Archive for July 2nd, 2013

Each particle is a microcosm, and faithfully renders the likeness of the world.  –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

DNA animationOne month ago tomorrow, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it’s perfectly hunky-dory with them if cops take DNA samples from individuals arrested for “serious crimes”.  Not convicted of, mind you, or even charged with; merely arrested for is good enough.  According to these august legal minds (well, five of ‘em anyhow; Justice Scalia the Unpredictable and the entire distaff side of the court disagreed), no wrong has been committed if the cops respond to a rape by simply arresting every man in the vicinity, forcibly taking their DNA in order to “identify” them (Maryland’s excuse in the case), and then checking every sample against the rape kit.  As Scalia wrote, this constitution-shredding rationalization “taxes the credulity of the credulous”:

The Fourth Amendment forbids searching a person for evidence of a crime when there is no basis for believing the person is guilty of the crime or is in possession of incriminating evidence.  That prohibition is categorical and without exception; it lies at the very heart of the Fourth Amendment.  Whenever this Court has allowed a suspicionless search, it has insisted upon a justifying motive apart from the investigation of crime…

So let’s say that, in the example above, the police find the rapist.  Hooray for the diligent CSI heroes!  And then what happens to the DNA they took from all the other guys they brought in?  Why, it goes into a database, to be used however the police see fit, with no oversight or restraining policy whatsoever:

…a growing number of local law enforcement agencies…have [begun]…amassing their own DNA databases of potential suspects, some collected with the donors’ knowledge, and some without it.  And that trend…is expected only to accelerate after the Supreme Court’s recent decision…These…databases operate under their own rules, providing the police much more leeway than state and federal regulations.  And the police sometimes collect samples from far more than those convicted of or arrested for serious offenses — in some cases, innocent victims of crimes who do not necessarily realize their DNA will be saved for future searches…[some] agencies [even] pool…their…databases….and…rapid DNA testing devices…could provide a greater incentive for local authorities to build and maintain their own database…

DNA collectionAnd it’s not only suspects and crime victims:  some foolish hookers have voluntarily surrendered their DNA to the cops (supposedly so their bodies can be identified more easily if they’re murdered); equally-foolish parents are giving up that of their kids against the fabulously-unlikely possibility of abduction; in the UK cops regularly file children’s DNA; and in the US the government routinely takes and retains genetic material of newborns without parental consent.  And as of yesterday, Mississippi mandates the retention of DNA from babies born to mothers below 16:  “The DNA will go into a database from which police may draw if they begin to investigate whether the mother was a victim of statutory rape.  The DNA will not go into the statewide criminal database. That means the…father’s DNA is not available for matching for any other types of cases.”  It’s not available now, but of course that can change with the stroke of a gubernatorial pen.

But if you’re an adult and you’re never arrested for a serious crime or become a victim of such a crime yourself, and never, ever will be, you’re relatively safe, right?  Guess again.  Swanee Hunt and her ilk are pushing for the government to retain the DNA of any man caught in an “end demand” sting (using the excuse that Melissa Farley claims that clients commit “lots more crimes” than other men).  This is not only possible but likely under Maryland v. King because, as Scott Greenfield explains, there’s no “conceptual ledge” to stop the descent down that slippery slope from “serious crimes” to misdemeanors:

…DNA is collected from people convicted of crimes regardless of this decision, so they are by definition removed from the people affected by it.  That leaves only the people who are arrested but not ultimately convicted…Given…the fact that defendants are presumed innocent until convicted, there can be no question as a matter of law that…DNA [is] being seized from innocent people.  The argument in King is that these are defendants charged with serious offenses.  The purpose of this detail is to distinguish the swabees from people given traffic tickets, from whom DNA is not collected under this law…The problem with this rationale is that the defendants from whom DNA is taken, being innocent, are…innocent of everything.  They are innocent of traffic infractions and murder, all at the same time.  So what if they’re charged with serious offenses?  An innocent person charged with murder is still innocent, and indistinguishable from an innocent person charged with any other crime.  Or even the innocent person not charged with a crime, for that matter…

In other words, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – which can stop legislators from now allowing or even mandating DNA collection from anyone accused of any infraction, including solicitation.  Or “improper lane usage”.  Or cutting up in school.  What’s that, you say?  It wouldn’t bother you even if they made it a condition of getting a driver’s license because, hey, you have nothing to hide?  I’ll let Gideon take that one:

…great, can I have your credit card numbers and your social security number too?  No?  You mistrust me, a solitary individual against whom you have recourse, yet you willingly subjugate yourself to a faceless, untouchable government?  All it takes is an accusation…and…you’re condemned to navigate the panopticon…You know who decides what is a crime and what isn’t?  The government.  You know who decides who has broken the law?  The government.  You know who decides whether to prosecute an individual?  The government.  You know who puts on evidence to prove that someone is guilty of a crime (and usually wins)?  The government.  You know who uses DNA to prove guilt?  The government.  You know [who] has people (jurors) blindly following its dictates?  The government.  You know who you signed over your privacy, your personal information, your DNA to?  The government.  Think they won’t use it against you tomorrow if they suddenly dislike you?  If you answer yes…is it because…you don’t think this sort of thing will happen to you?…the Government isn’t seeking data on “non-privileged” people.  It’s all of us.  You.  Me.  The guy down the street.  You may think you’re different than me or my typical client.  The government doesn’t.  They’re the ones who you think will protect you, yet they’ve already proven that they see no difference between you and a criminal

DNA is a lot less volatile than a fingerprint; it can persist in testable form for decades.  If I sell my truck and the buyer then abandons it after kidnapping someone or robbing a convenience store,Vodoo doll guess whose DNA is all over the seats and steering wheel?  Oh, yeah, mine and my husband’s.  We leave DNA all over the place, every day, and if you think the cops wouldn’t use that “evidence” to connect you with a “crime”, guess again; it needn’t even be anything any reasonable person would consider a real crime.  Modern technology has made the old witchcraft belief a fact:  if an evil person gets ahold of some part of you, no matter how small, he then has power over you.  And modern police states want to ensure they have that power, to be used at the whim of any prosecutor, over every single living person within reach.

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