U.S. Postal Service fails to deliver on stopping fentanyl coming in from China


The U.S. Postal Service is failing to deliver on the STOP Act to prevent the illegal flow of dangerous drugs like fentanyl through the mail.  The law requires the postal service to track international packages coming into the U.S. through the mail, just like UPS or FedEx do.  

Fentanyl is a deadly synthetic opioid and all it takes is what’s equivalent to four grains of salt to kill someone.  This year so far, fentanyl is blamed for three out of the 10 overdose deaths in Minnehaha County.

The drug is commonly shipped through the mail, sometimes hidden in sugar packets, from China. 
The STOP Act was supposed to stop the problem from happening by tracking all the packages coming in from China to the U.S.  But as KELOLAND Investigates has discovered, the Postal Service isn’t delivering on its deadlines.

A 2018 Congressional Investigation revealed how easy it was to ship illegal drugs to the U.S. 
The report also found that the U.S. Postal Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection failed to prepare for the increase in packages from foreign countries and “did not make timely improvements to programs designed to target and locate packages suspected of containing illicit drugs.”

“(Congress) Is weighing in and asking why the U.S. Postal Service can’t do what UPS, Fed Ex, Amazon and every other company that delivers the mail does and that is use this advance electronic data: think of it in terms of a bar code, the bar code you see on a lot of those packages to determine who sent it and who is receiving it and whether or not it might be somebody involved with drug trafficking,” Senator John Thune said.

Congress gave USPS two months to get its monitoring of foreign packages up to speed.  By the end of 2018, USPS was required by law to track at least 70 percent of international mail and 100 percent of shipments from China.

“They only monitored about 70 percent. We are making progress, but there’s a long way to go,” Senator Mike Rounds said.

“We just don’t have time to waste here. They’ve got to fix whatever it is that’s creating this problem, this backlog and get to 100 percent compliance with the law,” Thune said.

In a statement to KELOLAND Investigates, USPS said the most significant hurdle to compliance with the STOP Act and tracking more packages is trying to get data from other countries’ postal services.

“But the fact that it is hard is no excuse for not getting it done. This is one clear way that we can shut down the supply,” Representative Dusty Johnson said.

This spring, China promised to regulate all fentanyl being manufactured in its country, but lawmakers say counting on China to stop the shipments of the opioid drug would be foolish.

“The reality is, they have had the opportunity to try to limit the flow of fentanyl into this country and the Chinese government has failed. That’s part of the reason we need more of this traceability; this advance data. That’s how we are going to pinpoint the bad guys and what can we do, working with the international community to absolutely shut those guys down,” Rep. Johnson said.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office will issue a report to Congress at the end of this month outlining why USPS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection failed to abide by the law and how to fix it.

The STOP Act prohibits any packages to enter the U.S. without tracking data beginning in 2021.

USPS Statement to KELOLAND Investigates: 

The U.S. Postal Service is aggressively working to implement provisions of the STOP Act to keep dangerous drugs from entering the United States from China and other countries.

The Postal Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have informed the postal operator of the People’s Republic of China that in the absence of increased progress toward the STOP Act’s goal of 100% Advanced Electronic Data (AED) on shipments into the U.S. that any shipment without AED may be returned at any time. In addition, CBP has notified air and ocean carriers to communicate with postal officials in the People’s Republic of China to confirm that 100 percent of the containers with postal shipments contain AED before loading them onto their conveyance.

The Postal Service has consistently stated all along that it supports the goals of the STOP Act.  We also appreciate Senator Rob Portman’s steadfast leadership on combatting illegal opioids.

The most significant hurdle to obtaining AED on inbound international shipments is that the Postal Service does not control the provision of this information from foreign postal operators.

Ultimately, it is necessary for foreign postal operators to provide us with the data.  Nevertheless, we have substantially increased the amount of AED transmitted since 2017 through bilateral and multilateral efforts.  We have also significantly improved our coordination with CBP and have developed processes to ensure that we take action on CBP requests to hold packages for its inspection.

The Postal Service, in conjunction with the State Department and CBP, have continued to advocate for increased AED requirements and technical capacity building at the Universal Postal Union.  For example, at the April 2019 session of the UPU’s Postal Operations Council, at the urging of the United States, the Council issued regulations to require all operators to provide AED on all UPU parcels and on all small letter post packets containing goods by January 1, 2021, consistent with the requirements of the STOP Act. 

Meanwhile, the Postal Service and its law enforcement arm, the Postal Inspection Service, continue to work closely with the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and other federal law enforcement agencies to investigate criminal activity and combat the trafficking of illicit drugs like fentanyl.  

As it has done throughout its history, the U.S. Postal Service is committed to taking all necessary actions to combat criminal use of the mail as it continues to provide reliable and efficient service to the American public.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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