The USPS and the GAO: Facilitating Identity Theft!
You may have heard the old story about two men walking down the street, thoughtfully. One says to the other, "Don't you think the two worst things in the world are ignorance and apathy?" The second man replies, "I don't know and I don't care." If agencies could have a conversation similar to that, they might well be the United States Postal Service or USPS, and the Congressional General Accounting Office or GAO for short.
Last December the USPS sent out a solicitation to businesses to encourage the use of their Priority Mail Flat Rate Shipping. Presumably, that solicitation went to most U.S. business firms, if my own small company received it, and presumably we all were asked to return an open postcard to order that kit of special boxes and envelopes. The only problem -- a big one -- was that the USPS postcard called for the sending of data on one's business plus a phone and email address on that open postcard, for any and all to read, and then perhaps use to steal the identity of a person or business giving that information.
I complained at that time, several months ago, about this gross violation of confidentiality and common sense as well. Complaints were sent to the regional USPS headquarters in Atlanta, national USPS headquarters in Washington, my two senators and congressman, and finally, after all of those complaints were ignored, to the vaunted General Accounting Office of the United States Congress, which is supposed to fully investigate such abuses of the public trust as this one. The GAO was no better than the USPS, also ignoring the complaint, as did my Congressional delegation. Talk about ignorance and apathy!
Now, several months later, in the Spring of 2011, another very similar solicitation arrives from the USPS, urging me to apply for their Priority Mail Flat Rate Shipping Kit, again with the option of sending back an open postcard where I am to list all sorts of data about my business along with an email address and phone number, again. Having failed to respond to the first complaint about this atrocious encouragement to identity theft, the USPS now repeats it a second time. But then, that should not be surprising, as the GAO let them get away with it the first time, so why not make the same mistake again?
There are surely bigger issues facing America today, from crises all over the world to the challenges of the economy here at home. Perhaps endemic stupidity is the best we can expect from Federal agencies such as the USPS and the GAO, and perhaps they are far too busy even to reply when citizens raise valid concerns, let alone correcting problems. Sadly, it would seem that incompetence and malfeasance, like ignorance and apathy, are pervasive, continual, and, indeed, shameful at Federal agency and Congressional levels.