The Edmond Sun

June 10, 2013

The New Castle, Pa., News: Ruling assures sweeping access to DNA

The Other View
Special to The Sun

NEW CASTLE, Pa. — Do you trust government? Well, you better, thanks to a new U.S. Supreme Court decision that gives law enforcement — and ultimately others in government — the ability to access sweeping new information about individuals.

It comes courtesy of a high court decision that upholds the constitutionality of police procedures in states where DNA samples are collected from all people arrested for serious crimes. The fact these individuals are supposedly innocent until proven guilty, and the fact the DNA may not be needed in the case at hand, is apparently beside the point.

The court reached its DNA ruling in one of its now-famous 5-4 decisions. But this time, there was an unusual split, with liberal Justice Stephen Breyer joining most of the court’s conservatives in supporting the decision. The majority opinion in the case was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the court’s swing vote.

Kennedy minimized any civil liberties concerns about the decision, writing, “Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

Except that Kennedy’s dead wrong. And here’s why.

Fingerprints and photographs serve very limited purposes in terms of identifying individuals. They tell government nothing else about us.

But DNA tells everything about us. It is what we are. To dismiss the taking of DNA samples as nothing more than another identification technique ignores a host of disturbing ramifications.

 One would think the court might see a flaw in widespread DNA grabs.