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Government widens biometrics database as police begin on-the-scene DNA testing

DNA profiling

(NaturalNews) Legislation involving DNA evidence that would permit local police to quickly test the genetic makeup of suspects in the field, without having to wait for or rely on technicians in an accredited laboratory, may soon be voted on in the House.

As reported by NextGov, the bill focuses on a fairly new screening device that is roughly the size of a printer and is called Rapid DNA. The concept behind the technology is to clear innocent people quickly, while providing cops with the ability to detain criminals and free up labs to clear out backlogs of other cases like rape, according to majority members of the House Judiciary Committee, who supported and approved the measure for a full vote of the chamber.

At present, DNA swabs that are taken in the field have to be analyzed at credentialed labs. That is a process that takes many weeks, on average, to complete. Also, these are the only samples permitted to be run against the FBI's centralized database for potential matches.

The measure, called the House Rapid DNA Act, is the product of a bipartisan effort; it was unanimously approved by the Senate in June. It authorizes a cheek swab that can be processed by the automated device and subsequently uploaded into the FBI database named CODIS.

'Real world consequences'

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who co-sponsored the bill, said that rapid DNA analysis could have "profound implications" for criminal justice.

Those arrested by police "may be exonerated in crimes in two hours rather than waiting for up to 72 hours for release or months for more standard DNA testing," he said ahead of a recent voice-vote for approval.

While popular among lawmakers, the bill likely won't come up for a full vote of the House until the Judiciary Committee finishes work on a raft of criminal justice reforms, an aide to the panel told NextGov.

Ranking Member Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., says he thinks the bill will have "real-world consequences" in places like his home district, where a backlog of DNA evidence from sexual assault cases exists.

As NextGov reported further:

While Rapid DNA is not suited to handle rape kits and other forensic evidence, use of the instrument to identify booked offenders could make more technicians available for backlog processing.

As of March, Detroit technicians had tested about 10,000 backlogged rape kits, resulting in the identification of 753 potential serial rapists and 36 convictions, Conyers said.

Not everyone is happy with the legislation, though. Some civil liberties groups are afraid that the technology may be abused. And they say that it will be too easy for non-scientists who have the ability to instantly process DNA samples to boost domestic surveillance.

Still, for some time before Congress acted on the technology, the FBI had been planning to incorporate Rapid DNA into its huge Next Generation Identification biometric system, which is the 21st century replacement for the aging Automated Fingerprint Identification System currently in use by the bureau.

Technology that could 'change the world'

"Police officers are already using mobile tools to collect other biometrics like fingerprints and face recognition when they detain people on the street, and there have been cases where officers have collected DNA on the street as well — even from kids they have detained," said Jennifer Lynch, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In June 2015, during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, FBI Executive Assistant Director Amy Hess testified that her agency is working "to determine the interfaces necessary for the integration of the Rapid DNA components into the criminal history record and booking station infrastructure originally established for the Automated Fingerprint Identification System."

And FBI Director James Comey has said that the system is not about collecting more genetic material from more people. He has also said that mating the new technology with the FBI's DNA database could "change the world."

Despite Comey's assurances, it doesn't hurt to to protect yourself and your identity from prying electronic eyes.





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