Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Our letter to DOJ on collecting DNA

Yesterday the Alliance for Democracy National Council sent a letter to the Justice Department to protest proposed changes to the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005--specifically a change to require collection of DNA from anyone detained by the federal government, including protesters.

Here's the letter:

May 19, 2008
David J. Karp
Senior Counsel, Office of Legal Policy
Room 4509, Main Justice Building
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
Washington, DC 20530

Re: OAG Docket No. 119


The Alliance for Democracy national council is extremely concerned about the Justice Department’s proposed changes for implementation of the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005.

In 2000, the Alliance for Democracy organized the Democracy Brigades—peaceful civil disobedience, exercising our First Amendment rights, in the Capitol Rotunda to call attention to the influence which corporate campaign donors had over policy development in several areas critical to the wellbeing of American citizens. We were proud to take a stand even when doing so meant being arrested, and risking imprisonment or fines. More recently, we have supported members and organizations who have risked similar arrest in order to protest the Iraq war and inaction on climate change.

We believe that harvesting DNA samples from every person arrested is an unnecessary and unwarranted intrusion on civil liberties and personal privacy, designed more to deter individuals from acting on conscience than to protect the public. This proposed change turns the presumption of innocence—a cornerstone of human rights—on its head by presuming that every citizen arrested, for whatever reason, is likely to be guilty of a crime in the future.

We also object to rule changes that will allow DNA to be collected and information stored by private contractors. This will increase the possibilities of loss of, or abuse of, sensitive private information. It will also decrease transparency and accountability. DNA is not just a fingerprint. It is medical information, and should be treated with the same care and confidentiality.

Lastly, this rule, as written, will swell the government’s DNA database with an estimated one million additional samples per year, increasing the chances of mismatches, especially in the case of migrants and minority citizens, who are more likely to be arrested and detained than whites.

The proposed changes are a threat to privacy and civil liberties and will
disproportionately impact minorities and the right to dissent. They should not be implemented.

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