Postal Service investigators swept the room the former Trump adviser was on before federal agents officially arrested him.
At a time when the United States Postal Service faces major challenges, news of Steve Bannon's arrest displayed just how vital the organization is to the country. How? Well, aboard the Coast Guard vessel that raced toward the yacht that President Donald Trump's former top adviser sailed on, were the members of the USPS’ investigator unit. The unit is a major part of the neighborhood mail carrier and helps solves cases related to child exploitation, cybercrime, drug trafficking, and financial crimes, The Washington Post reports. Here is a look at the agency's roots.
Officially known as the US Postal Inspection Service, the unit can be traced to even before the formation of the country itself. In 1775, William Goddard was named the nation’s first surveyor. This was a role developed under Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin. The surveyor was tasked with auditing postal accounts and investigating any theft of mail or postal funds. This makes the USPIS the nation's first and oldest federal law enforcement agency. As the US expanded towards the West, more mail was being transported across the region via trains, stagecoaches, and horseback, which meant there was also more room for criminal activity.
Most notably, the USPIS highlights the criminal legacy of Billy the Kid, who was interviewed by postal agents in 1881 about mail robberies in Santa Fe. In addition to this, postal inspectors interrogated Lee Harvey Oswald regarding a mail-order rifle that he reportedly utilized to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. They also played a critical role in finding the notorious mail bomber Ted Kaczynski, who was finally arrested in 1996. If you make a visit down to the National Postal Museum, you can see the handcuffs inspectors used to arrest him. Just a short while before that, in the 1950s and 1960s, postal inspectors investigated the delivery of gay publications under laws meant to restrict mailing of obscene material. While most of us would not agree with his practice today, the USPIS's mission has evolved markedly.
Presently, the organization handles basically any crime that involves the transit of mail. In 2019 alone, they made 5,759 arrests, which lead to nearly 5,000 convictions. These mostly involved mail theft, mail fraud, or prohibited mailings. It has been estimated that about 200 federal crimes are related to the mail. For USPIS’s nearly 1,300 inspectors, this means their activities are broad and constantly shifting. An example of this is the rapid increase in narcotic transit by mail. Between 2010 and last year, the organization was responsible for making 19,000 arrests and the seizure of $18 million in drug proceeds. If you think that's pretty cool, it's because it is. An agent states in one of USPIS's recruitment videos, "They say, ‘Oh, you’re a lot like the FBI.’ And I like to tell them, ‘No, the FBI is a lot like us.'"
Nonetheless, USPIS had its moment to shine when Bannon was finally arrested for fraud. After a Coast Guard boat approached a yacht Bannon was on, it was Postal Service inspectors who swept the yacht before federal agents boarded in order to officially make the arrest. Now more than ever, this exemplifies the truly vital role that the organization continues to play in the country's daily and necessary administration.