Monday, June 10, 2013

Collecting DNA Against Our Will

While everyone in the country is focusing on NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden's report that the Government, along with the help of a private corporation, is snooping into our privacy and collecting our communications, something potentially more important is almost totally being ignored.

Just like their 2010 decision to grant corporations the same rights as people, the Supreme Court has once again dropped the ball in defending it's citizenry.

In another landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled the police can collect DNA samples from people they arrest even before they are convicted of a crime, and based solely upon the concept of "probable cause". Police only have to "think" that we've committed a crime.

So now, not only will the Government have this big database containing our fingerprints, our financial transactions, our employment history, probably most of our medical history, anything they've watched us do on public and private street cameras, drone surveillance, and any information they've secretly collected from our telephone and online conversations, they're now going to have a giant collection of our individual DNA.

So, while I'm sympathetic towards victims of crimes and fully support most law enforcement efforts to catch violent criminals, there comes a point where the ends DO NOT justify the means.

We've reached that point.

Proponents for loose laws for DNA collection say that DNA is just like fingerprint collection and that there's no potential for abuse. But, that's far from the truth.

First of all, allowing the police to simply collect our DNA without first being convicted of a crime in a court of law is fraught with potential for abuse. Consider this recent news report alleging police abuse in Arizona as an example. Police officers abusing their powers occurs every day throughout America. Giving them the power to collect our DNA solely based upon probable cause is a serious mistake.

Secondly, there are all sorts of avenues for corporate DNA abuse. As history has shown, corporations control all branches of our Government. Their main goals are to privatize operations, and then get our Government leaders to support their profit-driven agenda. And they've been extremely successful.

So, while Government leaders "say" that our DNA is safe from abuse, how can they guarantee what the private corporations they've contracted with to perform any collection, evaluation, and storage, do with our DNA? Trust them to be honest and self-regulate?

Who's going to enforce the rules that keep those private contractors from selling our DNA to others like the pharmaceutical industry, the biomedical industry, private medical researchers, or any other enterprise that discovers new technologies that can exploit DNA for profit? The same politicians who supported privatization and whom also control the regulatory agencies? Get real.

And it's not like similar type abuses haven't happened before. Unlike simple fingerprints, our DNA, our genetic material, can be used for molecular cloning purposes, and who knows what else?, without our knowledge or approval.

To help us understand the seriousness of this decision, Democracy Now! hosted a debate between Michael Risher of the American Civil Liberties Union and Mai Fernandez of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Mr. Fisher makes a great argument, and one that I agree with.


  1. The criminals are running the show, so of course they're going to be upset and call in their media friends to smear the poor people that shine the light on their crimes, and label them as "traitors". Retaliation and retribution, that's to be expected.

    But, even after almost a decade of evidence that continues to show the 1%'s contempt for the 99% of honest Americans, I still can't understand why those honest Americans would so quickly turn on one of their own, and buy into the propaganda?

  2. Leaks, while controversial, remain vital to democracy when the government shuts off traditional avenues of transparency and accountability. Source: Freedom of the Press Foundation

  3. An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. | HT: Amy Goodman

  4. IMO, this is a MUST WATCH Democracy Now! interview to gain a better understanding about how these surveillance abuses come about, the political corruption behind corporations becoming involved in national security and other aspects of Government, and why such abuses need to be leaked to American citizens.

    As NSA director General Keith Alexander blasts the leaks that exposed widespread surveillance of Americans, we’re joined by Chris Pyle, a former military instructor who exposed the CIA and Army’s monitoring of millions of Americans in the 1970s.

    Pyle discovered the Army and CIA were spying on millions of Americans engaged in lawful political activity while he was in the Army working as an instructor. His revelations prompted Senate hearings, including Senator Frank Church’s Select Committee on Intelligence, ultimately leading to a series of laws aimed at curbing government abuses.

    Now teaching constitutional law and civil liberties at Mount Holyoke College, Pyle says the NSA is known for attacking its critics instead of addressing the problems they expose.

    Source: Chris Pyle, Whistleblower on Domestic Spying in 70s, Says Be Wary of Attacks on NSA’s Critics

  5. The recent revelation that it was Edward Snowden, an employee of National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, who blew the whistle on the NSA’s surveillance programs has sparked a debate over the government’s use of private companies to perform sensitive national security work. It has also thrust Booz Allen Hamilton into the spotlight.

    It has long been our (POGO) concern that intelligence agency contractors have virtually no whistleblower protections. With the dramatic growth in the number of intelligence contractors, and the number of contractor employees granted clearances to handle sensitive information, the lack of a viable whistleblower protection framework could make bombshells like the Edward Snowden disclosure more likely in the future.

    Source: POGO Blog - Booz in the News and Whistleblower Blues

  6. Well, it looks like the Supreme Court "picked up the ball" in this case, and hopefully their decision will prevent the exploitation of any DNA for profit after being collected by law enforcement. Their unusual unanimous decision says companies cannot patent human genes, a decision that could profoundly affect the medical and biotechnology industries.

    The court ruled that Myriad Genetics, the genetic-testing company holding patents on the tests on the two genes in play (BRCA1 and BRCA2), could not enforce their patents. To put it simply, Myriad didn’t create those genes, nor did they develop a new procedure by which they isolate these genes, therefore they have nothing to patent.

    Read more at: NY Times- Justices, 9-0, Bar Patenting Human Genes

  7. Yes, but according to your same source -

    "The decision tracked the position of the Obama administration, which had urged the justices to rule that isolated DNA could not be patented, but that synthetic DNA created in the laboratory — complementary DNA, or cDNA — should be protected under the patent laws. In accepting that second argument, the ruling on Thursday provided a partial victory to Myriad and other companies that invest in genetic research."

    It seems that the SCOTUS's decision may have come under political pressure. Perhaps there's something most people aren't aware of about DNA/gene manipulation that others behind-the-scenes know? Maybe by including this "synthetic DNA" allowance there's still a door left open for exploitation of a person's DNA for profit in serving as a template for synthetic DNA?

    Time will tell, and until then, they'll still be an increasing amount of DNA being collected and held by private corporate contractors working for the Government based upon the SCOTUS's decision to collect it against our will.

  8. The faces of more than 120 million people are in searchable photo databases that state officials assembled to prevent driver’s-license fraud but that increasingly are used by police to identify suspects, accomplices and even innocent bystanders in a wide range of criminal investigations.

    Source: State photo-ID databases become troves for police

  9. Unfortunately, evidence continues to mount in support of my opinion that Government is over-reaching in it's efforts to allow police and prosecutors more power to go after American citizens who they only "suspect" of criminal activity. Today, the Supreme Court ruled that unless a suspect "asserts" his/her right to remain silent, that silence can be used as evidence of his/her guilt.

    According to a post on SCOTUSBlog - "As almost all Americans who have ever watched television or gone to a movie know, the Supreme Court held in a case called Miranda v. Arizona that a criminal suspect who is in police custody must be advised of his right to remain silent; if the suspect chooses to remain silent, that silence cannot be used against him in a trial."

    "The Court reasoned that the privilege against self-incrimination applies only when it is asserted, and that merely remaining silent in response to questions is not enough."

    Still don't think your Constitutional rights are being eroded?

  10. Who do these new laws target?

    To me, they don't seem to be targeting white-collar criminals, that small percentage of upper class citizens who can afford a good lawyer, and often have one on retainer. They seem to target the poor, the uneducated, the blue-collar workers and the lower class citizens without the means to defend themselves. You know, the people who are easier to push around.

    Didn't SCOTUS see that for themselves before they made these decisions to affect our rights? Or did they?

    A cynical person might think there was political pressure behind these new SCOTUS rulings related to the increasing corporate "privatization" of our prison system.

    Just something to think about.

  11. I don't think many people are noticing it, but I sure am. The right-wing, "Us versus Them" gap is widening at an ever increasing rate. Not good. Wearing a mask at a riot is now a crime

  12. And here's the icing on the top of the cake about my "Us versus Them" rant.

    Former Enron CEO Skilling's sentence cut to 14 years

    Note how it's made to seem like the court did a "good" thing because now a part of his frozen ill-gotten fortune will be distributed to victims. But, the other side of the coin is that the money was frozen because of pending appeals. This was Skilling's last appeal, and if it failed, the money would have been distributed to the victims anyway, and the litigation would have "ended for good" too.

    So, why "forge a deal" and settle the case as it's right near it's end? If settling the case was about restitution to victims, this case could have been settled a decade ago. Was it because Skilling wasn't wearing a mask? You decide, is this justice, or is it a travesty of justice?

  13. CACI International, Inc has won the dismissal of a lawsuit accusing it of conspiring to torture detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, as the defense contractor benefited from a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision over alleged human rights abuses on foreign soil.

    Source: U.S. judge throws out Abu Ghraib detainees' torture case

  14. Very interesting project being investigated and developed by the ACLU - The Militarization of Policing in America

  15. Wouldn't you know it? More database collection of information on citizens who've done no wrong.

    Automatic license plate readers are the most widespread location tracking technology you’ve probably never heard of. Mounted on patrol cars or stationary objects like bridges, they snap photos of every passing car, recording their plate numbers, times, and locations.

    At first the captured plate data was used just to check against lists of cars law enforcement hoped to locate for various reasons (to act on arrest warrants, find stolen cars, etc.). But increasingly, all of this data is being fed into massive databases that contain the location information of many millions of innocent Americans stretching back for months or even years.

    Source: ACLU - Police Documents on License Plate Scanners Reveal Mass Tracking

  16. Earlier this week, the Oakland City Council voted to approve the second phase of a $10.9 million surveillance center that would enable the City to engage in widespread warrantless surveillance of Oakland residents who have engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever.

    Read more at: EFF - Oakland’s Creepy New Surveillance Program Just Got Approved

  17. Really, if you're trying to calm down citizens who are upset by the collusion of Big Government and Big Business, what could possibly be a better strategy than using a Big Government grant to buy a quarter-of-a-million-dollar armored personnel carrier with a roof-mounted rotating weapons turret, a 300 HP engine and multiple side gun ports from Big Business?

    Read the rest of this story at: The best way to resolve a "polarizing situation" in domestic politics

  18. I'm going to finish up this thread with the reminder that whenever you catch yourself saying that you don't care what kind of information the state or their corporate cohorts collect about you, because you've done nothing wrong and you don't have anything to hide - to bookmark this USDOJ indictment out of the state of West Virginia as a reference to remind you why you should ALWAYS care.

    The scary part of these alleged crimes in this case is not only scary because of the actions of a single psychopathic judge abusing his powers to continually persecute an innocent man, but because this judge was allegedly able to convince police officers and prosecutors to enable his criminal efforts.

    There's this mistakenly naive perception amongst many Americans that the legal system is entirely composed of people who wear white hats, aren't capable of doing anything wrong, and would never commit horrific crimes against an unassuming and unaware public.

    The criminal justice system does not always work as you may perceive it works. As a matter of fact, it often fails for those who fall victim to it. Would you really want people like this to have easy and absolute access to all of your private information to do with it as they please?

  19. Unbelievable. More evidence of what a police state can do with any information they've collect about you without your knowledge.

    Without informing the public and without first reviewing security rules for the system, Ohio law enforcement officers started using facial recognition technology more than two months ago, scanning databases of driver’s license photos and police mug shots to identify crime suspects.

    Read more at: - WATCHDOG: Ohioans not told how license photos used

  20. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has once again approved the blanket collection of telephony metadata from American phone companies.

    Read more at - FISC approves phone metadata collection yet again