In comments yesterday, my father raised an interesting point.
I heard on the NPR this morning that the state of Colorado will, as of tomorrow, be taking cotton swab DNA samples from people arrested for felonies. The ACLU is fighting it. On the one hand it seems logical to take these samples to see if Joe-Ax-Murderer is also the guy who knocked over and stole your granny’s purse. He is, as a felon, already required to allow himself to be photographed and fingerprinted…. is DNA that much different? I think (as do the authorities) that many cases will be solved because, let’s face it, criminals are generally involved in more than one crime. There is also the idea that the first time criminal WILL NOT allow themselves to ever do anything again because we’ve got their DNA. Sounds like a winning situation for society. What says you?
Several European countries have been keeping such databases for some time now, starting as early as 1995. Three years ago, they started to share that information. Now, if you're arrested for rape in England, you may end up standing trial for a murder you committed in France ten years ago.
Sounds like a not horrible plan, right? A step up from fingerprints, but the same general ladder?
My original reaction is sure, let's do it. After all, I'm not going to do anything wrong, so it won't affect me. Only bad guys will have their DNA collected, and bad guys are - well, bad guys. Anything we can do to bring those suckers in, amirite?
The problem is, this is a slippery slope, y'all. Let's say that this is a rousing success. Criminals are being thrown in jail left and right with irrefutable evidence.
Then? Let's say that it occurs to someone that since the general public obviously wants these people in jail, they won't mind providing samples of their OWN DNA for exclusionary purposes. Research purposes. To discourage future misbehavior.
OR, what if my brother is the prime suspect in some murder, but they don't have enough evidence to arrest him, and therefore can't get his DNA - and then someone points out that I donated blood last week, and a mitochondrial match would be enough for a warrant? Yeah, I know, it's a little CSI, but you hear what I'm saying. One of the facts of DNA is that it doesn't point to just the person it belongs to - it points to their relatives as well. As we get better and smarter, it's not outside the realm of possibility that having DNA on file will be the same as having a social security number - something that's expected, even required, and a serious pain in the ass to avoid.
Why would I want to avoid it? I'm not going to do anything wrong, but I'm not sure that means the government should be allowed to know everything about me. Thoughts?