The USPS began photographing mail after the Anthrax scare.

Source: Richard Moorhead

The United States Postal Service confirmed that it photographs every letter and package it processes in 2013.

Then-Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahue revealed this in an interview with the Associated Press in 2013, describing a program which photographs mail at 200 processing facilities used by the USPS around the country.

What’s called the Mail Isolation and Tracking system was implemented by the USPS after the Anthrax Scare of 2001, in which five Americans were killed by samples of the toxic substance they received in the mail. No convictions were ever made in the terror plot which targeted members of Congress and the media, although one senior biodefense researcher committed suicide when he learned that he was likely to be charged for involvement in the anthrax-mail terror plot.

The USPS continues to offer an Informed Delivery program in which Americans can sign up to receive regular emails with pictures of their incoming mail. Photography of processed mail is kept for at least some time on machines that take the pictures, and has been provided to law enforcement agencies by the postal service before.

The Mail Isolation and Tracking system could potentially be used by federal and state investigators who are examining the mass use of mail-in ballots in the 2020 presidential election. If every piece of mail is photographed, it’s entirely possible that pictures of duplicate ballots, late ballots, ballots of deceased individuals and other spoiled election material are being held in USPS photography devices.

The mail photography information can also be used to cross-reference for ballots dropped off at polling places on election day. Casting an election day vote in person in states such as Arizona voids a delivered mail-in ballot, but the same rule does not apply to mail-in ballots dropped off in person.

It’s done by machine, so there’s no central area where any of this information would be,” said Postmaster Donahue of the mail photography in 2013.