Here’s an overview of yet another obstacle faced by law enforcement in its efforts to stem the flow of illegal drugs into the US. No, it’s not tunnels under the Rio Grande, or catapults launching huge wrapped bundles of dope over fences.

It’s the Post Office. Yep, turns out the US Mail is a near-perfect tool for trafficking.

Seems like decades that we’ve been hearing critiques from politicians about the expense and alleged inefficiency of our Post Office. From a smuggler’s viewpoint, however, it’s an absolute marvel. Here we have a vast organization that processes far more mail than its competitors, both affordably and with a minimum of fuss. Congress may not appreciate that, but traffickers do.

Some advantages they’ve identified:

Access. Heck, you can drop off a package almost anywhere, even in the dead of night. And receive packages, too, in every city, town, and village.

Affordability. Plus it’s cheap. Ask volume users like Netflix and Amazon.

Replacement. Surprisingly, the USPS is perhaps more generous than its competitors when it comes to replacing or compensating for lost items.

Privacy. I hadn’t realized that postal inspectors were prohibited from opening mail, even the overseas sort. Which other shippers can, and (I suspect) often do.

Then there’s the painful issue of collusion– Employees bribed to assist the smugglers in bypassing what security there is. That may have something to do with our Incredible Shrinking Postal Service.

In 1999, there were just under 906,000 USPS employees. By 2015, that had been reduced to 622,000. The loss of career employees was partially offset by a dramatic increase in so-called “noncareer” staff, meaning they made less salary, received fewer benefits, and had higher rates of staff turnover.

Translation: Traditional middle class jobs with career prospects replaced by a lower-paid, less stable workforce– perhaps more vulnerable to outside influence?

Right now, Federal authorities say the USPS is the path for much of the fentanyl entering the country. Economically, that makes sense. A relatively small amount of fentanyl– say, 8 ounces– can be converted to many millions in street value, when mixed with other popular substances.

The article goes on to offer some reasonable suggestions for remedying this gaping hole in our defenses.

  • Allow inspection of suspicious packages
  • Institute enhanced penalties for misuse of USPS services
  • Appoint an organization-wide “drug czar” to address the problem

Worth considering, I should think.