(NaturalNews) The only worse thing about an increasing number of police departments collecting DNA evidence from suspects they arrest - before they've ever been actually convicted of any crimes - is that courts are continuing to back this egregious violation of civil liberties. So it was only a matter of time before the practice was expanded, so to speak, to cover all suspects, including children.
While local police haven't yet embraced this tactic, the federal government appears to be on board with it. Documents recently released by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), show that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering collecting DNA samples from children 14 and up, and is even considering collecting samples from kids younger than that.
Policy could affect 1 million people every year
The request appears to stem from a Department of Justice regulation requiring all federal agencies to collect DNA samples from all suspects arrested for federal crimes, including "from non-United States persons who are detained under the authority of the United States," even if they haven't been involved in any criminal activity.
The law supposedly exempts some classes of "aliens," but according to reports, it appears DHS is prepared to begin taking samples from anyone the department arrests. And right now, that's anyone 14 and older, though some records indicate ICE could lower the age further.
According to DHS estimates, as many as 1 million people subject to arrest or administrative detention annually may now be subject to DNA collection. The thing is, many of these people have not committed any crime. And the trend, thanks to the courts, is towards more DNA collection on anyone who comes into contact with the justice system, regardless of whether they are eventually found innocent or not.
ICE is the first agency within the purview of DHS to collect DNA under the Justice Department's new guidelines. The policy is the result of pilot programs run out of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) offices in San Diego, St. Paul, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, which began around July 2010. After the pilot program, the rest of the department's HSI offices - some 200 of them across the country - will begin collecting the samples, and the perception is all other DHS agencies will start in short order.
Not everyone is on board
Some state courts are resisting the federal trend - or are trying to. Earlier this month, Maryland's Supreme Court backed a lower court's ruling that blocks police from collecting DNA samples upon arrest.
But in a slap at the civil rights of Maryland residents, state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is planning to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In doing so, he's trying to justify this sham by saying, in essence, that police should have the right to screen everyone who is arrested as guilty of committing some other crime as well.
"All this ruling does is allow people to get away with very, very serious crimes," Gansler told The Baltimore Sun newspaper. "The reasoning by the Court of Appeals doesn't make a whole lot of sense to most people."
Only those who understand the Constitution, Mr. Gansler.
Stephen Mercer, chief attorney for the state office of the public defender's forensics division, gets it. In supporting the state court's decision to reject the procedure as unconstitutional, he says allowing police to collect DNA samples on all suspects is tantamount to putting them under "lifelong genetic surveillance."
That there is some sanity left in Maryland's legal community should make its residents feel a bit more secure "in their papers and effects." At least for now.
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