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DNA Profiling

Date(s)
1984

DNA fingerprinting is the process of determining an individual’s a DNA profile, which is theoretically as unique as a fingerprint. DNA forensics is a considerably more sensitive tool than fingerprinting, as the “chance impressions” it uses can be much smaller and aren’t subject to smudging or incomplete samples. DNA profiling was developed in 1984. It tracks highly variable, repetitive sequences known as microsatellites, which are extremely unlikely to occur in individuals who aren’t related. DNA profiling can thus be used to confirm an identity, place a person at a crime scene, or eliminate a person from consideration by comparing two data samples to determine whether or not they are a match. DNA not obtained from the source using a buccal (cheek) swab can be collected from samples of fluid or tissue found at crime scenes or on personal artifacts like a toothbrush. Samples from blood relatives can also provide an indication of a suspect’s DNA profile (Petersen 2012). This last feature of DNA forensics is the science behind familial DNA database searching, which is a specially developed software made available to investigators when the forensic profile of the DNA evidence strongly resembled an existing offender profile, but is not an exact match. The software uses the state’s DNA database to generate a list of offenders already in the database who may be relatives of the forensic suspect. Law enforcement agencies are incentivized to add to the system generate new actionable leads in dead end cases. The ease of administering a buccal swab means that more civilians are being pulled into the state’s biometric dragnet during routine stops. The DNA sweeps in the United States are nakedly racial, and use familial searching to perform network analysis of communities of color, under the pretense of counterinsurgency. Applying a war framework to the states project of repressing drugs, immigration, and terrorism creates a mindset in which the enemy is a colony to be remotely policed, or a revolutionary cell to be infiltrated. Collecting COIN on civilians and criminalizing political activity, movement, and kinship ties manufactures an enemy through statistics and algorithms. Many states now have the policy of “spit and acquit,” which means that during a familial search, only by giving DNA can you be exonerated from the crime. Furthermore, partial matches, low-fidelity mixtures, and touch based swabs have become the norm. DNA databases convict far more than they demonstrate innocence, and the archives are kept by the state indefinitely. NDIS, the national index system, is a self-governing body with 16 million profiles of convicted criminals, arrestees, and forensic samples, including low-fidelity samples. Futhermore, the practice of newborn DNA screenings has, in some states, led to a profile being created which is kept forever, and cannot be opted out from (Parenti 2008).

Sources
Petersen, K., J.. Handbook of Surveillance Technologies. 3rd ed. Boca Raton, FL. CRC Press, 2012.
Parenti, C. Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis (New Edition ed.). Verso. 2008.
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