3.18.2012

NY DNA Databse Set to Include 'All Criminals'

ALBANY — New York is poised to establish one of the most expansive DNA databases in the nation, requiring people convicted of everything from fare beating to first-degree murder to provide samples of their DNA to the state. -Source, NYTimes

I don't know what is more alarming, the bill itself, or the overwhelming support to these police-state intrusions and the erosion of liberty yet again. When are people going to wake up and realize that these measures are not there to protect you, they are there to control you, in ways that you have not even yet imagined. The flawed logic that goes into the reasoning behind this bill is almost as astounding as the number of people who swallow the rhetoric.

To begin with, folks need to realize a few things about DNA technology. This is much more than just a modern fingerprint. This is a complete map of your entire genetic coding. What sort of information can be taken from it, and how it can be used, we have only begun to imagine. The movie Gattaca goes into some pretty accurate suppositions about what the near future will look like as DNA information is proliferated. This is the fourth major expansion of the DNA database since it was first established in NY State back in the 90's. So how long will it be before we are having this same discussion over allowing the DNA samples to be used by insurance companies, to see if you are predisposed to any hereditary illnesses? Or how long until it is used to determine if you are genetically predisposed to conditions which might make you a dangerous driver, and thereby barring you from holding a driver's license? How long before these samples are used to put you away in prison for crimes you have not even committed, but that your DNA coding says you might be predisposed to? These idea are not as far-fetched as they may sound. If you had told me back in the year 2000 that the government would be strip-searching children at airports, I would have laughed and said you were totally nuts, but look at there we are today.

"But these are criminals," you say. That we aren't talking about the general public, only people who have done something wrong. That is, after all, the driving so-called logic behind this DNA. That even someone convicted of beating a fare or being in the car with someone who has a joint in their cigarette pack is a criminal and has given up any right to privacy. After all, a fare-beater might be a murderer, a pot smoker might be a rapist. But couldn't someone who has never been arrested be just as likely to commit a crime? Absolutely. Take sex offenders for example. The same sort of crimes that might actually be solved through DNA evidence. The most loathsome of criminal one might imagine, child molesters, most have no criminal history of any kind when they are finally caught. An expanded DNA database will do nothing to change that.

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. ~Thomas Paine

Next, we also have to understand that we are not in fact just talking about criminals. DNA is not just a fingerprint of yourself, but of your entire family, past, present, and future. The things we talked about above, with analyses of predisposed illnesses and so forth, they are taking that information not just about one person, but their entire family. So if your father was arrested for a DWI, now the government has the goods on you too. So it is not in fact just the criminals who are having their genetic roadmap harvested.

Then of course we have the wrongfully convicted. People who didn't commit any crime at all, but were convicted nonetheless. Now lawmakers are quick to point out that a fair number of people have been exonerated through DNA evidence, and had convictions overturned, but that has done little to stop police from sending innocent people to jail. The few hundred people who have been exonerated since the Innocence Project began is hardly a comparison to the millions of people who are convicted of minor crimes every year. Nor does it compare to the likely many, many thousands of innocent people sitting behind bars for crimes that DNA evidence is not a factor in and therefore will do nothing to clear their name.

Clearly, the sponsors of this bill are not interested in actually keeping innocent people out of prison anyway, and are just using that tidbit as a talking point to get their bill passed. In the same NYTimes article quoted at the start, we see this paragraph...

Lawmakers and officials briefed on the negotiations said the deal under discussion would allow defense lawyers, as well as prosecutors, access to the database. But they were still discussing the parameters of that access, and whether the database would be accompanied by other criminal justice measures intended to reduce wrongful convictions, as sought by the defense bar.

So while this bill looks all set to pass, the protections for innocents is stalled. Even more telling is the mindset of lawmakers who support expanded DNA harvesting, but are actually againt other measures to protect citizens from being wrongfully convicted...

The Senate majority leader, Dean G. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, said he was not opposed to access provisions, as long as it was “done in a very tight and controlled way.” Senator Skelos did say he was against including broader so-called wrongful conviction protections in the bill, like videotaping interrogations.

He's all for collecting DNA from everybody convicted of a minor crime, but against video taping of interrogations? Why would anyone be against videotaping interrogations? Why hasn't this been mandatory since the invention of the video camera? We are supposed to trust the police, but assume that every misdemeanor offender is a potential murderer. Maybe we should be creating a mandatory DNA database for public officials, and public servants working in positions of trust. I am less concerned that some kid who got caught with a joint might be a rapist, than I am about this case for example. Two City of Poughkeepsie police detectives are accused giving false evidence and of coercing a witness, with threats of imprisonment and the loss of the witnesses children, into giving a false statement that sent an innocent woman to jail for killing her father. If that interrogation had been taped, an innocent woman would not have gone to jail for a crime she did not commit. In the long run, it was only because the witness recanted that the innocent woman was finally released, and another person charged in the murder. There was no DNA evidence there to either convict anyone, or to prove the woman innocent of killing her own father.

Which of course, then leads us to ask, how useful is DNA evidence anyway? Despite the common perception, DNA evidence is not used to solve very many cases, nor is it entirely accurate. Which means that innocent people will still be going to prison, but now without any hope at all that the public will listen to the appeals of the wrongly-convicted, and that criminals will still roam free. A mixup at the lab, planting of DNA evidence, quality of samples, odds that a sample might match another person, all of these things undermine the science for law-enforcement application. Yet when John Q. Public hears there is DNA evidence, a conviction is all but guaranteed. So that is what we are paying for, the perception of truth, not truth itself. Is it really worth it?

When most folks hear about this expanded database, they don't even stop to think about the billions of taxpayer dollars it will cost. How is this cost justified for such a massive database, all the man-hours that will be required by law enforcement, all the facilities that will have to be maintained in order to collect and store DNA information on every single person who is convicted of a crime, all the specialists that will have to be hired and trained, all the support staff that will be required? Again, how many cases are actually solved through DNA evidence? According to the same NYTimes article that was quoted above...

"...investigators had been able to identify people linked to 48 murders and 220 sexual assaults statewide."

It doesn't say that all of those people were convicted, or even suspected of being involved in those crimes. Only that they were linked to those crimes. Which means that some of those folks may have simply been witnesses, victims themselves, or turned out to actually have no substantive connection to those crimes other than having their DNA recovered at the crime scene or from some object connected to the crime in some way.

For the small handful of cases where the random DNA evidence did in fact lead to a conviction we know that those are spun into high-profile cases that get all of the media coverage and solicit knee-jerk reaction from the public, but in the end, can that cost in dollars and loss of liberty truly be justified? At a time in America when thousands of people are losing their homes each day and children are starving, somehow we can still justify even more government spending on programs like this? Does it really make sense to spawn a whole new generation of criminals, by creating more poverty, in order to pay for this program to catch just a few criminals that might otherwise wind up rotting in prison anyway for other crimes? Granted, you might say "yes, it certainly is worth it" if your loved one was murdered and DNA solved the crime. But what if it was your house that was lost, your family broken apart, your husband that committed suicide, your child that is sick and hungry or taking the wrong path in life because we have to pay to support this ever-expanding police-state?

At the end of the day, the government always uses fear to justify its expansions and theft. This is no different. The expanded DNA database will not make you any safer. Instead, you now run a better chance of becoming the criminal yourself. Either out of necessity, because of programs like this destroying the economy leaving you hungry in the streets, or "by accident" when you are the next to be caught up in the dragnet of the police-state. Don't think for a second that with this new legislation in place that police will not be motivated to go to any lengths to get every citizen they can find convicted of a misdemeanor in order to have their DNA profile entered into the state database. And that my friends, is the end-product of all these laws. To have each and every last American citizen piss-tested, scanned, carded, monitored, profiled, and entered into the Matrix database like chattel.

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Guilty until proven innocent - Florida to take DNA upon arrest

L.A. Touts Serial Killer Arrest to Quash Civil Liberty Concerns

Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear?

Technology and Police Hypocrisy




"There are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." ~James Madison

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