by Susanne Posel
The US Supreme Court ruled this week that law enforcement officers may take DNA samples of suspects arrested “in connection with serious crimes.”
Federal agencies and local law enforcement (LLE) assert that this practice is vital to their investigatory processes.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote: “When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody; taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia explained that taking DNA samples of individuals arrested to set up a genetic database under the guise of solving cold cases in the distant future is an affront to the 4th Amendment.
Scalia said: “Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.”
Kennedy claims that there was a “need for law enforcement officers in a safe and accurate way to process and identify the persons and possessions they must take into custody.”
By describing an individual’s DNA as simply another part of the booking procedure, Kennedy made an illogical deduction that genetic markers are the same as fingerprints.
Kennedy wrote: “An individual’s identity is more than just his name or Social Security number, and the government’s interest in identification goes beyond ensuring that the proper name is typed on the indictment. Identity has never been considered limited to the name on the arrestee’s birth certificate. In fact, a name is of little value compared to the real interest in identification at stake when an individual is brought into custody.”
Scalia retorted in dissent that LLE and federal agencies would have the suspect’s name, address, phone number, height, weight, sex, etc. . . simply from the arrest itself and that DNA sampling was not necessary.
Scalia wrote: “Solving crimes is a noble objective, but it occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law enforcement searches. The Fourth Amendment must prevail. So the ironic result of the court’s error is this: The only arrestees to whom the outcome here will ever make a difference are those who have been acquitted of the crimes of arrest.”
Continuing, Scalia said: “Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason. This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA whenever you fly on an airplane — surely the TSA must know the ‘identity’ of the flying public. For that matter, so would taking your children’s DNA when they start public school.”
In conclusion, from the bench, Scalia said: “It may be wise, as the Court obviously believes, to make the Leviathan all-seeing, so that he may protect us all the better. The proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would not have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.”
Justice Sotomayor commented that “DNA swabs could find their way into the nation’s schools and workplaces” and Justice Elena Kagan remarked that if this scheme were successful “why don’t we do this for anybody who comes in for a driver’s license?”
In 2010, President Obama voiced his approval to have the establishment of a national database of DNA taken from Americans arrested.
While speaking to John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted, Obama said : “It’s the right thing to do. This is where the national registry becomes so important, because what you have is individual states — they may have a database, but if they’re not sharing it with the state next door, you’ve got a guy from Illinois driving over into Indiana, and they’re not talking to each other.”
Within the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) hold over 9 million records as of 2011.
CODIS provides “federal, state, and local crime laboratories in the United States and selected international law enforcement crime laboratories to foster the exchange and comparison of forensic DNA evidence from violent crime investigations.”
Mainstream op-ed propaganda asserted that “The president was correct in saying that we need a more robust DNA database, available to law enforcement in every state, to ‘continue to tighten the grip around folks who have perpetrated these crimes.’”
Causes for concern would be moot because “your sensitive genetic information would be safe. The genetic privacy risk from such profiling is virtually nil, because these records include none of the health and biological data present in one’s genome as a whole. Aside from the ability in some cases to determine whether two individuals are closely related, DNA profiles have nothing sensitive to disclose.”
Three years ago, the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK began collecting blood samples of infants born in hospitals all across the country. These DNA samples were charged to be kept in facilities for nearly 20 years or more.
The UK Newborn Screening Program Center (NSPC), the corporation that stores the DNA samples, confirmed that they were being held as a way to identify the children at a later date.
In America, former President George W. Bush signed S.1858, entitled “The Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act of 2007” that was affectionately termed a national contingency plan.
The legislation outlined that the US government should “continue to carry out, coordinate, and expand research in newborn screening” and “maintain a central clearinghouse of current information on newborn screening… ensuring that the clearinghouse is available on the Internet and is updated at least quarterly.”
Deep within the bill it is stated that DNA collected could and would be used for genetic experiments and research testing.
Indeed, the legislation establishes:
• A national genetic database from newborns and children
• Creates specialized protocol for sharing genetic testing results with various federal and local law enforcement agencies
• Ensure that US citizens can be traced for healthcare purposes
• US citizens can be diagnosed with diseases at birth
• Genetic screening can be used for identification purposes
Case in point, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) began collecting DNA samples from newborns going back to 2002.
The state agency had a contractual agreement with Texas A&M University to store more than 800,000 samples annually under the guise of medical research.
In addition, the DSHS handed samples over to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AF-DIL) to create a national mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) database.
According to Texas A&M officials: “Genetic privacy is a big ethical issue & even though … approval is required for use of the spots in most situations and great care is taken to protect the identity of the spots, a press release would most likely only generate negative publicity.”