Future Tense

Jimmy Carter Sends Snail Mail to Avoid NSA Snooping. Is He Just Paranoid?

Jimmy Carter in November 2013. The former president worries about NSA surveillance on his email.

Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images

If you think you have privacy problems, try corresponding with foreign leaders while the NSA is on your back.

Because of privacy concerns, former President Jimmy Carter has returned to snail mail to avoid surveillance. Carter told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that he thinks the NSA may be monitoring his email.

“I have felt that my own communications were probably monitored,” he said. “And when I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately, I type or write the letter myself, put it in the post office and mail it. … I believe if I sent an email, it will be monitored.”


Carter said in the interview that he thought the government has “abused our own intelligence agencies.” 

No stranger to new tech, he was the first president to write a book—his memoir—on a Lanier word processor in the early 1980s.

“It’s been surprisingly easy,” Carter told the Eugene Register-Guard in 1981. “Only a couple of times, I’ve had to call Lanier and ask, ‘How do you get out of this quandry?’ ” Carter also told the Register-Guard that he was enjoying composing letters using the device. Might be time to go back to it—except there’s pretty extensive surveillance of communiqués sent via U.S. Postal Service, too.

Per comments President Obama made during a speech in January, later this week the administration will announce NSA reforms about storing telephone metadata.