J. D. Heyes
Jan 10, 2013
If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you’ve got nothing to worry about, right?
That seems to be the pervasive logic of an increasing number of government officials and agencies that have forgotten the uniquely American legal principle of being presumed innocent until proven guilty. How else to explain the acceptance and widespread employment of technology that gathers potential evidence on everyone indiscriminately, whether they’ve been suspected of creating a crime or not?
According to the Electronic Freedom Frontier, a group that advocates for privacy rights in the digital age, “In the amount of time it takes to get lunch, the government can now collect your DNA and extract a profile that identifies you and your family members” using a device called a Rapid DNA Analyzer, which can “process DNA in 90 minutes or less.”
Guilty until proven…innocent?
The EFF says these machines are not the imagination of science fiction writers. Rather, the group says they are “an operational reality” and are currently being marketed to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies all around the nation.
The device, according to GE Life Sciences, in conjunction with NetBio, Inc., “is a self-contained unit with all the accessories you need to conduct a full DNA analysis.” Designed for field use by non-scientific personnel, the laser printer-sized machines will soon “revolutionize the use of DNA by making it a routine identification and investigational tool.”
“Major applications include criminal forensics, military human identification, biothreat detection, and clinical diagnostics. NetBio believes that widespread use of RDA, particularly in the field and at the point of care, will improve both the safety, and health of society,” says a description of its machine by NetBio [http://netbio.com/].
Well, what’s the big deal? After you, you haven’t done anything wrong – have you? What’s a little DNA between a citizen and their government?
The fact is, the potential for abuse with a machine like this is endless. Such technology merely feeds into the tyrant’s mentality that, “in the name of public safety,” you are, by definition, a rebel and a threat if you don’t automatically comply, hence the mindset, “You must be hiding something.”
It’s as if the Fourth Amendment’s privacy protections have never existed.
EFF lays out additional concerns:
DNA samples contain such sensitive, private and personal information that their indefinite storage and unlimited sharing create privacy risks far worse than other types of data. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated in a 2008 Note titled DNA Testing to Establish Family Relationships in the Refugee Context that DNA testing “can have serious implications for the right to privacy and family unity” and should be used only as a “last resort.” The UNHCR also stated that, if DNA is collected, it “should not be used for any other purpose (for instance medical tests or criminal investigations) than the verification of family relationships” and that DNA associated with the test “should normally be destroyed once a decision has been made.”
Who would verify that such samples, in fact, are destroyed once the “suspect” from whom it was taken was cleared by authorities (for doing…nothing)? The agencies themselves? Given our government’s history of privacy abuses, why should any of us trust them?
What’s more the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, has earmarked substantial funds to develop a Rapid DNA capability, and for more “much broader purposes than just verifying refugee applications,” as the agencies have stated, according to EFF.
Devices already being tested
“The agency notes that DNA should be collected from all immigration applicants – possibly even infants – and then stored in the FBI’s criminal DNA database,” EFF says. “The agency also supports sharing immigrant DNA with ‘local, state, tribal, international, and other federal partners’ including the Department of Defense and Interpol on the off-chance the refugee or asylum seeker could be a criminal or terrorist or could commit a crime or act of terrorism in the future.”
All on the off-chance that someone, sometime, somewhere, may commit a crime.
The Transportation Security Administration falls under the purview of DHS; we could see the deployment of some sort of Rapid DNA Analyzer at airports as part of a new regulatory requirement in order to board an airplane. Then, of course, the government would have your DNA sample forever.
DHS began testing the devices in the summer of 2011, according to NextGov.com.
This “guilty until proven innocent” law enforcement mentality is not the kind of justice system our founding fathers envisioned.
This article was posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 6:08 am