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Sending letters the CIA way

Palaeofuture has an interesting article on sending letters, the CIA way.

When you file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with a federal agency, they’ll often send you physical letters in the mail. When I got my first response letter from the CIA, I was a little surprised to see some old-fashioned, anti-spy tech on the back of the envelope. As you can see from the photos above and below, there’s no way to open the envelope without making it clear you’ve been messing with it.

The author has been inquiring about the how and why, and despite the inquiry not being a formal FOIA request got an answer.

The “gummed kraft sealing tape” the agency uses is three inches wide, and the indications from the response to my FOIA request suggest that the agency buys it in 450-foot rolls.

The article does have a part and an order number for the tape, in case you have need for it.

Published inHackerterrorcybercyber


  1. Simply open the letter at the side of the envelope -_-.

    • kris kris

      RTFA. The point is not to prevent opening the envelope, it’s making tampering obvious.

      • Stefan

        Sorry, Kris, no “RTFA”, here. At least the letter shown in the image (I have no idea, if this was the real thing or not) can still be opened on the sides of the envelope without leaving any trace of tampering. This is a known technique for years, extensively used by the east German StaSi.

        If, however, the sides of the envelope would have been treated similarly — which obviously is not the case in the example image — you would be right.

  2. Andreas

    You can still open the letter read the content and put the letter into a new envelope that looks identical to the original. I don’t see any effective protection of the content at all.

  3. Amazon sends me stuff sealed with this tape.

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