U.S. opening some private mail in terror fight. Although the article is less than totally clear, this doesn’t appear to mean that letters are being opened for fear they contain something dangerous like anthrax or explosives. No, if I understand it, they’re being opened to read them
When Customs “deem it necessary to protect the country from terrorism,” i.e. when they choose, they open international mail coming into the US. Apparently this is not limited to packages, but includes personal letters.
I don’t know if this is consistent with current (statute) law. As for the constitutional issue, there are surprisingly few rights at the border for people, goods, or even ideas. I have always believed that the First Amendment should be read to cover exchanges of views between a US person and a foreigner; the courts have not always been so clear on that. Similarly, ordinary fourth amendment rights against search have been held not to apply to customs, which as I understand it can search just about anyone they please. At the border we’re all suspects. And so too now, it seems, are our letters home.