DNA Database

Brave New World

Think of this, you future doomsayers and science fiction writers: with a DNA database and chemical sniffers, within 100 years nobody on the face of this planet will be able to run and hide.

[SF Chronicle special Saturday June 12] On the November ballot California voters will be asked to approve an initiative to escalate collection of DNA samples for the DNA database. California already requires collection of DNA samples on convicted felons. The initiative would change the requirement to include collection of DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony.

Law enforcement official would like to see the database expanded from its present size of 220,000 to over a million. The idea, of course, is that as long has you have a suspect under lock and key, why not find out what else the detainee might be suspected of?

We can be sure that this might result in more convictions for offenses unrelated to the charge leading to the original arrest. If this sounds like a fishing expedition to you, rest assured law enforcement officials on the federal level will be watching this to see how it goes over.

On the other hand, proponents argue this might result in more Cold Case crimes being solved, and how can we argue against that? As with increased anti-terrorism security restrictions, we tend to feel that no harm can come to us if we have nothing to hide. Slowly but surely, national security and low conviction rates trump the right to privacy.

And I have nothing to hide, either. What’s the beef?

Once upon a time, the accused was innocent until proven guilty. Domestically and internationally, a whole new generic citizen is being invented. Neither fish nor fowl, neither free person nor convicted criminal, this new category of person is both suspect and detainee, whose rights increasingly seem to be subordinate to the needs of the interrogators.

People of my generation mostly seem to believe it is already too late to stop this Brave New World. I will be too old to run and hide, and have no reason to anyway. Think of this, you future doomsayers and science fiction writers: with a DNA database and chemical sniffers, within 100 years nobody on the face of this planet will be able to run and hide. And, just think: both the technology and the legal-moral precedent will be made right here in the good old USA, the freest nation on Earth.

Alex Forbes ©June 15, 2004

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