FBI To Collect DNA From Suspects, Immigrants


Law enforcement officials are vastly expanding a collection of DNA to include millions more people who have been arrested or detained but not yet convicted. The New York Times says the move is raising concerns about the privacy of minor offenders and people who are presumed innocent. Starting this month, the FBI will join 15 states that collect DNA samples from those awaiting trial and will collect DNA from detained immigrants. The FBI, with a DNA database of 6.7 million profiles, expects to accelerate its growth rate from 80,000 new entries a year to 1.2 million by 2012 – a 17-fold increase.

FBI officials expect DNA processing backlogs – which now stand at more than 500,000 cases – to increase. Law enforcers say expanding the DNA databanks to include legally innocent people will help solve more violent crimes. They point out that DNA has helped convict thousands of criminals and has exonerated more than 200 wrongfully convicted people. Some criminal justice experts cite Fourth Amendment privacy concerns and worry that the nation is becoming a genetic surveillance society. Sixteen states take DNA from some who have been found guilty of misdemeanors. As more police take DNA for a greater variety of lesser and suspected crimes, civil rights advocates say the government's power is too broadly applied. “What we object to – and what the Constitution prohibits – is the indiscriminate taking of DNA for things like writing an insufficient funds check, shoplifting, drug convictions,” said Michael Risher of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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