Pubdate: Fri, 05 Aug 2016
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2016 The Washington Post Company
Author: Michael McCaul
Note: The writer, a Republican congressman from Texas, is chairman of 
the House Committee on Homeland Security.


The House of Representatives recently passed a number of bills 
designed to combat the epidemic of dangerous drugs sweeping across 
the United States. No congressional district has been spared from 
this problem, and people are dying at an alarming rate from the use 
of fentanyl, bath salts, flakka, K2, Spice and other synthetic drugs. 
But lawmakers failed to act to close a major entry point for these 
terrible drugs into the United States: the global postal system.

Anyone with a laptop, wireless access and a credit card can order 
these poisons over the Internet from abroad and have them shipped 
directly to their home through the U.S. mail. This is not a new 
problem - Congress has held extensive hearings on this issue, 
starting as far back as 2000. According to the Department of Homeland 
Security, more than 340 million packages enter the United States 
through the international mail stream, with little or no electronic 
manifest data associated with them. Our federal law enforcement 
agencies have no way to perform risk assessments on incoming postal 
shipments before they arrive and are forced to manually screen 
millions upon millions of postal parcels in an attempt to intercept 
these deadly drugs.

In contrast, private transportation companies such as UPS and FedEx 
are required to provide electronic manifest data to U.S. Customs and 
Border Protection in advance of the packages arriving in this 
country, enabling systematic and more effective screening to try to 
ensure that these drugs are detected and seized.

Meanwhile, our customs officers are left to guess the contents of 
huge sacks of parcels and packages - searching for needles in 
haystacks - entering the United States via the postal system.

Drug dealers know this and use the global postal system to deliver 
their deadly goods into our homes and communities. The Trade Act of 
2002 requires that advanced electronic manifest data accompany 
packages coming into the United States via private shipping 
companies. However, rather than require the Postal Service to comply 
immediately with that requirement, the law directed the Department of 
Homeland Security and the Treasury Department, in consultation with 
the U.S. postmaster general, to determine whether it is "appropriate" 
to apply this important provision to the Postal Service.

Such a determination has yet to materialize. I would argue that it is 
not only appropriate to apply this safeguard to postal parcels but 
also critically important.

When Congress reformed the Postal Service in 2006, it recognized this 
problem when it required that all laws, including customs laws, apply 
equally to the Postal Service and private delivery companies.

Yet shipments coming in via the postal system are still subject to 
much less rigorous screening than private commercial shipments 
because of the lack of advanced electronic screening data.

Congress did not intend for the Postal Service, a government agency, 
to become the import vector of choice for drug dealers.

A package is a package, however it is shipped.

If we are going to defeat the epidemic of synthetic drugs, we must 
take every measure possible. Advanced electronic screening data must 
accompany all packages coming into the United States from overseas.

It's time to close the postal loophole. A rapidly growing flood of 
hundreds of millions of postal packages containing poisons is simply 
too big to ignore.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom