Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Maryland Seeking To Turn Big Brother Into Reality

LAST MONTH, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced progress in reducing the state police's DNA testing backlog. Now the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention is looking into a proposal to expand mandatory DNA testing to include not only convicted felons and certain misdemeanants (as under current law) but everyone arrested in Maryland, pre-conviction. The DNA identifiers could then be run against a national database of DNA evidence for potential matches in unsolved crimes.

This is from an editorial in the Washington Post that favors this proposal with some guidelines which are inadequate to the loss of privacy that this program will generate. This new law can be exploited in several easy ways by police officers and district attorneys.

You are a cop and you suspect somebody has committed murder, but there is no pesky evidence tying a suspect to the crime. There is DNA evidence left at the crime scene, but no probable cause to tie any of your three chief suspects to it, and a judge won't authorize any warrants.

It's time to arrest those three suspects on something else. There are so many crimes on the books, that there is something that you could at least charge anybody with forgoing the need to make up an offense. Well the officer could do that as well. Now the three suspects are getting their DNA swabbed, and hopefully one of them will pop up as the killer. Case closed.

There is also the matter of familial matches. There is a cold case on the books. You suspect that somebody has done it, but you have no proof. They are a recluse, they sit in their apartment all day with video cameras taping everything and the police officer is a bit skittish about doctoring up an arrest. Luckily for him, there is another way to get that DNA.

The suspect's brother hangs out on the street corner. You find an excuse to arrest them, take their DNA and get a partial hit that shows a close familial hit to the sample. A friendly judge uses this as a fig leaf for probable cause, and the suspect is rousted from their apartment, video cameras recording it all.

Congress just gave away some of our civil liberties this week-end in order to get out of town to go on vacation. How interested will they and our courts be in preventing these kinds of abuses in our system? If you took a poll, you might find that people support this intrusion into our civil liberties. It's a way to catch guilty people right?

Big brother is here.