In a bid to counter the opioid crisis in the U.S., President Trump signed into law a bill meant to close all loopholes present in the U.S. Postal Service that make it possible for drug users, traffickers and manufacturers to ship drugs into the country. The law demands that the USPS receives Advanced Electronic Data (AED) on what is contained in international packages before they are sent to the U.S. The AED also bears the names and addresses of both the sender and the recipient. While signing the bill into law Trump said that it would equip law enforcement agencies with the relevant resources applicable in stopping ‘ultra-lethal’ drugs from being mailed into the United States.
The Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act was introduced by Congressman Mike Bishop who believes the law will make it impossible for dark web vendors to exploit vulnerabilities present in the USPS. As a result, it will help reduce deaths caused by overdoses of synthetic drugs such as fentanyl. Senator Amy Klobuchar who co-authored the bill said that the new law would equip agencies with more tools to enable them to stop the entry of drugs into the U.S. through the post.
The new law requires the USPS to collect AED for all incoming international packages by 2021 after which the AED is to be sent to the Customs and Border Protection. Since the postal agency only takes AED for 40% of all incoming packages, it is required to be able to collect 70% of the data by the end of this year. The agency will be subject to penalties if it allows entry to international packages without AED in 2021.
The law will see the State Department strike agreements with foreign countries requiring them to issue AED for all incoming packages before they are sent. The AED will then be used as a tool for the detection of packages containing illicit drugs by the CBP and the Postal Inspection Service. Lack of AED will force the U.S. to deny entry to packages from countries that fail to comply.
The law further demands that the heads of the USPS and CBP cooperate with the leaders of other law enforcement agencies to develop technology to be used in detecting illicit drugs entering the U.S. via mail. The agencies are also required to reach out to private firms that can help by offering proper insight into the development of drug detection technology. To cater to all the services provided by the CBP and USPS every international package will be subject to a $1 fee.
The law was enacted just days after the Inspector General of the USPS released an audit report that explained to a great extent how the USPS facilitated the distribution of illicit drugs. According to the report 92% of dark web vendors who indicated the shipper they used claimed to use the USPS as it is more vulnerable. The report acknowledges that the use of the dark web by drug traffickers and drug users coupled with the use of the postal service has made it harder for detection. The report indicates that an increase in AED received from cooperative countries in the period between April 2017 and January 2018 increased the number of seized packages.
Usually, when international packages arrive through an airport, they are transported to a postal service International Service Centre (ISC) from where the CBP agents exercise their right to open and screen packages they have a reason to suspect it carries illegal goods. Once the CBP screening process is finalized all packages deemed unsuspicious are delivered through the postal service. The availability of AED provided by the USPS to the CBP will make it easier for the agency to seize packages carrying illicit drugs since the agency will be operating using trustworthy information and not suspicion.
A USPS spokesperson expressed his support towards the now enacted bill and said that it keeps the collection of AED a top priority. Dave Partenheimer spoke on behalf of the USPS after Congress passed the bill and said that the agency is committed to doing all it can to secure the mailing system and offer high-quality service at the same time.