In the 50 years that Grant Goodman has known and corresponded with a colleague in the Philippines he never had any reason to suspect that their friendship was anything but spectacularly ordinary.
But now he believes that the relationship has somehow sparked the interest of the Department of Homeland Security and led the agency to place him under surveillance.
Last month Goodman, an 81-year-old retired University of Kansas history professor, received a letter from his friend in the Philippines that had been opened and resealed with a strip of dark green tape bearing the words “by Border Protection” and carrying the official Homeland Security seal.
“All mail originating outside the United States Customs territory that is to be delivered inside the U.S. Customs territory is subject to Customs examination,” says the CBP Web site. That includes personal correspondence. “All mail means ‘all mail,’” said John Mohan, a CBP spokesman, emphasizing the point.
“This process isn’t something we’re trying to hide,” Mohan said, noting the wording on the agency’s Web site. “We’ve had this authority since before the Department of Homeland Security was created,” Mohan said.
However, Mohan declined to outline what criteria are used to determine when a piece of personal correspondence should be opened, but said, “obviously it’s a security-related criteria.”