UPS Insists That It Is Not Helping The NSA 'Interdict' Packages To Install Backdoors

from the not-us! dept

After Glenn Greenwald’s book came out last week, one of the big stories was the additional revelations about the NSA’s interdiction program — in which the NSA grabs packages of computer equipment that are being shipped, outfits the equipment with backdoors — and sends them along their shipping route as if nothing happened. Most famously, it included an image of it happening, showing a clear Cisco box:

Cisco has insisted publicly that it has nothing to do with this program and apparently complained directly to the President about this program, and how it harms their reputation. While some people doubt whether or not Cisco is being totally forthright, others wondered if perhaps it wasn’t Cisco, but a third party, such as whoever ships Cisco’s equipment. It turns out that company is often UPS, and Matthew Keys, writing for TheBlot, got UPS to vehemently deny assisting the NSA as well:

UPS, which Cisco has used since 1997 to ship hardware to customers around the world, said on Thursday that it did not voluntarily allow government officials to inspect its packages unless it is required to do so by law.

“UPS’ long-standing policy is to require a legal court-ordered process, such as a subpoena, before responding to any third-party requests,” UPS spokeswoman Kara Ross wrote in an e-mail to TheBlot Magazine. “UPS is not aware of any court orders from the NSA seeking to inspect technology-related shipments.”

In a follow-up e-mail, Ross said UPS had no knowledge of similar orders from the FBI, CIA or any other federal agency.

Keys also reached out to other popular shipping options, including the US Postal Service, FedEx and DHL. USPS says that they don’t participate in any such NSA program (though, some may question the validity of that statement). FedEx and DHL appear to have simply ignored repeated requests for comment from Keys.

Of course, it’s not impossible that there are other methods being used to get the equipment — or that the folks who handle these “special” projects are kept way far away from any official spokesperson. Clearly, however, the NSA can get these packages, and now the doubt is going to spread across pretty much everyone in the logistics chain, no matter what they say.

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Companies: cisco, ups

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Comments on “UPS Insists That It Is Not Helping The NSA 'Interdict' Packages To Install Backdoors”

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John Fenderson (profile) says:


?UPS? long-standing policy is to require a legal court-ordered process, such as a subpoena, before responding to any third-party requests,? UPS spokeswoman Kara Ross wrote in an e-mail to TheBlot Magazine. ?UPS is not aware of any court orders from the NSA seeking to inspect technology-related shipments.?

The NSA would be more likely to use NSLs than court orders, wouldn’t they? And UPS would not be allowed to confirm that fact.

Whether or not UPS is involved in the situation, this brings up an excellent point about NSLs: that they exist mean that no denial any company issues actually means a thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: NSLs?

The thing is, as was discussed when this photo first hit the internet, UPS doesn’t need to be involved here — these are packages leaving the country, which means they can be intercepted while in posession of US Customs. As packages often have large delays when going through customs, the NSA could be flagged by Customs that a package destined for a watch target has shown up, and the NSA team can come in, make the adjustment, and be on there way while everyone else just puts it down to “standard customs delays”.

I’ve been involved in international shipping of custom electronics, and had US agency who wasn’t US Customs fully disassemble the equipment and then contact my company asking for a full description of what the electronics were supposed to do (beyond what was in the export papers) — so I know this sort of thing is done at least to some degree.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: NSLs?

One other thing: notice that the UPS tracking packet etc. are already in place on the box, but it doesn’t look like the bill of lading has been messed with yet. This indicates that the package was intercepted before it left the country but after it had been handled by UPS.

madasahatter (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: NSLs?

As noted above, at the border freight gets consolidated and at sometime it can be inspected. The inspection may involve opening the package to verify contents, etc. So, it is quite possible that the NSA with other sleaze ball agencies are taking advantage of this “inspection”. Cisco and UPS have no control of this, nor does any other company.

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: NSLs?

The NSA would be more likely to use NSLs than court orders, wouldn’t they? And UPS would not be allowed to confirm that fact.

They would be in breach of NSLs if they admitted they’d received them. They’d open themselves up to civil suits if they said they’d never received any when they had.

They may not be able to admit to receiving NSLs, but they couldn’t lie and say they have NOT received any NSLs.

They would be between a rock and a hard place. About the only answer they could provide that would protect them in all cases would be “no comment”.

Jeremy2020 (profile) says:

?UPS? long-standing policy is to require a legal court-ordered process, such as a subpoena, before responding to any third-party requests,? UPS spokeswoman Kara Ross wrote in an e-mail to TheBlot Magazine. ?UPS is not aware of any court orders from the NSA seeking to inspect technology-related shipments.?

That strikes me as language games. Their ‘policy’ is to require it, but they don’t say if they followed that policy. They could have been much more direct.

Then they go on to say they have no received a court order, but it suffers the same issue with statements like ‘From the NSA’, ‘inspect’, ‘technology-related’.

It very well could be nothing, but that broad language leaves me suspicious.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

A quick Google search using the terms “ups drug interdiction” finds a 2013 story from MPR News (?When a drug dog sniffs, is it a search??, by Bob Collins), which reports on a case decided that year. In Minnesota v Eichers, the Minnsota Court of Appeals related the following:


Minneapolis?St. Paul International Airport Police Narcotics-Interdiction Officer Mark Meyer has specialized training in drug detection and has been assigned to the Airport Police Narcotics Interdiction Unit since September 1997. He has been an Airport Police Officer since 1990. Officer Meyer works with Brio, a dog that is certified by the United States Police Canine Association to detect cocaine and methamphetamine, among othercontrolled substances.

While working at a UPS Parcel Sorting Station at the airport in September 2011, Officer Meyer noticed a package traveling on the conveyor belt that was shipped from the UPS Store in Phoenix, Arizona, via ?UPS NEXT DAY AIR? to Eichers in Avon, Minnesota. Officer Meyer considered the package suspicious and removed it from the conveyor belt?

There’s your UPS policy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bingo

I’d go even further in my distrust of this sentence. Of course UPS doesn’t “voluntarily” grant access to packages if there’s a warrant. Complying with a warrant isn’t voluntary.

The only time they could voluntarily grant access to a package is when there isn’t a warrant. And they never really address that situation explicitly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bingo

? voluntarily?

US v Patty (E.D. Mich. 2001)

4. Consent To Enter Facility and Seize Package

Defendant next contends that the evidence should be suppressed because the agents did not have consent to enter the UPS facility on July 13, 1999, or to seize the suspect parcel. Michalski, however, testified that either Ronald Mestdagh, a loss prevention supervisor at the UPS facility, or Tim Littlefield, another employee of UPS, had given the agents verbal permission to enter the facility. Michalski also testified that the Interdiction Team routinely conducted inspections at the UPS facility. Based upon this testimony, the Court is convinced that the agents had a reasonable, good faith belief that consent had been given for them to enter the UPS facility.

(Citations omitted.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Voluntary vs. Involuntary

“UPS …said on Thursday that it did not voluntarily allow government officials to inspect its packages unless it is required to do so by law.”

This statement is followed by how UPS handles inspection demands that are voluntary. So what happens with packages
where the demand is forced under an NDA?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Voluntary vs. Involuntary

USA v Souza (10th Cir. 2000)


This case arises out of the following events. On June 9, 1997, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were training officers assigned to a Sacramento task force on drug parcel interdiction. The training took place at the UPS office in West Sacramento. Detective Steve Sloan was one of the officers conducting the training at the UPS facility. At approximately 5:30 p.m., a white cardboard box caught Detective Sloan’s attention as he watched packages pass by on a conveyer belt.?.?.?.

The package was taken off the conveyer belt ?.?.?. Special Agent Rowden took the package to a parking lot off UPS property and set the package on the ground?.?.?.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Agents?

Even if you assume that UPS isn’t lying?

Cooley v State (Alaska Ct. App. 2009)

Factual and procedural background

Judge Collins conducted an evidentiary hearing to address Cooley’s motion to suppress. Investigator Dominic Branson, an officer with the Juneau Police Department, testified at the evidentiary hearing. Branson testified that he was assigned to the Southeast Alaska Narcotics Enforcement Team and had received extensive specialized training in drug interdiction, including detecting drugs shipped in packages through the United States Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS. On June 8, 2006, he was at the UPS facility in Juneau, observing packages coming into the facility. He testified that he was looking for packages that were “out of the ordinary.”?.?.?.

Anonymous Coward says:

The NSA has once again damaged the creditability of all. Through the use of the NSL’s no one can believe any statements made about this as no one who knows can tell the truth. What you are left with instead is damaged corporate trust in products and an even worse distrust of government functions.

This will continue to spread until the US has nothing the world wants to purchase for fear of some method of spying, be that teddy bears, software, hardware, or regular products of any nature. It has done itself no favors in all this cover up. It hasn’t even gained short term benefits given the distrust it has sowed in the process.

At some point the government will have to acknowledge it’s war footing is over. So is the endless money being spent on it. This business of trillions of dollars in debt will have to be addressed and sooner rather than later is called for. Our politicians and the government have spent us into the poor house and with their aid have buried the economy under debt.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While this is true, the mass damage to credibility in this case is not particularly the NSA’s fault; it’s the fault of whoever wrote “national security letters”, and their associated automatic effectively-unappealable gag orders, into the law. (And partly / indirectly the fault of whoever voted to approve them, and hasn’t worked to get them removed from the law since.)

Anonymous Coward says:

How do they deal with 2nd hand equipment?

If someone ends up with equipment that is being controlled by the NSA thru planting new firmware or the like, and they purchased that equipment 2nd hand, how would that play out in court? They were not the original target but yet their data is being scoped up without any type of legal justification.

mr. sim (profile) says:

UPS? long-standing policy is to require a legal court-ordered process, such as a subpoena, before responding to any third-party requests,? UPS spokeswoman Kara Ross wrote in an e-mail to TheBlot Magazine. ?UPS is not aware of any court orders from the NSA seeking to inspect technology-related shipments.?

translation: we do allow the government to do it, because a NSL or document from the FISA court is a valid legal order. however, other than those instances no subpena have ever been served to us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

? translation?

People v Bui (Ill. App. Ct., 2008)

On September 29, 2004, Chicago police officer Judith Solava, a member of the police department’s narcotics division and package interdiction team, discovered a suspicious package while she was inspecting packages at a United Parcel Service (UPS) location in Chicago, Illinois?

People v Tyus (Ill. App. Ct., 2011)

In the early morning hours of August 10, 2007, an officer with the Louisville Metropolitan police department was on “package-interdiction” duty at the UPS facility located within the Louisville, Kentucky, airport. That officer noticed a package?

Whatever says:

Re: Re: it could be

All the way in Hong Kong? Or my TOR exit is there? Or my VPN exit? I don’t know, I don’t control it. Perhaps you should worry more about the message and nothing else.

Are you suggesting that you as an anonymous poster have hacked Techdirt so that you can see posting IPs? I would actually be interested to know what the site registers as my IP – and why you would have access to it.

BTW: it should come out as Canada. But then again, who knows with the internet, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

At least folks on Glenn’s pic monkey around with bottom of package, to minimize failure.

Notice, that not only NSA allowed to take pics of faces, they gladly use it in own top secret presentations. Clearly, Alexander and Clapper had no Plan B on their mind. Would you hire them as security guards of your parking lot?


1. This is closed area of shipping warehouse, likely UPS’s air facility. See pallet lifter handle on left. See stuff at ceiling.

2. Very short and very bold guy is easy to recognize by neighbors.

3. Cisco is whoring itself to NSA via hardware backdoors. What is on Glenn’s pic is TAO. Means something designed for the very victim. Say Saudi embassy.

4. They using hair dryer to separate tape. Must have original UPS’s on hand to replace. Easy to get from an insider (or manager on duty).

5. Is that woman pregnant, or just overdosed on McDonald’s on recent lunch?

Anonymous Coward says:

Unbeknownst to Americans the National Goal is population control (Death fix it / deficit). The Goal set in Executive Order 12871 (reduce gov’t (we the people / veterans and gov’t spending / liabilities / expenditures). The New Death Penalty Bill is the smoking gun. It protects the American Holocaust Perpetraitors in the National Partnership Council.
Whose keeping count in the American Holocaust? Certainly not the American Holocaust Perpetraitors (Nicolaitans Revelation 2:15).

In order to save money decision makers medical, administratively and judicially are being coerced through Terrorism-Coercion, Collusion, Corruption, Subversion, Subterfuge, and Sabotage(cointelpro tactics). These are premeditated and orchestrated treasonous methods used by Congress and SCOTUS to reduce the cost and population. The plan continues to be lie, delay and deny until you die (death fix it / deficit). The result a holocaust the total destruction of entire American families (suicides and executions). Goin Postal was described as a myth. The result of Terminal Injustice (Collusion / Terrorism by those entrusted with enforcement of rules, regulations and laws of the US Constitution refusing to do so for personal gain) continues to be Ambush Attacks / Murder by proxy ie. Joseph Harris (US Postal Employee), John Allen Muhammad (US Army 17 years), Major Nidal Malik Hassan (US Army Psychiatrist), Christopher Dorner (LAPD police officer and United States Navy Reserve office), etc.

Recognize the catalyst. Recognize economic oppression, the outrageous extreme physical, mental, financial and emotional stress. Its premediated and orchestrated for population control / death fix it (American Holocaust).

YHVH solution for American Holocaust Perpetraitors is Mongoose Protocol.


YHVH suspends mercy in response to god (government of deceivers) suspension of inalienable rights ( life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) in the American Holocaust (Moral corruption, suspension of Habeas Corpus to avoid liabilities – Fraud – Terminal Injustice – Economic oppression – Murderbyproxy – Population Control – death fix it>deficit

Anonymous Coward says:

If UPS gets a Nation Security Letter from the FBI, it states in the letter that UPS is not legally allowed to talk about the letter, and they will face criminal punishment for talking about the NSL’s gag order.

Which is why American services and technologies can no longer be trusted. US companies are forced to lie, by the US Federal Government, or face legal fines and lengthy prison sentences.

Robert says:

Volunteer vs Conscript

There is a whole lot of corporate wiggle room between not doing something and then adding the clarification of not doing something voluntarily.
Exactly what does Cisco and UPS meaning by not voluntarily doing it, do they mean they didn’t approach the NSA and volunteer to do it but when the NSA paid them and told them to do it they did it but involuntarily.
Personally I am no longer ordering any electronics delivered out of the US, not that I believe they necessarily want to hack me but because they would give a crap about using those electronics to hack someone else in my name and then sticking me with the charges unless I can prove my innocence.
Why take that chance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Volunteer vs Conscript

They do not do it “voluntarily”.

More from U.S. v Souza (10th Cir. 2000). This part comes after Special Agent Rowden has removed the suspect package from UPS property, and then returned it to the UPS facility.

Detective Sloan took the package and placed it behind him on the floor next to the wall. Subsequently, a UPS employee, April Denning, arrived on the scene. According to Denning’s testimony, a conversation was initiated by Detective Sloan who told her that a narcotics dog had alerted to the package and “stated that they couldn’t tell me to open the package, they were not authorized to do that, they would have to have a search warrant, but he pointed to where the package was.” A couple of minutes later, another officer again told Denning, “I cannot tell you to not open the package, but there it is on the floor.” Denning estimated that approximately five minutes passed between the two conversations. She also testified that she was influenced by the statements of the interdiction officers.

After his conversation with Denning, Detective Sloan continued evaluating other packages that were on the conveyer belt. Approximately a minute or two after Detective Sloan continued with his evaluation, Denning picked the targeted package up, took it a few feet away to where her work station was located, and began opening the package. Detective Sloan watched Denning open the package but did not tell her not to open it because he felt it was “not his right to stop her.” He also believed that she was acting within UPS policy in opening the package.[Note 6]

[Note 6] In fact, Denning testified that as part of her employment with UPS, she could open a package any time she felt that it was appropriate. She also stated that she opened randomly selected packages almost daily.

whocares says:

NSA ruining American business?

I can’t imagine ways to damage American businesses more effective than what the Obama Administration has been doing. IBM, CISCO, Google, Apple, all manufacturers of routers, modems, servers and software are under suspicion for leaking corporate data to the NSA. This will cost these companies sales and workers to lose their jobs. Is this why we elected him? To ruin so many prosperous companies and the jobs that goes with them?

ed landefeld says:

does UPS necessarily know?

Does UPS necessarily know?
If I (the NSA) find sympathetic employees at the loading dock of the UPS facility closest to CISCO, couldn’t I issue National Security Letters to the individuals? Would UPS corporate bosses need to be informed?
I know people in my real life who would think it’s really cool to be a deputy spy, who would love the legal chance to show off their ability to counterfeit, their ability to fool you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: does UPS necessarily know?

Does UPS necessarily know?

Does UPS corporate necessarily know that there are ?package interdiction teams? routinely working inside UPS parcel sorting facilities??yanking boxes off the conveyor belts?

Take People v Kaslowski (Mich. Ct. App. 2000):

Trenton Police Officer James Nardone testified at defendant’s preliminary examination that on December 14, 1994, he was assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administration Parcel Interdiction Team. While inspecting “next day air” parcels at a United Parcel Service (UPS) branch, he intercepted what he determined to be a suspicious package.?.?.?.

An undercover police officer posing as a UPS delivery man delivered the parcel to the house at 1940 Champaign and obtained a signature for the parcel.?.?.?

The events related there occurred in 1994. Would UPS corporate know if someone had borrowed a UPS delivery van twenty years ago? As long as they brought it back in one piece?

So now consider the more recent case of Luckl v Commonwealth (Ky. Ct. App., 2012)

The charges in this case arose in February of 2008, as part of a drug-interdiction program at the Louisville airport. Detective Steve Boughey, a member of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) narcotics unit, testified that he was working at the airport interdiction unit in February of 2008.?.?.?.

On February 21, 2008, the package at issue was pulled aside. The package was addressed to a “Craig Perkins” at 717 Lampton Street in Louisville. Detective Boughey noted that the package was overly wrapped and sent via overnight express. He also noticed that the package was shipped from a United Parcel Service (UPS) retail outlet?.?.?.

The package was subsequently delivered to 717 Lampton Street by an undercover officer posing as a UPS delivery driver.?.?.?.

Do you think UPS corporate knows about practices that have been occurring over two decades?

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: does UPS necessarily know?

I would assume UPS Corporate knows absolutely everything that the Federal Government does in its “interdiction” operations on UPS property, upon to-be-UPS-delivered products belonging to American citizens. The examples given were about UPS doing its part to assist the fed in the War on Drugs.

How much more so would UPS be willing to assist/allow federal “interdiction” operations that pertained to the War on Terror?

The question now, is Why?

However, I still think the really important aspect of this situation is as John Fenderson noted:

Whether or not UPS is involved in the situation, this brings up an excellent point about NSLs: that they exist mean that no denial any company issues actually means a thing.

NSLs change the whole playing field completely.

That the federal government can now legally force a company to lie to the public means that the apparently honest companies and the obviously dishonest companies are now indistinguishable and that nobody should really accept what any company says in its own defense when it comes to assisting the federal government in clandestine operations.

It would appear that the NSA, CIA, FBI, HLS and the US Fed are hell-bent on utterly destroying any remaining trust between global citizens and all US companies, by every means at their disposal.

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