Sunday, April 19, 2009

Something Else To Worry About

The federal government has been very busy monitoring our emails, telephone calls, bank deposits, and library borrowings. Now they've added to their collection efforts. From the NY Times:

Until now, the federal government genetically tracked only convicts. But starting this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will join 15 states that collect DNA samples from those awaiting trial and will also collect DNA from detained immigrants — the vanguard of a growing class of genetic registrants.

The F.B.I., with a DNA database of 6.7 million profiles, expects to accelerate its rate of growth from 80,000 new entries a year to 1.2 million by 2012 — a 17-fold increase. F.B.I. officials say they expect DNA processing backlogs — which now stand at more than 500,000 cases — to increase.

Yes, that's right: the feds are going to start collecting DNA from people who have not been convicted of a crime, or who have committed penny-ante crimes such as check bouncing, or who are suspected of being in the country illegally. Constitutional? Probably not, but with this Supreme Court it's hard to tell.

We're supposed to accept this intrusion because it will save lives, or something, and besides, why should law-abiding citizens object? After all, they shouldn't have anything to hide.

Rock Harmon, a former prosecutor for Alameda County, Calif., and an adviser to crime laboratories, said DNA demographics reflected the criminal population. Even if an innocent man’s DNA was included in a genetic database, he said, it would come to nothing without a crime scene sample to match it. “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear,” he said.

Yeah, right. An innocent person whose DNA is collected has about as much chance of getting the entry deleted as he or she does in getting their name off the "no-fly" list: zero to none.

And about that "nothing to fear" comment? How about fearing that the genetic information in that data base will fall into other hands, say, life and health insurance companies? We've had several stories come down the pike in the last month showing just how insecure the government's various computer systems are. And we've also seen stories about unscrupulous government employees who have peeked into passport and other records not germane to their duties and shared them with others.

No, this is just another violation of our right to privacy, only this violation is more appalling because it violates our personal integrity. I don't know whose idea this was, but the fact that it is being instituted during President Obama's watch is deeply troubling.

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Anonymous MasterD, damn yankee said...

“If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear,” he said.One of the great lies of our time, right up there with "The check is in the mail" and "conservatives can be trusted"...


4:42 AM  
Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

But, but, but, but but...waasn't "thePrez" supposed to protect our rights, and restore tha Constiutution. Im pretty sure that's why we were supposed to vote for him, innit?

How can this be happening? I am so shocked and disappointed!


6:30 AM  
Anonymous larry, dfh said...

I guess this is what Obama meant when he proposed streamlining and digitizing medical records. These samples don't come free, this is a great bonus for Cell Mark and the other labs that do these tests. You can bet that, when it comes to the bottom line, funds for the processing of these samples will come from HHS and not DOJ. "See how much we're doing for your health?" Funny that it was a rep. from one of the companies who made the quote, and a former prosecutor. Look for top FBI brass to be heavily into these companies.
As to the data themselves, what is being stored is a processed, digitized evaluation of samples run in different labs, on different equipment, on different days, using different reagents. This is very important to understand, because the actual DNA samples themselves are easily removed from the picture. There are innumerable places where error can enter into the process, from unscrupulous sample gathering, to bad technique, to heaters/timers that aren't accurate, to reagents and standards that aren't identical from lab to lab, source to source. And without someone like Barry Scheck, a person like their client group: poor immigrants, does not have the knowledge or the financial wherewithall to challenge a conviction based on the "statistical identity" of two processed samples. On is never told about how "confidence levels" are determined.
Anybody out there selling shares in privatized immigrant detention facilities?

7:07 AM  

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