Archive for Friday, June 7, 2013

Editiorial: Big Brother

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on DNA swabs is another indication of our waning right to privacy.

June 7, 2013


In another 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken.

It has said that it’s all right for police to take a DNA swab from anyone they arrest and put the results into the National DNA Index System, where it becomes part of the federal Combined DNA Index System, the FBI program that supports criminal justice DNA databases.

As has been illustrated in recent cases involving Lawrence and area residents, these DNA checks can help to clear people falsely convicted of crimes and bring to belated justice criminals who initially escaped paying for their acts.

Even the dissenting justices agreed. “This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure,” said Justice Antonin Scalia. However, he and the three other justices who joined in the dissent said the court was allowing a major change in police powers. “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,” Scalia warned.

Although the decision cleared the way for police to take a DNA swab from people arrested for “serious” crimes, Scalia predicted that limit will not last.

The justices who were in the majority reasoned that the swab was not that big of a deal. “Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

Perhaps it is not that big of a deal — at the moment. If it can convict a criminal who has escaped detection, who would argue? Likewise, if it can free an innocent person, isn’t that worthwhile?

The challenge lies in where to draw the line on a growing number of identification techniques. Just because science has discovered a process, does that mean it can be used at every turn? Iris scans of a person’s eyes are being used for security purposes. Facial recognition techniques are growing in sophistication. There’s even a “gait recognition” that can identify individuals by their walks.

Those three latter means of identifying individuals can be imposed by camera monitoring systems, so there’s no need to find yourself arrested in order to be identified, indexed and ultimately tracked.

This U.S. Supreme Court case involving DNA swabs was, on one level, about “reasonable expectations of privacy” and “warrantless, suspicionless searches.” In many ways, privacy and the public lost. Perhaps what the court said, indirectly, is that protection of individual rights no longer can be carried out without “Big Brother” and intrusive technology. Is that something we want to hear?


Uncle_Joe 10 months, 1 week ago

Uncle Joe says.... does not understand meaning of 'Big Brother'. Joe's sister has large structure of glorious worker of the fields, but 'Big Brother'? No sense made of such term.


pti3 10 months, 1 week ago George Annas, J.D., M.P.H.: "... as Dr. Watson said in 1991, when he said, "Speaking as a citizen, I think genetic information should be absolutely private.  The idea that there will be a huge data bank of genetic information on millions of people is repulsive."" Pilar Ossorio, J.D., Ph.D.: "I think the problem of genetic information privacy is set in a larger context in which both government entities and private firms are surveilling, tracking and profiling us like never before."


In_God_we_trust 10 months, 1 week ago

Looks like the government overreach has had the effect of bringing both sides together in agreement with common ground in support of the Constitution.


smileydog 10 months, 1 week ago

This is frivolous at this point. When the insurance companies start using this information on all citizens to determine their risk assesments on individuals like Citizen A has an 89% chance of having a heart attack or 61% chance of getting breast cancer so they know how much they'll charge for health insurance is when everyone should worry. All part of the Obama coup underway.


verity 10 months, 1 week ago

Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Seems pretty clear to me what this means. Does anybody see anything unclear about it?

In my opinion, taking my DNA without a warrant as described in the 4th amendment falls into the same category as the government tapping into our emails, phone messages, etc. without a warrant.


jafs 10 months, 1 week ago

What an odd idea.

The SC is a vital part of our system, and we all have every right to be unhappy with decisions they make, if we feel they're incorrect and/or damaging in some way.

With 5-4 decisions especially, there's serious disagreement on the court as to constitutionality, which means that there isn't one obvious and correct opinion about that.


Armored_One 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Why is SCOTUS being scapegoated for this issue? Talk about absolute and total hypocrisy. I have read multiple demands for people to be held accountable, but yet her you are, hammering the SCOTUS, instead of organizing recall proceedings against the Congress that passed the law in the first place.

What is being said and done is no better than being angry at your boss, coming home and kicking your dog to death because it had the audacity to be happy you're home and barked a couple of times.

SCOTUS does NOT pass laws. They rule on the constitutionality of a given law. Period. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. But by all means, far be it for me to stand in the way of the lynch mob. I would certainly hate to see such perfectly good torches be wasted. If the roof of your house is collapsing in, you don't go plant a rose garden 5 blocks away. You fix the blasted problem. Partisan politics and career politicians are the issue. You start voting these geniuses out of office, the rest WILL get one of two things.

A clue or a pink slip.


JJE007 10 months, 2 weeks ago

The right and left edge of reason are cutting us to the quick.


fmrl 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I have been watching for more than 40 years as this country is becoming a police state. This law seems innocuous enough but what is next? The laws are passed in an incremental basis so we will not notice. What's worse is that SCOTUS is entirely complicit in it. As far as I'm concerned they do not follow the intent of the Constitution but talk circles around it. They can give the illusion that there is some dissention or disagreement with their 5-4 votes but this is just a ruse. They are in lockstep.


Liberty275 10 months, 2 weeks ago

DNA is not like a fingerprint. You can't query a database of fingerprints for Jews so you can sew stars on their clothes.

No DNA should be taken without a warrant and the digital representation of that DNA should not be added to any database without a different judge's order.

You people are way too quick to forfeit your rights.


Ron Holzwarth 10 months, 2 weeks ago

My concern with a national DNA database is how well the information will be safeguarded, and at what time, if any, it becomes public information. For similar information, I believe it is usually 100 years. There are legitimate reasons for total privacy of such information, one is in case someone is hiding from a person that is a danger to them, another is cases where family members no longer wish to have contact with each other, people in witness protection programs might be put in jeopardy, but probably the biggest reason is adoption privacy. Some adopted persons do not want to be contacted by their biological family. Access to a national DNA database would make it very easy to find any biological relative.

The DNA technology available today with only a cheek swab is amazing. Relatives can be found, up to 5th and sometimes even 6th cousins, your likelihood of a genetic disease is no problem (Health insurance companies would love to have that information!), and your ancestry from thousands of years ago can be found. It's even possible to determine what percentage of your biological makeup is from Neanderthals! But that's always an extremely small percentage, if it exists at all in a particular individual. I'm sure that's only a partial list. These two companies specialize in DNA testing of various types. Prepare to be amazed if you read their web sites.


Karl_Hungus 10 months, 2 weeks ago

This is if an officer of the law has a gut feeling or thinks that someone was involved or even looks like they would commit a crime, all he/she has to do is make a knowingly false arrest so they can get your DNA and store, that is a total abuse of power.


Steven Gaudreau 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Jafs, how do you feel about Obama's people listening to our personal phone calls, reading our emails and tracking our internet searches? Just curious if any Obama supporters have the courage to denounce this behavior. I'm all for it.


grammaddy 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Technology marches on. I wasn't that long ago that people thought the same thing about fingerprinting.


consumer1 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Correction. "lays the desire to harm". If this is not correct. Can someone advise me? Too early and too dumb.


consumer1 10 months, 2 weeks ago

The world we live in is becoming more and more violent. We are being populated by people who on the surface want to capitalize on our political system and become Americans. Too often, beneath the surface, lye the disire to attack from within, by plotting terroistic actions. This means of identity cataloging is unfortunate. It is unfortunate because many law abiding citizens will be processed as if they were beef on the market. Is it the price for capturing and holding accountable those who wish to harm us? I believe it is. However, let me warn you. This is exaclty the kind of law that will open the door for future intrusions of privacy. It will begin with sex offenders. We will all continue to grow in fear of where these people are and whose children they will attack next. So, imagine, new laws allowing for micro-chip implantation in this select group. Now, image what group will cause us fear next? Will we also micro-chip them? before long the entire idea of micro-chipping becomes a natural birth proceedure, so that we can track our children should they ever dis-appear. Some of you will make negative comments and call me all kinds of bad names and attack my intelligence. Those of you who think I am losing my mind are the same folks who will endorse these laws because you don't have the ability to think long range and are incapable of seeing the trends. Some of you will call me a fear monger, guilty of trying to create a problem that doesn't exist. Well, It doesn't exist "right now", but, in the future, violence is going to become much more prevelent unless we begin to accept the reality of it right now.


jafs 10 months, 2 weeks ago

There was an interesting discussion of this issue on the radio the other day, with intelligent comments from both sides.

I tend to side with the anti crowd and feel it's an unreasonable search.

There are substantive differences between fingerprinting and DNA swabs.


Lynn731 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree it is the updated type of identification that fingerprints and book in photos are now. It will give law enforcement another tool to catch criminals with.


Ira Rott 10 months, 2 weeks ago

I don't understand how it is functionally different than taking a fingerprint, it's another method of identification (around for 50+ years) which is probably even less invasive than fingerprinting, at least you don't get gunk all over your fingers.

If the only argument against it is slippery slope leading to a potential future overreach of a non-DNA related collection method than it is a pretty weak argument. Like the "well, if you're going to allow gay marriage then next you'll have to allow polygamy and inter-species marriage" crowd.


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