t an Obama favorite. His loyalties were suspect. His departure removed the last Bush administration neocon holdover.
An unnamed administration source said “some key figures close to the President wanted (him) out, and there was no sadness” to see him go.
Media reports said FBI investigations began months ago into a “potential criminal matter.” Not specifically focused on Petraeus.
Information surfaced about a potentially compromised computer he used. Security concerns were raised. FBI agents discussed this with him.
An unnamed congressional official briefed on the matter urged him to fall on his sword and leave. Whether he did or was pushed who knows.
John McCain once called him “one of (our) greatest generals.” His judgment leaves much to be desired.
He’s not Capitol Hill’s best and brightest. He graduated near the bottom of his Naval Academy class.
White House and media spin praised Petraeus’ performance. As Iraq commander, CENTCOM head, commander US Forces Afghanistan and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) chief.
Falsified hype and then some. Failure defined his performance. Mythology turned it into successes.
Time magazine named him 2007 runner-up Person of the Year. As meaningless a designation as Nobel Peace awards.
Before he fell from grace, he was called aggressive in nature. An innovative thinker on counterinsurgency warfare. A talisman. A white knight. A do-or-die competitive legend. A man able to turn defeat into victory.
His record was polar opposite. Competence didn’t earn him four stars. He was more myth than man. His Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria commands failed.
His former commander, Admiral William Fallon, called him “a piece of brown-nosing chicken shit.”
Former peers accused him of brown-nosing his way to the top. Hoping to get there by manufacturing successes.
Concealing failures. Supporting Washington’s imperial agenda. Advancing through super-hawkishness. Brown-nosing superiors.
Lying to Congress. Hyping a fake Iranian threat. Supporting Israel’s worst crimes. Even though suggesting the longstanding special relationship at times does more harm than good.
In March 2013, he joined the American Corporate Partners. An NGO “assisting veterans in their transition from the armed services to the civilian workforce.”
At the same time, he became honorary OSS (Office of Strategic Services/CIA’s predecessor organization) Society chairman.
A City University of New York (CUNY) visiting professor. A University of Southern California Judge Widney professor.
A UK University of Exeter Strategy and Security Institute honorary visiting professor. Students are advised to avoid him.
He chairs investment firm Kiohlberg Kravis Roberts’ KKR Global Institute. Harvard’s JFK School of Government Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs named him non-resident senior fellow. He belongs to various other organizations.
After arrest, McGovern was transferred to the 100 Center Street police station. Placed in central booking ahead of arraignment.
He’s on the State Department’s Diplomatic Security “Be on the Look out” (BELO) list. In 2011, he turned his back on then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at George Washington University.
According to former State Department foreign service officer Peter Van Buren:
“University cops grabbed McGovern in a headlock and by his arms and dragged him out of the auditorium by force, their actions directed from the side by a man whose name is redacted from public records.”
“Photos of the then-71 year old McGovern taken at the time of his arrest show(ed) multiple bruises and contusions he suffered while being arrested.”
“He was secured to a metal chair with two sets of handcuffs. (A)t first refused medical care for the bleeding” they caused.
At the time, disorderly conduct charges were dropped. FOIA documents obtained showed State Department investigations for his “political beliefs, activities, statements and associations.”
He sued the State Department for violating his First Amendment rights. Winning an injunction against inclusion on its BELO list.
His treatment now and earlier reflects America’s abysmal state. More police state than democracy.
More battleground than homeland. More tyrannical than free. More unfit to live in than ever.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached email@example.com.
Also see Ray McGovern describes his brutal arrest by NYPD:
23 Oct 2014 Newtown school officials appear to have had an incomplete mental health history of [alleged] Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza before he entered high school, according to a draft of a soon-to-be-released report by the state Office of the Child Advocate. No copies of the draft have been distributed…Lanza, in his early teens, was prescribed the antidepressant Celexa by Yale clinicians. Included in the case files are emails between Peter Lanza and Kathleen Koenig, a clinical nurse specialist in psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center, “regarding her treatment sessions with the shooter, as well as an evaluation by” Dr. Paul Fox, a former Connecticut psychiatrist who now lives in New Zealand. [Down the rabbit hole with him.] Once when Koenig prescribed a small dose of Celexa to Adam Lanza, Nancy Lanza called Koenig’s office to report that Adam Lanza was “unable to raise his arm” and she blamed it on the medication. [Yes, Lanza stopped taking the medication, as it would be difficult to shoot 26 people with an assault rifle if you can’t raise your arm.]
Do NOT Donate to the Rose Croix
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Red Cross ‘used Hurricane Sandy and Isaac disasters as photo ops,’ sending out empty emergency response vehicles for show while handicapped storm victims slept in wheelchairs –During Sandy relief, emergency vehicles were designated for ‘press events’ –Shelters left disabled storm victims sleeping in wheelchairs for days on end
29 Oct 2014 After Hurricane Isaac made landfall over areas of Louisiana and Mississippi in 2012, emergency response vehicles emblazoned with the logo of the Red Cross rolled in. According to one former field supervisor, dozens of those vehicles had no destination and no supplies, useless for anything but providing the appearance of disaster relief. A joint investigation by ProPublica and NPR showed that in spite of massive funding, relief efforts from the American Red Cross were disastrous, forcing smaller organizations to step in.
Ralph Nader, a former Green Party and Independent Party presidential candidate who frequently serves as a loud critic of federal safety standards, doesn’t have much love for presumptive Democratic Party White House candidate Hillary Clinton.
When asked by a writer with We Are Change what he thought of the the former Secretary of State seeking the nation’s highest office, Mr. Nader’s reply was less than enthusiastic.
“Well, Hillary is a corporatist and a militarist,” Mr. Nader said, Raw Story reported. “Do we want another corporatist and militarist? She thinks Obama is too weak. He doesn’t kill enough people overseas. So she’s a menace to the United States of America.”
But he wasn’t done.
“What we need is people — regardless of whether they are libertarians or not — that pull back on the empire and make Wall Street subordinate to Main Street,” Mr. Nader said, Raw Story reported. “People have got to start thinking, doing their homework, become informed voters and not coronet another corporatist and militarist.’
Mr. Nader had some harsh words for Sen. Rand Paul, too.
“He’s like his father Ron Paul,” Mr. Nader said, Raw Story reported, “He is against militarism, against the bloated military budget, against empire and against these foreign military unconstitutional adventures — but Rand Paul is changing by the month as he wants the White House. He is beginning to say, ‘Well, what if we give more aid to Israel?’ … So he is beginning to change.”
Mr. Nader had some words of advice for Mr. Paul: “What he ought to do is go back to his father, sit on his knee and become more like Ron Paul,” he said, Raw Story reported.
WASHINGTON — (NYT) In a rare public accounting of its mass surveillance program, the United States Postal Service reported that it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to secretly monitor the mail of Americans for use in criminal and national security investigations.
The number of requests, contained in a 2014 audit of the surveillance program by the Postal Service’s inspector general, shows that the surveillance program is more extensive than previously disclosed and that oversight protecting Americans from potential abuses is lax.
The audit, along with interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, offers one of the first detailed looks at the scope of the program, which has played an important role in the nation’s vast surveillance effort since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The audit, which was reported on earlier by Politico, found that in many cases the Postal Service approved requests to monitor an individual’s mail without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization.
CreditLuke Sharrett for The New York Times
In addition to raising privacy concerns, the audit questioned the efficiency and accuracy of the Postal Service in handling the requests. Many requests were not processed in time, the audit said, and computer errors caused the same tracking number to be assigned to different surveillance requests.
“Insufficient controls could hinder the Postal Inspection Service’s ability to conduct effective investigations, lead to public concerns over privacy of mail and harm the Postal Service’s brand,” the audit concluded.
The audit was posted in May without public announcement on the website of the Postal Service inspector general and got almost no attention.
The surveillance program, officially called mail covers, is more than a century old, but is still considered a powerful investigative tool. At the request of state or federal law enforcement agencies or the Postal Inspection Service, postal workers record names, return addresses and any other information from the outside of letters and packages before they are delivered to a person’s home.
Law enforcement officials say this deceptively old-fashioned method of collecting data provides a wealth of information about the businesses and associates of their targets, and can lead to bank and property records and even accomplices. (Opening the mail requires a warrant.)
Interviews and court records also show that the surveillance program was used by a county attorney and sheriff to investigate a political opponent in Arizona — the county attorney was later disbarred in part because of the investigation — and to monitor privileged communications between lawyers and their clients, a practice not allowed under postal regulations.
Theodore Simon, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said he was troubled by the audit and the potential for the Postal Service to snoop uncontrolled into the private lives of Americans.
“It appears that there has been widespread disregard of the few protections that were supposed to be in place,” Mr. Simon said.
In information provided to The Times earlier this year under the Freedom of Information Act, the Postal Service said that from 2001 through 2012, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies made more than 100,000 requests to monitor the mail of Americans. That would amount to an average of some 8,000 requests a year — far fewer than the nearly 50,000 requests in 2013 that the Postal Service reported in the audit.
The difference is that the Postal Service apparently did not provide to The Times the number of surveillance requests made for national security investigations or those requested by its own investigation and law enforcement arm, the Postal Inspection Service. Typically, the inspection service works hand in hand with outside law enforcement agencies that have come to the Postal Service asking for investigations into fraud, pornography, terrorism or other potential criminal activity.
The Postal Service also uses a program called Mail Imaging, in which its computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail sent in the United States. The program’s primary purpose is to process the mail, but in some cases it is also used as a surveillance system that allows law enforcement agencies to request stored images of mail sent to and received by people they are investigating.
Another system, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking Program, was created after anthrax attacks killed five people, including two postal workers, in late 2001. It is used to track or investigate packages or letters suspected of containing biohazards like anthrax or ricin. The program was first made public in 2013 in the course of an investigation into ricin-laced letters mailed to President Obama and Michael R. Bloomberg, then New York City’s mayor, by an actress, Shannon Guess Richardson.
Despite the sweep of the programs, postal officials say they are both less intrusive than that of the National Security Agency’s vast collection of phone and Internet records and have safeguards to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.
“You can’t just get a mail cover to go on a fishing expedition,” said Paul J. Krenn, a spokesman for the Postal Inspection Service. “There has to be a legitimate law enforcement reason, and the mail cover can’t be the sole tool.”
The mail cover surveillance requests cut across all levels of government — from global intelligence investigations by the United States Army Criminal Investigations Command, which requested 500 mail covers from 2001 through 2012, to state-level criminal inquiries by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which requested 69 mail covers in the same period. The Department of Veterans Affairs requested 305, and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security asked for 256. The information was provided to The Times under the Freedom of Information request.
Postal officials did not say how many requests came from agencies in charge of national security — including the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection — because release of the information, wrote Kimberly Williams, a public records analyst for the Postal Inspection Service, “would reveal techniques and procedures for law enforcement or prosecutions.”
In Arizona in 2011, Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor, discovered that her mail was being monitored by the county’s sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Ms. Wilcox had been a frequent critic of Mr. Arpaio, objecting to what she considered the targeting of Hispanics in his immigration sweeps.
The Postal Service had granted an earlier request from Mr. Arpaio and Andrew Thomas, who was then the county attorney, to track Ms. Wilcox’s personal and business mail.
Using information gleaned from letters and packages sent to Ms. Wilcox and her husband, Mr. Arpaio and Mr. Thomas obtained warrants for banking and other information about two restaurants the couple owned. The sheriff’s office also raided a company that hired Ms. Wilcox to provide concessions at the local airport.
“We lost the contract we had for the concession at the airport, and the investigation into our business scared people away from our restaurants,” Ms. Wilcox said in an interview. “I don’t blame the Postal Service, but you shouldn’t be able to just use these mail covers to go on a fishing expedition. There needs to be more control.”
She sued the county, was awarded nearly $1 million in a settlement in 2011 and received the money this June when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. Mr. Thomas, the former county attorney, was disbarred for his role in investigations into the business dealings of Ms. Wilcox and other officials and for other unprofessional conduct. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on Mr. Arpaio’s use of mail covers in the investigation of Ms. Wilcox.
In another instance, Cynthia Orr, a defense lawyer in San Antonio, recalled that while working on a pornography case in the early 2000s, federal prosecutors used mail covers to track communications between her team of lawyers and a client who was facing obscenity and tax evasion charges. Ms. Orr complained to prosecutors but never learned if the tracking stopped. Her team lost the case.
“The troubling part is that they don’t have to report the use of this tool to anyone,” Ms. Orr said in an interview. The Postal Service declined to comment on the case.
Frank Askin, a law professor at the Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic, who as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued the F.B.I. nearly 40 years ago after the agency monitored the mail of a 15-year-old New Jersey student, said he was concerned about the oversight of the current program.
“Postal Service employees are not judicial officers schooled in the meaning of the First Amendment,” Mr. Askin said.