GAO Outlines Mail Security Options

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Better tracking capabilities and the creation of new mail categories were among the recommendations in a U.S. General Accounting Office report issued last month.

The report resulted from a meeting Dec. 10 that included mailers, postal officials and Reps. Dan Burton, R-IN, chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, and Henry A. Waxman, D-CA, the ranking minority member. The two representatives called the meeting to explore options other than irradiation to enhance mail security.

Options suggested to enhance mail security and operations included:

· Encouraging the mailing industry to take steps to enhance mail security.

· Requiring that windowed envelopes be closed with a protective film to help prevent cross-contamination.

· Requiring bulk mailers to use a tinted shrink-wrap for their mail, thus identifying the mail as coming from a professional mailer and allowing for easier detection of tampering.

· Creating three separate mail streams corresponding to the level of risk associated with the source of mail: high risk -- mail from collection boxes on the street; medium risk -- packages and other mail handed to window clerks; and low risk -- bulk mail from a known shipper.

· Expanding mail tracking capabilities with digital watermarks or indica on all stamps and pre-stamped envelopes to allow them to be tracked by lot number and by the post office that sold them.

· Changing postal rate structures to establish incentives for mailers to promote security.

· Dividing First-Class Mail into two new subclasses, single-piece mail that requires additional security handling by the USPS and bulk mail from presort houses that requires no additional handling.

· Creating a new classification for mail that is sealed and subject to irradiation resulting in slower delivery.

Options to fund these measures, the report said, include higher postal rates, increasing limits on the USPS' borrowing authority and a surcharge on anonymous mail that requires more safety or security measures such as sanitization.

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