Sunday, October 16, 2005

DNA Databse

This is a topic that I've been hearing alot about lately. There's legislation around right now that's calling for a database of DNA, taken from illegal immigrants, criminals, and basically anyone else the government might feel the need to keep an eye on. State and local officials would collect DNA samples and upload them into a national database, so that everyone could have access to the information. The bill even calls for them to collect samples from people who have not been found guilty of a crime, but have been charged. The number of privacy rights that this could violate blows my mind. I understand the need to be able to identify criminals - but people who haven't even been tried for a crime? Don't they deserve that "innocent until proven guilty" idea? The bill's already passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee, and is waiting for a vote from the full Senate as part of renewing the Violence Against Women Act, which recently expired. Even scarier (and what got me started on this rant) is an editorial in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. Mr. Coombs feels that a recent article calling for the database of criminal DNA fell short of what's really needed:
Better would be a federal statute giving state and local governments monetary incentives to seek consent of all mothers to collection of DNA from their newborns. Laws already let parents make many vital decisions on behalf of young children: medical care, nutrition, religion, education, etc. Any mother who predicts her newborn will become an honest citizen protected from suspicion by DNA, not a criminal ensnared by it, would consent. Her consent, and later telling her child about it, would provide an extra incentive for law-abiding conduct.
Mr. Coombs, according to the paper, teaches at Rutgers University Law School. The thought of what he's teaching his students - future lawyers - frightens me.

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