Technocracy XIII: All the way down to our DNA …

 “The year is 2025. The population is 325 million, and the FBI has the DNA profiles of all of them. Unlike fingerprints, these profiles reveal vital medical information. The universal database arrived surreptitiously. First, the Department of Defense’s repository of DNA samples from all military personnel, established to identify remains of soldiers missing from action, was given to the FBI. Then local police across the country shadowed individuals, collecting shed DNA for the databank. On the way, thousands of innocent people were imprisoned because they had the misfortune to have race-based crime genes in their DNA samples. Sadly, it did not have to be this way. If only we had passed laws against collecting and using shed DNA….”

—Professor David H. Kaye, ‘Science Fiction and Shed DNA’, 2006


ADN_animation

The structure of part of a DNA double helix (wikipedia)

If you are not quite into tattoos and are repulsed by the idea of implanting your body with anything, then this will probably tip you over the edge. It seems that tagging our bodies just doesn’t cut the mustard and something even deeper is required. Consumerism and crime prevention is to be the precursor.

Recalling our brief foray into Verichip and Positive ID marketing, work at the University of Aveiro in Portugal intends to add to that obsession. Researchers are busy developing DNA barcode tags that will soon be applied to a wide variety of products from foodstuffs to toiletries. Each tag in question has: “… a unique combination of DNA base pairs that attach to most surfaces, and can later be collected, amplified, and sequenced.”

So, how might these DNA tags might be used?

“… in some schemes a DNA “fog” might be used to spray violent protesters when there are not enough law enforcement personnel to immediately subdue the lot of them. That tag will be unique, and mark anyone who bears it, at least for a while. Over time however, the signal will spread and degrade. Multiple tags could be used to mark multiple events or increase reliability of a single event. Clearly though, finding a way to contain your marking agent at the outset is the cleanest option. [1]

Drawing our attention to the parallel practice of tracking animals and identifying species by biologists over the years, John Hewitt of Extreme Tech mentions the barcode of life, a project with: “… over 200,000 animals catalogued in a searchable database.” He makes the chilling analogy: “Since things like animals already come pre-barcoded, all one need do is find some region in their DNA that tends to mutate fast enough over time so that each species can be expected to show enough variation.”

In 2012, proposals were published by the UK government outlining the creation of a DNA database of the British population within the National Health System (NHS) complementing the Police National DNA Database which at 5,950,612 individuals, has more samples per head of population than any other country. [2]The European Court of Human Rights forced the British government to water down the reach of the Nationwide DNA data base. By way of response to the Strasbourg ruling, the government launched a “consultation exercise” in May of 2009 (which can be read as a PDF document online). The case that ruffled the feathers of the UK government so comprehensively was caused by two plaintiffs who had been arrested but proven innocent, and further, had been told police would be holding on to their DNA profiles indefinitely. The two individuals argued that this was a breach of their human rights. The court ruled in their favour and ordered the DNA profiles be removed and that the DNA samples have a cut off period.

The government have been doing their level best to justify the DNA database and the retention of DNA samples based on a similar position to the US Dept. of Homeland Security. Officials believe that even when people are arrested and cleared of any wrongdoing they are just as likely to commit future crimes as those who have been convicted. More Pre-Crime thinking? The basis for this conclusion came from the government’s own consultation paper which was heavily sourced from the work by criminologist Professor Ken Pease. Based largely on statistical evidence, the science in the paper was so shoddy that it caused The Guardian’s journalist and science writer Ben Goldacre to brand it: “… possibly the most unclear and badly presented piece of research I have ever seen in a professional environment”. [3]

Lancaster University Professors Brian Francis and Keith Soothill from their research carried out by the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods concluded that the six year retention of DNA data was based on “flawed evidence.” They launched a withering attack on the validity of the paper, stating:

The notion of ‘arrest’ is the main criterion used for action in the consultation document. While police arrests are not whimsical, they come at the beginning and not the end of the criminal justice process. Some people are disproportionately at risk of being taken into questioning by the police and being arrested. In contrast, a conviction is the outcome of evidence being tested in court. In fact, arrests are useful indicators of police action but not of guilt. Re-arrests are dangerous indicators and making arrests the pivotal criterion encourages the notion that we are moving towards becoming a police state. [4] [Emphasis mine]

The push to expand the DNA databases both in the UK and in the US is understandable since the logic appears to be sound. Similarly, it is very difficult to argue against victims’ family who have had their sons, daughters and loved ones murdered by criminals who may have been caught prior to the event had DNA profiling been more rigorous and well established. The Story of a State of Virginia mother and her fight to see the DNA database expanded to include people convicted of Class 1 misdemeanors stems from her sincere hope that it will save lives and produce some good from the murder and abduction of her 20 year-old daughter.

Many criminals will be arrested and duly placed on the database. No doubt persons will be trapped by DNA evidence and crimes solved. But the Home Office intends to keep all DNA profiles for at least six years with innocent persons still classed as criminals. Therefore, there will be no distinction between the guilty and the innocent where potentially important nuances in a case will be deemed immaterial. An innocent bystander? Too late, you’re on the DNA database as a criminal or even worse, sexual offender. What of activists, protesters and a whole host of extenuating circumstances that are difficult to address in a court of law? How would this affect the outcome of a case where the jury knows that the person accused is already listed? DNA science is in its infancy and there is still much to learn. The key change in the law meshes conveniently with terrorism and civil liberties in that everyone is now presumed guilty rather than presumed innocent before a trial. This is a significant change, both in terms of perception and profits.

Remember that the security complex in the USA is a huge business which the UK government intends to emulate. Therefore, for the Home Office everyone is a potential criminal and by extension, a source of revenue, though you obviously won’t find any civil servant admitting to such a heinous accusation. But that is the trajectory – a corporate push to privatize the prison industry where crime is profitable. For the authorities, just as soon as everyone is on the data base the better for society. And their stock options.

Over 70,000 under-16s have now had their genetic fingerprints recorded and as of writing, Police authorities have yet to delete more than 165,000 innocent people from their records. [5]As UK politician for the Liberal Democrat party Lynne Featherstone said: “There is no purpose or justification for keeping the DNA record of anyone who is not charged with an offence,” adding: “With the growing concern about racial profiling and disproportionality in criminal investigations, the need to keep innocent people on the DNA database is questionable.” [6]

The United States has the largest DNA database in the world, with 10.7 million offender profiles and 1.8 million arrestee profiles.[7]  The US has the highest number of prisoners in the world at over 2 million and thethird largest incarceration rate. This translates as 1 in every 31 adults or half the world’s prison population of about 9 million held in the US. The prison-security complex rakes in billions of dollars a year, with the corruption of the law enforcement and justice system at all time highs the question of DNA profiling becomes ever more problematic.

1024px-CBP_chemist_reads_a_DNA_profileU.S. Customs and Border Control chemist reads a DNA profile to determine the origin of a commodity. (wikipedia)

The FBI has been collecting one million DNA samples a year under a new program that allows federal agents to take cheek swabs from people arrested for any crime including non-US citizens. They can also take DNA from any arrestee or ‘detained’ non-citizen and upload it to the FBI’s CODIS database networked to law enforcement authorities in over 50 states. In June of 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled it constitutional to take DNA samples from people who have been arrested for serious crimes without a warrant, let alone a conviction. The federal government and 28 states across America already collect genetic samples from people arrested for crimes (felonies, certain misdemeanors) with the remaining 22 states that only take samples from people convicted of those crimes.

DNA profiles and their genetic markers can provide excellent supporting material when there is scientifically valid evidence in a case overall, such as placing a suspect at the scene of the crime. It becomes problematic when a jury assumes that DNA evidence is incorruptible and scientifically unassailable. Mistakes continue to occur and the probability will increase as the database expands. When you search for a match in an ocean of profiles the likelihood of finding an innocent person along with the perpetrator of the crime also increases. And what if the perpetrator is not in the database, but you still find a sequence of markers that denote a match?

This has been dubbed the “CSI Effect” when a jury places too much emphasis on DNA evidence. In one case, a 22-year old Farrah Jama, a Somali immigrant was sent to prison for 16 months for the rape of a 48-year-old woman – a rape that didn’t happen. A report in The Australian described how the prison sentence was quashed: “… after it was discovered the DNA sample that incriminated him was contaminated.” Although a cultural bias of the jury was also probably operating “… the Somali migrant was successfully prosecuted based solely on his DNA being found on the victim, despite the fact he had an alibi and there was no other evidence to connect him to the alleged crime.” [8]

A study from the New Scientist magazine in 2010 found DNA fingerprinting to be “highly subjective and prone to error,” which due to: ” incredibly small amounts of DNA in samples and pressure to gain a conviction can lead to bias…” The study involved DNA from a real crime scene which was sent to 17 experienced analysts in an U.S. laboratory. The results were a resounding failure since all the scientists conclusions were different:

The sample, from a gang rape, had already been used to convict a man  –  but only one of the 17 scientists came to the same conclusion. Four said the evidence was inconclusive and 12 said he could be excluded.

Itiel Dror, a University College London scientist who helped set up the investigation, said: ‘It is time DNA analysts accept that under certain conditions, subjectivity may affect their work.’

Christine Funk, a defence lawyer in the U.S., said: ‘The difference between prison and freedom rests in the hands of the scientist assigned the case.’ [9]

Jeremy Gruber, as President of the Council for Responsible Genetics is in no doubt that miscarriages of justice will occur more often as symptomatic of a system predicated on the very core problems that give rise to serious crimes in the first place.

He states:

We are not only building bigger and bigger databases, but expanding collection practices as well. Police are now using DNA dragnets, where DNA is taken from a selected population without individualized suspicion or of individuals who happen to live near a crime scene or who happen to match a certain physical profile. Some police departments are operating their own “off grid” DNA databases with little oversight and police and prosecutors in some cities and counties (such as Orange County, CA) are taking DNA “voluntarily” from individuals arrested for petty crimes in exchange for dropping charges against them.

Familial searching, a deliberate search of a DNA database conducted for the intended purpose of potentially identifying close biological relatives to the unknown forensic profile obtained from crime scene evidence, is becoming more widespread. Such searches virtually guarantee that DNA databases will create suspects out of innocent people, and because of the composition of DNA databases, those innocent suspects will disproportionately be people of color. Crime scene DNA has also been used to predict physical characteristics, such as certain shades of hair color, and to draw broad conclusions about genetic ancestry. Concerns have been raised about these predictions being used for crude profiling, potentially racially tinged, which have led Germany and several U.S. states to bar their use by police. Even so, new research on “molecular photofitting” (producing a crude image of a suspect’s face from DNA left at the crime scene) suggests that such reconstructions may soon be possible, giving police another investigative tool that could result in wrongful arrests and unjustified searches. [10]

Andrew Pollack writing in the New York Times was already sounding the alarm on DNA profiling back in 2009. Indeed, scientists “fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva,” and with access to: “…a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.” In effect, the danger of being framed and set up via a fabricated crime scene is very real. [11]This is precisely what happened to David Butler who was wrongfully jailed by UK courts for murder, spending eight months in prison on remand whilst facing murder charges: “after his DNA was allegedly found on the victim.”  He was accused of murdering Anne-Marie Foy in 2005 and arrested by Merseyside Police with “poor quality” DNA evidence and sourced from his DNA sample, already on record. According to a BBC report: “… he remained in prison – despite other CCTV evidence allegedly placing Mr Butler in the area where the murder took place being disproved.” [12] 

At the same time, exoneration of those who were thought to have committed crimes is an undeniable outcome of DNA profiling. The Innocent Project is a case in point, with over 325 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States in the last several years. So, DNA profiling is overturning convictions and setting people free on the one hand, and on the other, it is putting innocent people away based on faulty science and a corrupt intelligence apparatus, the latter of which is not decreasing but naturally increasing as a consequence of the push to profit and ubiquitous surveillance.

The FBI, who are the biggest supporters and sellers of the terror industry, are also a major force behind the expansion of DNA databases. Indeed, it seems the Bureau is still updating its whole retrieval and storage protocols under a CODIS Core Loci Working Group operational since May 2010. Ostensibly, this is an exercise in improving the system though in effect, it is an expansion until international data-sharing efforts are optimised. This is also about where massive amounts of data can be stored about the population and stored indefinitely. Once again, the State has all your information and the public has nothing. Given the current condition of government this is far from reassuring.

DNA

Clearly, this isn’t about throwing DNA analysis out of the window, nor any form of technology. What is needed is to see it in the context of what has gone before and to forestall a certain trajectory that falls straight into the hands of those overseeing societies and for whom long-term objective of social control is the prime directive. The justification for creating this huge database of samples is to combat crime and prevent terrorist acts.  Overall, crime is decreasing however and we know all about the nature of the Terror industry as a manufactured strategy of tension … When macro-social imperatives are still firmly inside Official Culture, discrimination and utmost caution is needed to keep such Establishment directives from ensnaring those most vulnerable. As we saw in The Politics of Entrapment despite safeguards in place, the wider awareness of ponerological forces is missing.

In general, the DNA database will probably lower crime as well as decreasing privacy. Yet, since the root causes of crime are not addressed the very need for a DNA database will inevitably morph overtime into a repressive tool of the state. Minimising risk by destroying DNA samples after cases have finished and even reducing the storage of sensitive information only needs a suitably horrific set of crimes and a large-scale terror attack for such measures to be repealed. This would follow the NDAA and Patriot Act rationalisations which have nothing to do with protection or civil liberties and everything to do with state control of the population.

This is why humans must become “pre-barcoded” as part of sequential phase of identifying, cataloging, tagging and monitoring. A global neo-feudal State requires a distinct species, separate from the Establishment Elite who consider themselves genetically superior. It may well be that the various strains of psychopathy currently jostling for supremacy in the corridors of power are merely seeking to expand their numbers. Surveillance is part of the armoury of technocratic science which gathers data and seduces the populace to regard this intrusion as normal and more importantly, something that is desired. The terror industry and national crime augment this propaganda.

As Jeremy Gruber summarises:

“We are at a critical juncture in the United States, as law and policy are rapidly allowing law enforcement greater access to Americans’ DNA with limited public discussion and debate. Continued expansion of the power of law enforcement to collect and store DNA must be guided by a transparent debate that balances legitimate public safety concerns with human rights and privacy interests and that is honest about the value of forensic DNA, recognizing the limited benefits of expansion beyond likely re-offenders.” [13]

There is a huge momentum currently behind new technology and the speed of its arrival in so many avenues of our lives. Networked databases present clear advantages in the hands of a benevolent culture – something that is however, only a working hypothesis.  Time is getting short for ethical safeguards and preventative measures to be implemented that could ensure this forensic tool is kept out of the hands of Pathocratic ideology.

 


Notes

[1] ‘Scientists create DNA tracking tags, might soon be used to track protesters as well as animals’ By John Hewitt, http://www.extremetech.com, on September 30, 2013.
[2] ‘Government revives plan for greater data-sharing between agencies’ The Guardian, by Alan Travis, 24 April 2012 | ‘The UK Police National DNA Database’ Gene Watch, http://www.genewatch.org.
[3] ‘DNA database plans based on ‘flawed science’, warn experts’ The Guardian, July 19, 2009.
[4] ‘Reviewing the DNA database’Impact Case Study by Professors Brian Francis and Keith Soothill Lancaster University, ESCR Economics and Social Research Council. 2009.
[5] ‘Details of innocent people are still being held on DNA database’ The Independent, June 5 2012 | ‘Another 165,000 innocent people put on DNA database despite Coalition vow to wipe details’ By Rebecca Camber, The Daily Mail, 4 June 2012.
[6] ‘DNA database continues to swell’ BBC News, 4 January 2006.
[7]See FBI, CODIS-NDIS Statistics, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/lab/biometric-analysis/codis/ndis-statistics
[8] Networked Knowledge, Media Report by Dr. Robert N Moles http://www.netk.net.au
[9] ‘DNA fingerprinting techniques ‘can sometimes give the wrong results’,By Fiona Macrae for the Daily Mail
18 August 2010.
[10]THE POLICE WANT YOUR DNA By Jeremy Gruber, GeneWatch 27-1 | Jan-Apr 2014.

[11] ‘DNA Evidence Can Be Fabricated, Scientists Show’ By Andrew Pollack, August 17, 2009.
[12] ‘DNA test jailed innocent man for murder’by Hannah Barnes, 31 August 2012,BBC News
[13] op.cit Gruber.

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