What’s That In Your Genes? TSA Now Wants to Harvest Your DNA

March 1, 2011

by Eric Hammer | FTMDaily Contributing Writer

TEL AVIV, Mar 1 – In a move that sounds strikingly Orwellian, the Department of Homeland Security will reportedly begin random DNA testing at airports this coming summer. The new plan, which is being batted around the blogosphere, was first reported by The Daily, a well known blog which reports on political news.

DHS officials are already under fire for new “pat down” procedures which have become commonplace in airports across the country, with civil liberties groups and late night comics lampooning them for the invasive searches. However, this new plan strikes some as taking things to a new and extremely disturbing level.

A Way to Catch Illegal Immigrants and Human Traffickers

The plan is to try to catch illegal immigrants and human traffickers using the new system, however, at least one DHS official, quoted by The Daily, Jim Harper, says that the new plan is moving way too quickly and is “plunging into the unknown.”

Israel Tried to Do It Too

A similar plan, proposed about a year ago in Israel was roundly criticized, with the plan ultimately being relegated to a minor test rather than applying to the entire citizenry. In that plan, the Israeli Ministry of Interior would have collected biometric data on every citizen. The plan was to store the data in an online database and require all citizens to carry a new ID card which would be impregnated with a microchip which could be matched with the government database to prove identity.

There too, the plan was to try to cut down on fraud and illegal immigration. Israeli civil liberties groups at the time pointed out that no other democratic country on earth was attempting to collect biometric data on citizens. In fact, many pointed to the United States as an example of another country grappling with terrorism which didn’t try to collect such data.

DNA Information Already Being Collected

A bill signed in 2008 by then President Bush, the “Newborn screening saves lives act of 2007,” has already paved the way, according to some, for a national database of DNA. The bill allows the U.S. government to begin routinely collecting DNA data from all new born babies within six months of their birth. The bill also specifically excludes the need to obtain parental permission before harvesting the DNA.

The official reason given for the new plan was that it would allow public health official to prepare more easily for any health scares that might appear in the future. However, with the new plan to begin random DNA testing at airports being put in place, some now wonder if the plan will actually lead to a national DNA database with the biometric style ID cards that Israelis recently defeated.

Takes About an Hour

Current DNA testing practices are impractical for random DNA testing because they require several weeks of testing in the lab. However, the new scanners, which are said to be about the size of an ink jet printer, should be able to complete the tests in under an hour.

What If There’s a Mistake?

Whenever new technology is relied upon too heavily, there is always the possibility for human error to creep in. Already, some people have reported that the new pat down program is overly invasive and complaints regarding overly aggressive DHS agents have been growing on a daily basis.

Several YouTube videos have gone viral, including one of an 8 year old boy having to remove his shirt for the pat down procedure and the famous “don’t touch my junk” video. When the new random DNA testing procedures are put in place, one can only wonder if they will lead to false arrests and racial profiling on a scale not seen since George Orwell wrote the book 1984.

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