F.B.I. and States Vastly Expand DNA Databases

The expansion of DNA collection to include millions of people who have been arrested or detained but not convicted is raising privacy concerns.

Comments: 100

  1. DNA can have the same function as a fingerprint. I don't mind having a sample of either on a national file. I don't think that the government is going to invade my privacy, and I don't care if they can track my wherabouts. I already leave a trail with my credit card purchases, phone calls, strolls or drives in front of surveillance devices, bank transactions, and sites that I visit on my computer. If having a DNA database helps to provide evidence to proscute violent criminals, especially those involved in heinous crimes, then I feel better and happier that my loved ones are perhaps a little more secure and safe in a world that at times can be frightening to the defenseless. Hogwash you say? Then why do so many people have guns in this country? Because they are fearful. Lets give law enforcement the tools they need to work with and stop worrying about false assunptions about our so called privacy (that doesn't really exist anyway). Thanks

  2. For a related outrage, check out how the courts are placing criminal complaints in online public databases. Only in the fine print does it say that charges were dropped. This gives the police or the D.A. unilateral authority to wreck a person's reputation or career. People who say they have nothing to hide, take note, because even you could get swept up in this.

  3. These databases are not based on a full sequence of the suspect/convict's DNA; that would be too expensive (and also raise a different set of issues about medical privacy). Instead they are effectively sampling a small sample set of regions of DNA. The chance of a false match is very low. However... "very low" is pretty good when you are dealing with a small number of samples. If the chance of a false match is, say, 1 in 10,000,000, and you've sampled 24 million people (8% of the population, like Britain), then even with this extremely small chance of error you still will get 2.4 false matches.

    Now take that another step. Suppose the chance of a false match is only 1 in a billion. Seems reliable enough, right? That means for every given sample you try to find a match for, there is just a 2.4% chance of a false match. Not really high, but still significant. Now multiply that by perhaps 10,000 samples to be checked per year (probably a very low estimate) and you still may get hundreds of people falsely linked to crime scenes each year.

    The statistics of DNA matching are appropriate when you are testing a few people who are already suspects, to see if they match crime scene DNA. In that case, the chance of a false positive is low. But when you start fishing for a match in extremely large populations, the results are really quite different.

  4. It was determined, through the FBI DNA database, that many prisoners at Gitmo already had US criminal records (something very troubling but hardly reported). So there are applications where this DNA data has been beneficial.

  5. I support this fully. Britain has huge surveillance camera presence everywhere and I believe they fingerprint and "DNA" (verb) nearly everyone who ends up in police custody, no matter how briefly. Think about it as a self-selected sample of people who have given the authorities reason to know them better. I'm happy with it.

    The countries that most urgently need to implement this system are South Africa and Brazil. With 50,000 rapes a year reported to the police in South Africa and less than 7% of these rapes resulting in a successful prosecution, something has to change. Develop the technology and sell it to these countries too. Rape, despite the shocking statistics, is heavily under-reported; some say the factor is 20 to 1.

    With expanded DNA coverage, hopefully more women will feel confident to come forward and report rapes here and around the world.

  6. “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.” The most frightening statement that can be made by a government official. These law enforcement bureaucrats don't care one bit about the rights of citizens enshrined in the constitution they are sworn to protect. Their justification for every new insult is basically that it makes their job easier. Are we a police state?

    You want to hear them cry? Mandate that every law enforcement and judiciary official must have their DNA added to the database. Think of the many unsolved crimes that would be solved by this. Many of them are in fact criminals, and this segment of society is otherwise the least likely to be associated with the crimes they have committed.

    Seriously though, when did it become normal for government officials to demand we surrender our rights so that their jobs would become less strenuous. An omniscient government is something to be feared because it is made up of people, and people abuse their power.

  7. Of course living in Canada, this does not apply to me. I do however support mandatory DNA collection from all citizens of Canada and the US not just those arrested or detained and those already convicted but every single citizen of the country. I'm sick and tired of the slippery slope aand big brother arguments. Privacy rights advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union have long since outlived their usefullness in today's complex society. All they are now doing is acting as a second advocate for every criminal in the country. If you haven't committed a crime or are considering doing so, you haven't got a thing be worried about.

  8. creepy!

  9. As most American cititzens, I have nothing to hide, and nothing to fear other than our already unfair legal system, where money generally determines the outcome. Please don't assume we're all ignorant and incapable of knowing some people on the inside of the system. Only six degrees of separation ... and from experience you've GOT to know that's the truth.

  10. A Ministry of Behavioral Hygiene will be constructed upon blocks of people the government shafted - because it could at the time.

  11. I fully support the expanding of DNA data base.

  12. I would sooner see every on duty police officer wear a full time camera and microphone to record every official act while in the line of duty. The technology to do this has been here for a decade. At this point the DNA Database is not going to be legislated away.

  13. I believe DNA checks are a great idea. For the simple resson being; it would rule out the guilt of people who are innocent, and might possibly discover other crimes, among arrested suspects. Too many people have been wrongly accused of crimes they did not commit.
    Some, have even suffered the death penalty; witness the
    twelve convicted prisoners on Death Row, in Illinois, that were later proven innocent.

  14. Fishing expeditions like these are anti-American - giving rise to BIG BROTHER and violating perhaps the key central tenet of our judicial system: innocent until proven guilty.

    "Theres nothing to fear if you are innocent" simply allows some cop to be both judge and jury apriori. Ridiculous self serving justification. Its like saying we should get rid of all guns by assuming the cops will be there when needed.

  15. Mandatory DNA samples should be limited to those who have been convicted of a violent criminal offense. Anyone else would be a waste of time and money.

  16. You can run but you can't hide. With DNA you are more than just a number, you are literally connect to your past and your future. Your blood line will determine who you are and what you will be. The ultimate aristocracy will be those holding hereditary titles. Blessed are those of royal lineage for they shall inherit the earth.

  17. Nothing to worry about if innocent? - I am not so sure! What about lab mistakes, contamination problems, data entry errors, database errors, etc.? You can be certain that the data will eventually have errors that target completely innocent persons. And accelerated data collection will geometrically increase the possibility of identification mix ups.

  18. Count me as one of those who was forced to provide a DNA sample to the Feds. I find it more than a little creepy.

  19. For those who have been released from crimes or prison should have the right to erase their DNA privacy.

  20. This is all very interesting and I fully understand the need, however, how long do you think it will be before we start swabbing the mouths of our newborn children to collect their DNA for this database?

    We need laws, and quickly, to address this issue.

  21. This is tragic, rape test kits from victims languish in police department evidence rooms for years. Collecting DNA from convicted criminals is valuable, but lets get the priorities straight.

    Let's help victims first, test the rape kits.

  22. DNA can and has been used to succesfully identify those who commit crimes and likewise to eliminate those who are suspected of doing so. It's use as a tool in the ever complex world of forensics is unparalleled and as a consequence it's benefit to the criminal justice system is unique. There is no difference in the taking DNA than that of fingerprints which has routinely been done since the late 1800's, in that they are both tools to be used for identification and elimination. The real criminal act would be to deprive investigators and prosecutors of this valuable tool, simply on the basis of privacy rights, which really don't enter the equation unless and until someone's identity becomes the issue in the investigation of a criminal offence. Until then the DNA sample will sit benignly inside a test tube or in a computer database waiting for a comparison to be made.

  23. just one step closer to the fascist state so many of us have been warning about. it matters not if we have bush or obama in the white house, the status quo remains.

  24. This information will come in very handy 4 or 5 Presidents from now when America forgets and another Republican worse than Nixon and Bush gets in the White House.

    Too bad someone doesn't hand out some punishment to the last administration in hopes of sending a clear message to future Presidents that warmongering and torture is anti-American at its worst.

    When can the American public expect to learn a lot more detailed information about Congress and the Supreme Court? I hope to see them all wearing HeadCams in the near future so we can watch them 24 hours per day. It would sure help keep all mean equal after they're created.

  25. In america.....

    we have not white people, black people and aisian..

    Just all of american

  26. They say that the odds of a mistaken DNA match are astronomically small. If we have millions of samples available, then they should make them available to researchers who can tell us what the real odds of a mistaken match are, using real data instead of guesstimates. Only then will we really know if DNA evidence is as ironclad as they make it out to be.

  27. Next:

    "Why am I being arrested?"

    "Your DNA indicates a likelihood that you will commit a crime."

  28. The article reasons that a person who is arrested for possession of drugs, a nonviolent act, is likely to commit a violent crime -- therefore a DNA sample should be taken.

    Laws were invented to regulate behavior between individuals. The perpetrator of violence is hurting someone else. Therefore it is designated as a crime. The possessor of drugs is not hurting anyone else. Therefore it is not a crime, but it is designated as against the law. The only thing in common between violent crimes and drug possession are that both are against the law.

    Drug laws are being used as a means to reduce 4th amendment rights. Drugs need to be legalized.


  29. Good morning USA! We have a saying in England: Where America goes; England will follow 10 years later. It looks like we’ve beaten you to it on the DNA scandal.

    Don’t imagine 1/5th of our population with no criminal conviction; enjoy our DNA being owned by the State! Whose DNA is it anyway? And how many of our body parts should the State own?

    Welcome to Britain 2009, EU Britain, Orwell’s Britain!

    “EU” stands for “European Union”. Did you know Britain is an annexed satellite state of the European Union? Yes! It happened in 1973.

    By owning our DNA, the EU might as well stamp its authority on our foreheads. We are good, little, obedient EU citizens.

    So guys, if you want to look through a window at your future, look through ours!
    Ah! Prose is so inadequate sometimes.

    I thought you might like my little poem. I’ve given it no name, only a number, “2009”.

    2009
    “Now thou art mine”, whispers the State,
    “All mine”, I hear her whisper,
    In even-moonlight while I wait,
    She whispers as I kiss her.

    She quickly holds my finger tips
    In a flash she steals my eyes,
    And from my open lips
    she takes my love, my life, my lies!

  30. “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear,”

    No! An obvious problem here is laws and statues themselves can and do change. What is "wrong" yesterday may not be "wrong" in the future! Or what is not "wrong" today may be "wrong" in the future! It's absurd statement to say “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear,”!

    So would someone who did a "wrong" under current law have their DNA purged from this database if a law or statues they were tagged for changes? It's insane!

    Now as originally intended to deal with violent sexual crimes and homicide etc., that is crimes that obviously will not change it might be a logical an reasonable and prudent use.

    But otherwise in a country where the rule of law supposedly exist under the concepts of the Constitution of the U.S.A. that gives people rights against the weight of the state this is inherently immoral in a jurisprudence sense!

  31. If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn't have a problem giving your DNA. There would be alot less crime if people knew that they would be caught, and make people think twice before committing one.

  32. What a ghastly idea having these databases full of people accused of crimes or convicted of petty crimes. This is so misguided. I understand that people want to feel safe but we can't give up all of rights in order to have the illusion of safety. If that were the goal the government could make us all stay in our houses or be required to wear ankle bracelets. How did we come to be such a frightened people?

    If everyone ends up in the database all the criminal would have to do is to plant someone elses DNA at the crime scene to throw the officials off their trail. This is just nuts!

  33. This is also a contentious issue here in the UK. It is not just the concept of the details of the innocent being kept on a database without their consent (or even knowledge) that rankles, it is the fact that the security of that data can not be guaranteed, and exactly who has access to it.

    The UK government, through the Home Secretary, have given numerous assurances to the public about security of DNA data. Yet, still, there have been lapses of security by those tasked with the security of this important personal information. Both state owned and private contractors have been found wanting, cavalier even in this area.

    I can understand why the US government, any government, want to keep tabs on its citizens. I may not like it though. But there has to be a single ‘owner’ of that data.

    What that data is used for, and to what depth of technical accuracy permitted is another important issue.

    Citizens should step up their vigilance of there governments. However, by the very nature of the technology used in the collection of DNA data, it is impossible for Mr and Mrs Average to do so. Trust is therefore the key, and to be frank that is one thing that is sorely lacking, especially on this side of the pond.

  34. This unrestricted DNA collection is, of course, "Big Brother" in the most comprehensive sense. That is why the European Court has forced Britain to cut their likewise extensive control of all people - innocent as much as guilty - and the power misuse it can invite. Think of Bush! Doesn't that ring an alarm bell?
    Dr. J. Boost

  35. My opinion is that often people who are suspects are not arrested. Frequently, these same people turn out to be the criminal. I agree with the plan to keep DNA samples of suspects.

  36. A slippery slope, if ever there was such a thing.

  37. I have nothing to hide. I did not kill, still or rob the bank. You could have my DNA
    Once, when I was falsly imprisoned by attorney-criminal M. Moustakas, I came to ACLU for help. They told me, it's not their business.
    Today they called for protecting identity of gang and Alqaeda members.
    I'd better be protected by FBI than ACLU and alike.

  38. I think that this would be welcome in a society where too many innocent citizens are locked away for crimes they didn't commit and too many of the guilty ones go free. And there probably was a similar uproar about fingerprinting. I for one never want to have to hear the phrase, "If it doesn't fit you must acquit." Justice shouldn't be about pathos, it should be about the truth.

  39. We also maintain fingerprint records of people who have been arrested, but then not convicted. Is this right?

  40. Oh dear, they appear to be envying the UK DNA database. That's not good; things have gone quite a bit too far here.

    It started off as just people who'd been convicted or who were awaiting trial. Then they changed the law so they could keep the DNA of anyone charged with a crime, even if they were acquitted. Then, a few years after that, they changed it so they could take and keep the DNA of anyone arrested - and the police routinely did so. After that, just putting everyone's DNA on the national database seemed the logical next step, though thankfully the European Court of Human Rights declaring their existing policy illegal put a swift end to any plans to extend it further.

  41. If one's intentions are honorable and non-threatening to others why would there be a need to conceal identity?

  42. Be real. DNA invades privacy no more than fingerprints.
    Also -- I am black and consciously black -- racism is a reality and we should know by now that you don't solve it by ignoring or hiding it behind a cloak of invisibilty. You couldn't have anything if the prerequisite is to be the absence of racial disparity. You couldn't have this world. The idea is to keep the world and all therein and solve the racial inequity therein, not stifle everything because, unlike the world and all therein, there is no racial disparity therein!

  43. The nonparanoid flip side is that, if one is innocent and intends to stay that say, then YOUR DNA infomation might also help solve a crime in which YOU are a victim.

  44. Mr. Morrissey pointed to Britain, which according to him, has fewer privacy protections than the United States.

    As a general matter, this is incorrect. The UK has significantly more privacy protection under the Data Protection Act 1998 and European data privacy laws.

    As an example, the data privacy protection afforded in the United States is considered to be inadequate when it comes to transfer of employees' personal data. That is why my company, which is based in the United States, but has business units around the world, can only transfer UK employee data to the United States if the company has been certified as complying with European privacy laws by participating the Dept of Commerce Safe Harbor scheme. The analysis of the UK's Information Commissioner's Office is here: http://www.ico.gov.uk...

    It is ironic that the Americans, who fought a war against the British to free themselves from "unreasonable search and seizure" (now enshrined in the Fourth Amendment) should now provide fewer protections against exactly that.

  45. DNA samples should be taken on every child born in America. If made impregnable, the resulting database would have an important deterrent effect on crime within 20 years. An innocent person has nothing to fear, and much to gain, from DNA. Only the guilty, and their strident hired advocates, should fear DNA testing.

  46. Great news! The expanded collection will make it possible to solve more crimes and to convict more criminals . . . And that means greater safety and freedom for the law abiding. Hopefully, someday, the collection will include samples of all citizens and people who visit the country.

  47. Not nearly as concerned about this as the continuing extra Constitutional wiretapping.
    This might actually do some good.
    But, hey! Let's get rid of the private prisons that make so much $$$ off incarceration victimless crimes, OK? They lobby for more and more "anti crime" laws; the ol' "tough on crime" stance since Reagan that has put so many Americans into their corrupt systems. Or can't we even run our own jails now?

  48. DNA testing to find criminal identity should be halted until the tests in practice meet acceptable standards of specificity and sensitivity, as required for other medical tests. This issue was explored in International Criminal Justice Review, Vol. 17, No. 3, 193-206 (2007)
    DOI: 10.1177/1057567707306651, "Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear," by Ann Rudinow Saetnan. She concludes:

    'Even for tests with more than 90% sensitivity and specificity, the majority of test positive results are false. Using value estimates for facial recognition and DNA identification, this article estimates the answers to these questions for crime surveillance technologies. The vast majority of test positive results would be false. In other words, even those of us with "nothing to hide" may have much to fear from crime surveillance technologies.'

    The fact that judges have allowed introduction of DNA testing to prove suspects innocent is a different consideration from what is presented in this article. Likewise, fingerprint testing for identity has been shown to lack requisite sensitivity and specificity, for example in the case of the Madrid terror bombings. Facial recognition via CCTV likewise was proved useless in Ybor City tests.

    One solution in the meantime would be to destroy all the test data after use or a reasonable short period of time. This is required by the European data collection law and the same should be required by a new privacy law in the US. It should not have to wait for attorneys to ask judges to do this, it should be done by default.

  49. DNA evidence is an incredibly powerful tool to those unjustly convicted. Hence why jurors consider this evidence as very probative of guilt or innocence.
    The real problem now becomes, beyond the privacy issues cited, is the large incentives created for law enforcement to misappropriate the DNA samples taken from those with a prior criminal history and then plant the DNA samples at crime scenes under investigation yet unsolved.
    Law enforcement had done this sort of thing with respect to footprint evidence before people realized such evidence was not particularly probative to begin with.

  50. Government collection and maintenence of data raises concerns because we know that it will be put to illegal purposes.

    I'd like to think that it will be used only for solving crimes, the fact is that the United States government has a long and unsavory history of using "information" to terrorize citizens who are somehow inconvenient.

    Think about Joe McCarthy and the necessity of US citizens to "purge themselves." Think of all the little old ladies (full disclosure, I'm one of them) who because of something we'll never discern are on the TSA's "let's hassle them to death" list. Think about the FBI and its secret files, not just on people they THOUGHT were communists (the FBI of the day wouldn't have known a genuine subversive from a potato, but it DID know who to be afraid of); of homosexuals; of African Americans (Martin Luther King); of Democrats (John and Bobby Kennedy); and God alone knows who else.

    Now, after having seen the Constitution of the US suspended for the past eight years, we're supposed to believe that these crack investigators have learned their lessons and won't do bad things again?

    My aunt's hat. We all know they will. All it will take is a few moments' inattention, and they'll go right back to their detestable ways.

  51. Privacy no longer exists. It's just an illusion.

    “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear,”

    I don't believe that, not for a minute.

  52. This is an outrage! Our rights are being violated and the argument is winning people over with the use of fallicies and scare tactics. Your family is NOT safer if DNA is collected.

  53. Wouldn't it be great to have a DNA database with every single person in the US?

    Any crime with DNA evidence would have a powerful, immediate way of identifying suspects that would be combined with standard investigations.

    If we all were required to be in that database, there would be no discrimination based on race or towards petty criminals.

    Of course, the DNA database could only be used for investigations of crimes, nothing else.

    Under these circumstances, I would be happy to have my DNA taken.

  54. Orwell and others warned us . After reading the first twenty-two comments, it appears that most of us don't care. No privacy -- less rights -- less freedom .

    Future generations will curse our memory .

  55. I am curious if the Defense database is integrated into the FBI DNA database. All US serviceman give DNA swabs. Government Contractors deploying into Iraq and elsewhere overseas give DNA samples - the rational was to ID bodies if killed or kidnapped while overseas. Makes sense for bodies being ID'd.

    If the DNA is treated like fingerprints - then are all children born into US going to have DNA samples taken along with their footprints? We don't want children going home from the hospital to the wrong parents in error.

    Should a DNA sample be given when applying for a social security card or driver's license? Should one be given when applying for a passport? A reasonable case could be made for each of the above. Accidents happen, people die, bodies need to be ID'd and love ones contacted.

    Perhaps my social security number, passport number, driver's license, and all credit card numbers should be my DNA number. It would simplify the database integration. It could also be my Healthcare number - simplifying Medicare and social security payments as I age.

    A full database integration with a single number makes sense - then I'd just have to remember a single number. It could be tattooed and bar coded inside my forearm.

    Oh - that was already tried by a government.

  56. What is so bad about being on file? Everytime you log in and post here you are on file, everything you use a credit card you are on file, buy a house, car, get a job, etc. This is just another way to catch criminals, good for them.

  57. What's to stop any government - federal, state and local - from obtaining and collecting DNA samples upon birth? Putting funding and costs aside, just like a birth certificate a DNA certificate can be issued and the DNA entered into a DNA registry for later need and use.

    Perhaps in the future it could be used to find missing children, or to implicate someone in a crime. Or perhaps manipulated in some way to plant evidence and finger someone else for a crime.

    All very "Orwellian" and "1984" to me.

  58. We all know the score here. Some bureaucrat will break policy and take home a laptop containing a million or so DNA profiles. The laptop will get stolen, the bureaucrat will have his hands slapped, and mysteriously the data will wind up in the hands of an insurance company, some web site where it wil be offered for sale, or it will land in the hands of a foreign government.

  59. "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

    Ben Franklin was spot-on. This might make us feel safer, but will it really make us safer? All this will do is make it easier to identify potential criminals, and I emphasize 'potential.' Will it keep anybody from shooting, stabbing, or raping? No. Will it be without error? No. Whether it works or not, it will still be a government database holding millions of Americans' DNA on it. Are we really so afraid, now, that we're willing to hand that over?

    This is a serious misallocation of resources and a step in the wrong direction. Let's focus on why people commit crimes and the tools they use to commit them (guns, perhaps?)

  60. http://yalelawjournal.org...

    Interesting article that implies to me that you very much have something to fear if your DNA is on record, whether you have or have not committed a crime.

  61. How about this? Let's just assume that everyone is a potential criminal. After all, the "law" covers any possible situation and can make even the most innocuous act a crime if an overzealous prosecutor trying to get a promotion is on the case. Each one of us should have an electronic tracking device imbedded in our body so that we can be incarcerated when the slightest phony charge is leveled against us. That way Big Brother can keep us all in line. We have come a very long way from freedom.

  62. Privacy no longer exists. I don't see how having DNA on file is any different from having fingerprints on file.

    If the government was really out to get you, they wouldn't wait around for DNA.

  63. There should be a national DNA database of every person in the United States. Then there is no racial or other bias. As to JD's comments regarding possible mismatches, a DNA linkage to a crime is a starting point to investigate someone. It is not reason to arrest or convict. Most of the time a false match will be evident as soon as other facts are ascertained. My guess is that many more innocent people will be exonerated than innocent people falsely convicted by this. Fingerprints and DNA samples should be collected at birth or the first time someone enters this country.

  64. I'm sure the Jews, Gays, Roma and others in Germany in the 1930's were also mollified with statements like, “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.” They trusted the State, until the existence of their being became criminalized by that State. We all know what happened after that -- and fear is driving us to repeat these horrific episodes.

  65. I find myself looking around more and more lately, wondering if I'm the only one who can sense where this increasing government scrutiny and loss of privacy is leading us, as a society. It won't be but a few more year before each of receives an invitation to report to our local hospital, where fingernail, hair, blood, and stool samples will be collected "for our own protection." Yeah, right.

  66. After 8 years of the Bush Administration I now know and fear what can be done in the name of justice or national security or protection of our freedoms.

    Let's be very cautious about allowing our government access to our DNA, our computers and our very thoughts.

  67. "They point out that DNA has helped convict thousands of criminals and has exonerated more than 200 wrongfully convicted people".
    This is a red herring argument.
    To exonerate someone,the DNA at the crime scene must NOT match the accused.You don't look for another match in order to prove innocence of the accused.So the DNA database of the general public,in this case, is of no use.
    To convict someone though,the DNA from the crime scene must match the suspect.But a DNA database is only useful for people, who in the past ,have committed crimes that involved leaving trails of tissue samples. A shoplifter cannot automatically be a suspect for a rape case.A marijuana user cannot automatically become a suspect for a serial killer.This extensive database simply says that if you were convicted for any crime,regardless of the severity,you then will always be a suspect for all other crimes.

  68. Why is it that many people are vehemently opposed to registering guns but have no problem with DNA databases which basically register your body? You can sell your gun or throw it in the river and buy another, untraceable, one but you are stuck with your body forever.

  69. It appears to me that people are under the impression that your DNA profile is in many ways like your fingerprint. They believe that all it does is unique identify you and is rather difficult to steal. I believe this is inaccurate - DNA contains all your genes and therefore health risks. Second, (for anyone with a high school biology degree) it is easy to amplify and as a result steal someone's genetic identity. Of all the biometric information to use to identify people I believe using DNA is the most unwise. These observations have been made by others in many bioethics magazines as well. And many people have predicted the introduction of new products that give people the tools to obfuscate PCR results, like DNA Identiguard.

  70. so who's policing the police? What's to stop them from taking your DNA and dumping it on the crime scene as was alleged in the first OJ Simpson trial? When I read in the NY Times recently that the Atlanta police admitted that over one third of their new recruits have police records (not just traffic tickets), then I get very nervous especially so because it appears that more and more, police are overly relying on forensics.

    Or another twist, how about I commit a crime but dump somebody else's DNA at the crime scene? Don't tell that it hasn't already been done and another innocent is in jail.

  71. Don't any of you remember Brandon Mayfield? He is an attorney who was arrested by the FBI based on mistaken fingerprint identification, and charged with being a terrorist. His phone had been bugged, his house wiretapped and searched numerous times before his arrest. Once in custody, he was held incommunicado. He had no access to an attorney and no information was given to his family. His family only found out what had happened to him as a result of a leak to the media. If fingerprint identification can be mistaken, so can DNA. If it can happen to an attorney with money and connections, how much more easily can it happen to some ordinary Joe?

    "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." -- Ben Franklin

  72. These databases completely ignore the environmental effect that can override DNA.
    1. Think of the difficulty people already have in resolving identity theft by name; similarly, DNA is shared to different degrees by different family members. This database sets up many scenarios wherein because the DNA fits you have to constantly prove your innocence even though the remaining data doesn't, i.e, your uncle is the criminal but your name keeps popping up in the databases.
    2. Reportedly the next step the UK is considering is profiling based upon DNA found at crime sites. While not an impossible idea, the interaction between DNA and environment will be even more likely to show up and the ciminal whom the DNA says should be short, light skinned with blue eyes turns out to be tall, dark skinned and brown eyed due to growth hormone, tanning booths and contact lenses.

  73. DNA taken at birth along with fingerprints. Simple. Use the scientific tools at our disposal to fight crime and give the ACLU a cause to occupy its time.

  74. Most of us are hypocrites on this issue. If the safety and security of a loved one, or ourselves, depends on a slight bending of a rule, or a peek into someone's "secret" file, then we're all for it. If a Republican suggests something similar, they are Hitler. Really, you can't have it both ways. I, for one, in general, trust our authorities to strike the properly balance between our needs for security and privacy.

  75. To the argument that we already leave a trail in our every day lives, there is no need to take another step towards that one-thousandth cut of liberty. We should be working to heal the wounds already received rather than add to them. To those who say "it is only going to be used to catch people who commit crimes" I ask - and what will be considered a "crime" tomorrow?

  76. Those who mention "privacy" must be kidding. It's possible every day to hear things - without even trying - that you'd never, ever in your life wish to hear, just because people have a fixation with mobile phoning.

    ALL KINDS of personal and private information, in full detail - it's as if everyone is begging for an invitation to participate in a tell all TV "reality" show.

    The fact that most people don't realize the lack of privacy inherent in the concept of "wireless communications," and forget that the internet (which some have enlisted to carry their phone calls) is an "open system," is no excuse. The continued lack of common sense among Americans is staggering.

  77. The creation of a terabyte database from DNA samples should be used not only to identify perpetrators of crimes more readily, but also to build profiles of DNA types. Are there any common DNA characteristics of those persons previously convicted of violent crimes that might be of assistance in identifying potential felons? And, if so, could DNA profiles be created that might be of help in the prevention of criminal acts?

  78. When I went into the Army, I gave my fingerprint as was standard practice. For 41 years now, neither the government or any of their agencies have used that print to harass or chase me down for anything. As my father use to say, if your not doing anything wrong, then you don't have to be concerned. DNA is now the current vehicle of choice as it will help track down so many criminals that need to be removed from society, especially if the are violent. I would imagine that any ACLU person (who live with words and behind the "enth" degree of impracticallity) would like to know who killed a loved one of their own if there was some DNA to trace in a data bank......Rick.

  79. The movie "Gattaca" was prescient. The genie long out of this bottle and the real future of criminal law enforcement and questionable expansion to other fields. The day will come when each newborn in most nations of world will have DNS sample taken for later "USE". No one has thought through the full implications of this for society now or in future. Hoping for broader analysis of issues and policies by all of US.

  80. Rock Harmon claims: “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.” Harmon is either a liar or an ignorant fool. Innocent people have plenty to fear, for example:
    -false matches due to mistakes, of which large numbers have already been been documented
    -matches to DNA left innocently at what later became a crime scene
    -matches to DNA left innocently on objects later transported to a crime scene
    -leaks of DNA information to private parties such as insurance companies and employers and people you date
    -use of DNA to predict criminal tendencies and apply preemptive surveillance
    -use of your DNA to incriminate your relatives
    ...
    and after some additional technology is perfected:
    -constant automated tracking of your location and movements by a big brother police force armed with a network of chips in public places.

  81. This development, like others done by government, can produce an enormous arrays of outcomes, some very good and others very evil. But in principal, the notion of having tens of millions of people in the US on a database can provoke a revolution in crime investigation. There is a subtle difference, however, that the use of such a system provokes. It transforms its own use into a system for identifying SUSPECTS, not proving guilt. The question of guilt will require systematic police work to identify means, motive and opportunity. But what the system will do is to bring into focus suspects that might have never been considered in conventional police work.
    One of the commentators said that the system isn't perfect, and that is true. But when a suspect is located using the less demanding screens (perhaps 800 to 1600 microsatellite markers), it is today possible to subject his/her sample to additional tests to drive the risk of misidentification to absolutely infenitismal levels unless the suspect has an identical twin, in which case epigenetic methods could resolve differences between the two or three individuals.
    There are many other applications for such a database, and it is surprising that little has been said anywhere about this. The cooperative participant might give annonymized health information that would in principal provide a virtually limitless research tool to identify the genetic causes of diseases.

  82. In theory this can be frightening. But, as the article points out in California it's those arrested (those bringing attention to themselves by their lack of conduct). Those and those convicted of crimes are the most likely to be suspects in future crimes as well, recidivism is well documented. So, like all other technology it can be used for good. But should we trust any corruptable (not always corrupt) public servants? I think the power hungry politicians that would even send border gaurds away for driving off a drug dealer scare the daylights out of us. Our concern over DNA profiles just points to larger problem, we don't trust big brother to always do the right thing.

  83. Are you about "privacy concern" again?! It could be very funny if wasn't so longterm stupid and dangerous. Do you think the crime and violence are not a "privacy concern"? Our so-calling "civil right activists" and "lefts" brought our country to the dangerous situation, when all the rights they protect (from whom?) belong to disturbing people only, those who
    hate our values and harm our lives. We have to have all rights to be protected. It's our private concern.

  84. 1) Most readers look at and recommend "oldest" comments first, leading to far more recommendations for these comments than for the ones, often very interesting ones made later. Therefore, # of recommendations is a useless indication of public sentiment.
    2) A large number of people think it is possible to "dump" someone's DNA at a crime scene. Rediculous, in my opinion.
    3) With the increase in violence and crime committed by drug runners coming up from south of the border, adding to our immigration problem, I would think more people would be in favor of having DNA records.
    4) Fingerprints can be erased - or missing if a person's fingers have been tampered with. DNA on the other hand cannot be altered. Therefore it is a much more accurate measure of one's identity.
    5) Race probably is a factor in the disproportionate number of African Americans and South Americans who have criminal records. The answer to this is better education for and less prejudice against the former. And less ability to cross the border for the latter.

  85. I am all for those who are arrested supplying a DNA sample. I also see nothing wrong with a sample being on file from birth.

    Is it part of our individualistic, frontier mentality which finds it in some way romantic and our right to commit a crime and get away with it. Ah, yes, the perfect crime. This is the 21st century and law enforcement must take advantage of any advancement available.

  86. Be very, very worried when the government tells you that "you have nothing to fear." Now, this explains why 1 out of 30 Americans has been in the penal system at least once. They're cataloguing the Sheeple, make sure they have each and everyone on file to be 'recalled and exported' at a moment's notice or perhaps worse to aid and abet our good friend and ally, Israel in all of their Machiavellian/Orwelian DNA experiments. My friends, this is the "1984" Orson Wells warned us about!

    For those of us who have already lived this in another country, there's nothing left by a one way ticket to the Amazon Jungle. Good luck to y'all suckers who wanna stay and let the government catalogue you as the sheep you are!

  87. Do any of you recall the science of Phrenology, the theory of determining human traits by reading the bumps and fissures in a brain?

    So far in these comments, unless I missed it, nobody has brought up the point of statistical studies that a complete database would generate. I can imagine scientists all over the globe happily punching in numbers. Before long, pseudo science would be bringing "proof" of certain portions of DNA indications specific criminal tendencies.

    Police, school officials, and employers would be testing individuals for those supposed traits. True or false, they could determine the directions of people's lives.

    "No. Sorry Mr. Bush, but you can't run for public office, not with a negative in chain X3453R in your DNA. Too much chance of your already limited intelligence deteriorating to the level of a rabid rabbit."

    "Too bad, Mr. Jones, but with specific criminal oriented traits common to child molesters, you can't be approved for a job as a Catholic priest."

    Talk about invasion of privacy, a nationwide DNA database could cause a lot problems. Conversely, such a program could help me on a personal level, giving me freedom from this fine institution, he, he, hoo, he, blub, blub, Dee, dee, de. Whooop. Ms. Adams, time to change my diapie.

    Charlie

  88. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with trying to expand DNA databases.

    True, this could be seen as an invasion of privacy or violation of rights, but first, in order to have a DNA sample taken, one must have committed a crime. After this point, one has nothing to worry about so long as one does not partake in another crime, leaving behind a genetic trail of evidence.

    Taking a DNA sample is roughly equivalent to taking a fingerprint. If it helps to solve crime and possibly even prevent it (for who wouldn’t think twice after knowing the FBI has access to their DNA?), then there is no reason why DNA sampling should not be taken.

    …Shouldn’t we all, as a society, try to control the crime rate and decrease the number of unsolved offenses?

  89. Rock Harmon says “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.”

    I propose that we take Rock and his entire extended family's DNA and add them to the database of the FBI, as well as those of Interpol, Britan, Russia and any other state that uses DNA profiling.

    Then we'll put the Harmon family's home under video surveillance, wiretap his and his wife's mobile phones, select random days to follow his children around, search his home and sift through his garbage.

    All of this would potentially save lives. If any of the Harmons were to commit a crime, the information gathered on them could help solve it and put them behind bars, thus preventing future crimes.

    Sound good to you Mr Harmon? I'm sure you're fine with all this, because after all, if you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.

  90. If there's nothing to fear if someone hasn't done anything wrong, they should also include DNA of all politicians, police officers and businessmen too ... what about the heads of Enron? Did they take Ken Lay's DNA sample? Allen Greenspan's? Shouldn't they have the DNA of all of the Masters of the Universe that destroyed the world economy?

    Or is it just the innocent and poor they want to spy on?

  91. Criminals will eventually get someone else's hair or an item with DNA on it and plant it at the scene of a crime. If there is a match in the DNA database, an innocent person may end up getting tried for a crime he/she did not commit. However, I do see the benefit of the database, if it is used for solving crimes only. Too many get away with crimes and go unpunished.

  92. The number of people being submitted concerns me. This "issue" begs attention.

  93. Never in the past did I think I would be in support of something like this, simply because the reliance of DNA evidence as undisputable fact could result in its own set of nightmares, but as a sexual assault survivor as of last year, I fully support this. Not to sound too preachy--I understand that it infringes upon a citizen's right to choose whether or not to be included in such a database since the threshold for "crime" is set low enough to include petty crimes, e.g. teenagers grabbing candy at a gas station or whatever, but I think the pros outweigh the cons. It will exonerate the wrongly accused and identify people whose DNA samples were collected at the crime scene or on the victim but came up as "unknowns" in the current database. Sexual offenders often commit recurring assaults, and their DNA was previously only collected upon detainment, which made it necessary to be caught twice. What are the chances of that happening? In stranger assault cases, they hardly ever get caught, and in acquaintance cases, they hardly ever get convicted. This way, it's possible to nab repeat offenders before they have the chance to repeat their assaults more than twice.

  94. Maybe they can use the DNA database for paternity tests instead of having to go on Maury Povich.

  95. The analogy to fingerprints is apt. Didn't the FBI (mis)identify the fingerprints of an Oregon attorney, who happened to be Muslim, as a participant in the railway bombing in Spain? Didn't that result in his arrest and (htankfully temporary) imprisonment as a "terrorist", accompanied by other violations of his rights by seizing his computers, office files, rifling through his home, etc., in a desperate effort to bolster the case for his criminality? If the FBI crime lab now has a backlog of 500K DNA samples to run and catalog, what makes anyone think this is not going to significantly up the error rate when there are 50 million samples? Anyone willing to sacrifice liberty for the sake of security deserves (and will get) neither. DNA sampling should be limited to those who have been convicted of crimes, not applied to anyone who has an "official" contact with a police agency. Edwin Meese, Attorney General under Ronnie Raygun, famously said, "If someone gets arrested, they're probably guilty of something, even if not what they were arrested for, otherwise, why would they come in contact with the police? So what's the big deal?" That mentality is equivalent, in my mind, to the Waffen SS mentality that being guilty of being a Jew was a sufficient offense to warrant being shipped off to the death camps. Haven't we had enough erosion of our Constitutional protections in the last 8 years?

  96. Another cracker jack idea from the brown shirt brigade.

    The justice system - judges, cops, lawyers, etc etc etc - should set a good example for the rest of us by voluntarily submitting their - and all of their extended family members - DNA to the data base.

    You know, just to show us how innocuous this practice.

    Afterall, if you ain't guilty of nothing, you ain't got nothing to fear from the Government or its Goons.

  97. “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear,” he said, (as he pushed the pre-written confession across the desk)....I wonder if the stormtrooper who provided the closing quote for this article realized how creepy he sounded-his mindset has been shared by gestapo agents, commandants, and ayatollahs throughout history.
    As I read through these comments, I am amazed at how many people are willing to put their presumed innocence in the hands of state and federally run "crime labs."
    One needs to remember that in addition to routinely mishandling evidence (either through incompetence or fraud), the police and industrial prison complex have a mission to convict-not necessarily solve crimes. The presumed certainty of DNA makes conviction easier, and therefore law enforcement is very excited at the prospect of having more DNA samples to choose from.
    Don't buy into it. FBI access to the DNA of presumed innocent people won't make us safer or solve more crimes-it just compromises our freedom.

  98. Brought to you by the same folks responsible for imprisoning more of its population than any other nation on Earth. Yes, this is going to work out really well.

  99. Rock Hammon, the former prosecutor of Alameda County in California, said that if a person is innocent, he/she has nothing to worry about. I would like to suggest to Mr. Hammon to voluntarily give his DNA sample.

    My son was coming home from work last month at night and was jumped from behind by detectives who claimed he fits a profile of a suspect. They handcuffed him and threw him in a police cruiser and left him alone for over an hour before releasing him.

    Is Mr. Hammon implying that it would have been "just fine" if those detectives had decided to take my son to the local precinct and then have him arrested and forcibly acquire his DNA sample?

    The fact of the matter is a person's race plays a very large role in who gets arrested. Innocent non-white males are approached my law enforcement everyday on the streest of America without a probable cause.

    Unless convicted of a felony, an individual's DNA should not be included in the national database.

  100. If everyone were DNA tested, might that not deter at least some people from committing criminal acts? If yes, then DNA testing should be perceived as a form of protection for potential victims.