Aug 5, 2010
In an interview with John Walsh of “America’s Most Wanted,” President Obama voiced his support for the mandatory collection of DNA samples from U.S. residents who have not been convicted of any crime.
“It’s the right thing to do [to] tighten the grip,” he said.
Obama told Walsh that he supports the position of the federal government and the 18 states that have passed laws requiring the collection of DNA samples from all people arrested for anything from a felony to a misdemeanor. These DNA samples then become part of law enforcement databases that can then be used in future investigations.
In California, police are also allowed to use DNA databases to conduct “familial searches” for people who are close relatives of the person who presumably left behind genetic material at a crime scene. Police can then question the unknown person’s relatives in the hopes of gaining more information about them.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against California’s law allowing mandatory DNA collection from all people arrested on felony charges. Unlike a fingerprint, the ACLU notes, a DNA sample can provide vast amounts of private information about a person without their consent.
“Regarding fingerprinting, the U.S. Supreme Court has said for more than 30 years that it is not a search,” said ACLU attorney Michael Risher. “But DNA, the method of taking it, is an invasion of our body. The more significant the invasion, the more justification the government needs.
“Our position is before you take somebody’s genetic information, you need either a warrant or that person needs to be convicted of a felony with all the procedural protections anybody gets when you are charged and tried with a felony.”
Obama’s support of compulsory DNA sampling is only the most recent decision to bring him under fire from civil liberties advocates, who accuse him of continuing Bush-era policies. Other such decisions include the refusal to close Guantanamo Bay, reveal information about domestic spying programs (or halt those programs), or repeal the Patriot Act.
This article was posted: Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 4:07 am