Senate panel approves sealed domestic mail resolution

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The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a resolution on June 13 designed to reaffirm the constitutional protections of sealed domestic mail.

The resolution was introduced earlier this year by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the ranking member of the panel, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), in response to a signing statement issued by the White House following the signing into law of the Collins-Carper postal reform legislation. The signing statement resulted in confusion about the administration's commitment to abide by the basic privacy protections afforded sealed domestic mail.

"Our resolution makes perfectly clear to all law-abiding Americans that the federal government will not invade their privacy by reading their sealed mail," Sen. Collins said in a statement. "Any contrary interpretation of the Postal Reform Act is just plain wrong. Nothing in the Postal Reform Act, nor the president's signing statement alters the privacy and civil liberties protections provided to a person who sends or receives sealed domestic mail.

"Mail sealed against inspection is entitled to the strongest possible protections against physical searches," she said. "With only very limited exceptions, the government needs a court-issued warrant before it can search domestic mail."

The postal reform bill, which was signed into law on Dec. 20, represents the most sweeping reforms of the U.S. Postal Service in over three decades. It will help the agency establish a new rate setting system and establish a strong financial future for the Postal Service. And it also protects the basic features of universal service.

The new law also provided for continued authority for the Postal Service to establish a class of mail sealed against inspection.

The new Senate committee approval paves the way for the legislation to be considered by the full Senate. The measure is also cosponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

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