Beginning in April, the FBI will greatly increase its collection of DNA samples. Until last month, the FBI only collected DNA samples from people who had been convicted of a crime. They use those samples to test against DNA found at other crime scenes. The database helps the Bureau solve new crimes.
The new policy allows the FBI to store the DNA of suspects who have been arrested but are still awaiting trial. It also allows the Bureau to store the DNA of immigrants who have been detained.
The FBI runs DNA found at crime scenes through the database every week. If they get a match, they know that that person was at the crime scene. According to the FBI, thousands of criminals have been convicted using DNA evidence, and over 200 people who were wrongfully convicted have been cleared.
But opponents of the new policy say that it violates privacy, guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. U.S. law holds that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Opponents to the FBI’s policy believe that a person who has not yet been convicted should not be forced to submit his or her DNA to a criminal database. They feel that DNA should not be collected from a person accused of committing a crime unless it will help solve that particular crime.
Supporters of the new policy say that the potential privacy violations are worth it because DNA is so accurate and effective in solving crimes.
- Law Enforcement Expands Collection of DNA Samples
Story in the Seattle Times (originally appeared in the New York Times) covering the FBI’s new policy, including the arguments for and against DNA collection.
(Source: Seattle Times, April 19, 2009)
- U.S. To Expand Collection of Crime Suspects’ DNA
Article from the Washington Post about the original intent of the FBI’s DNA database, and the changes that the new policy represents.
(Source: Washington Post, April 17, 2009)
- Congressional Testimony: “The FBI’s DNA Program”
File from the FBI’s Web site provides the testimony of a Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI giving Congress an update on the progress of the Bureau’s criminal DNA database. Provides the original thinking behind the creation of the database.
(Source: FBI.gov, June 12, 2001)