Your DNA or else: Police to collect your genetic material

The Violence Against Women Act may be about to do violence to Americans' right to privacy.

A U.S. Senate committee has adopted an amendment to the VAWA legislation that would add the DNA of anyone detained by the cops to a federal DNA database called "CODIS."

Note that it doesn't require that you're convicted of a crime or even formally arrested on suspicion of committing one. Mere detention -- might a routine traffic stop eventually qualify? -- will be sufficient for CODISification. (Current law only authorizes blood or saliva swabs and entry into CODIS for people convicted of a crime.)

Ethan Ackerman, a Washington attorney and privacy specialist, notes: " The bill grants states carte blanche to write laws allowing (DNA) collection" even "as a condition of getting a drivers license!"

This proposal is the brainchild of two Republican senators, Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas. They say it's necessary to help catch violent criminals -- although the genetic material would remain in the database if the person is detained or arrested but not charged with a crime.

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About the author

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.

 

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