by Susanne Posel
Facial recognition databases on American citizens used by local and federal law enforcement are on the rise . These programs are sold to the public as necessary because they assist police in locating criminals with comparative CCTV surveillance camera images that are cross-referenced with driver’s license and state-ID photos.
We are becoming a caricature of ourselves with the advent of such sci-fi films as Minority Report coming to life.
Laura Donohue, professor of law at Georgetown University asked : “As a society, do we want to have total surveillance? Do we want to give the government the ability to identify individuals wherever they are … without any immediate probable cause?”
The reality is that over 120 million Americans are searchable in facial recognition databases. This includes the innocent and criminal intermingled with a few loosely interpreted legal safeguards in place.
However, authorities simply say that their surveillance is for “law enforcement purposes” and they can monitor anyone, anywhere.
The Next Generation Identification (NGI) databases is used by the US military to identify insurgents and local police departments (LPDs) to find murderers, bank robbers an drug dealers.
NGI is a part of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) that utilizes “advances in technology, customer requirements, and growing demand for Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) services.”
The FBI has received $1 billion in taxpayer money to collect information on Americans in order to develop an all-encompassing criminal database.
Biometric identifiers have replaced older software to create a “state-of-the-art biometric identification services and provide a flexible framework of core capabilities that will serve as a platform for multimodal functionality.”
House Representative Brett Geymann is concerned that US citizen’s “driver’s license [will] essentially becomes a national ID card.”
Earlier this month 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?”