Sep 23, 2017
Since 1994, the FBI has maintained a database with samples of
DNA taken from convicted criminals in order to match those samples
with DNA collected at crime scenes. However, over the course of the
last two decades, the DNA database has expanded to include many
more people. In this episode, we explore the expansion of DNA
collection and storage by law enforcement and examine a new law
that will further that trend. Later in the episode, get an update
on Congress’s progress in meeting their multiple September 30th
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Orders the FBI Director to create standards and procedures for
the use of Rapid DNA machines and the DNA analyses they
Expands the DNA samples allowed to be stored to include those
prepared by any criminal justice agency using Rapid DNA machines
that are approved by the FBI.
Division A: Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development
Official U.S. policy is now to partner with developing
countries and "donors, multilateral institutions, the private
sector, and nongovernmental and civil society organizations,
including faith-based organizations" to promote education programs
and activities to prepare individuals to be "productive members of
society and the workforce"
- "Assistance provided under this section to support programs and
activities under this subsection shall be aligned with and advance
United States foreign policy and economic interests."
Division B: Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief
Requirements Act, 2017
Appropriates $7.4 billion for disaster relief, as long as
President Trump officially approves it.
Authorizes the Small Business Administration to lend $450
million for disaster rebuilding but half of that is allowed to be
for administrative expenses
Appropriates and additional $7.4 billion for housing and
infrastructure in disaster zones
- Includes a provision that says the recipients of funds "may
adopt, without review or public comment, any environmental review,
approval, or permit performed by a Federal agency, and such
adoption shall satisfy the responsibilities of the recipient with
respect to such environmental review, approval or permit."
Division C: Temporary Extension of Public Debt Relief
Suspends the debt ceiling until December 8, 2017.
Division D: Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018
How the Graham-Cassidy bill compares with past Republican health
care repeal efforts by Meridith McGraw and Maryalice Parks, ABC
News, September 20, 2017.
GOP lawmaker urges colleagues to support short-term aviation
bill by Melanie Zanona, The Hill, September 20, 2017.
Graham-Cassidy Is the Worst Obamacare Repeal Bill Yet by Thomas
Huelskoetter, Fortune, September 20, 2017.
Hatch leads bipartisan CHIP reauthorization bill to continue
children’s health coverage, Ripon Advance News Service,
September 20, 2017.
Why The Government Sells Flood Insurance, NPR, September 16,
Congress May Need to Throw a Lifeline to Flood Insurance
Program by Greg Tourial, Roll Call, September 15, 2017.
Congress just crossed three big things off its to-do list by
Amber Phillips and Kim Soffen, The Washington Post, September 8,
Trump sides with Democrats on fiscal issues, throwing Republican
plans into chaos by Mike DeBonis, Kelsey Snell, Philip Rucker
and Elise Viebeck, The Washington Post, September 7, 2017.
Law enforcement can now scan your DNA in 90 minutes, but should
they? by Annie Sciacca, Mercury News, August 25, 2017.
- Press Release: IntegenX Applauds the
Passage of the Rapid DNA Act of 2017, IntegenX, August 21,
Despite Privacy Concerns, Miami Beach Police Testing "Rapid DNA"
Scans on Suspects by Jerry Iannelli, Miami New Times, August
Wray Confirmed as FBI Director as Questions Swirl over His Past
Record & Close Ties to Big Business, Democracy Now, August
- Article: Congress
should consider taking another look at Christopher Wray, President
Trump's pick to head up the FBI by James S. Henry, The American
Interest, July 28, 2017.
NetBio Announces its DNAscan System is the First and Only Rapid DNA
Product to Earn NDIS Approval from the FBI, Business Wire,
April 7, 2016.
The Trouble Rising of Rapid DNA Testing by Ava Kofman, New
Republic, February 24, 2016.
The FBI Is Very Excited About This Machine That Can Scan Your DNA
in 90 Minutes by Shane Bauer, Mother Jones, November 20,
Supreme Court upholds Maryland law, says police may take DNA
samples from arrestees by Robert Barnes, The Washington Post,
June 3, 2013.
- Press Release:
Life Technologies Offers New Rapid DNA Platform, Cision PR
Newswire, April 1, 2013.
Life Tech to distribute rapid DNA tester by Bradley J. Fikes,
San Diego Union Tribune, April 1, 2013.
- Article: Rapid
DNA: Coming Soon to a Police Department or Immigration Office Near
You by Jennifer Lynch, Eff, January 6, 2013.
- Audit Report: Combined DNA
Index System Operational and Laboratory Vulnerabilities, Office
of the Inspector General, May 2006.
Sound Clip Sources
Witness: James Comey - Director, FBI Timestamps &
- 5:07:58 Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT): Last
week I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senators Feinstein,
Lee, and Gillibrand to update our nation’s laws to take account of
this exciting new technology. Now, Rapid DNA devices—they’re
self-contained, they’re fully automated instruments that can be
placed in booking stations, and they can both develop a DNA profile
from a cheek swab and compare the results against existing profiles
in less than two hours. Now, my bill, the Rapid DNA Act of 2015,
would allow law enforcement officials using FBI-approved Rapid DNA
instruments to upload profiles generated by such devices to the
FBI's Combined DNA Index System and perform database comparisons.
Director Comey, you've spoken in the past about Rapid DNA and how
this technology will help law enforcement. Do you believe that
Rapid DNA technology is important, how will it impact law
enforcement, and do you believe Congress should pass legislation
authorizing its use within standards and guidelines promulgated by
your agency? Director James Comey: Yeah, that
authority that's in your bill would help us change the world in a
very, very exciting way, that allow us, in booking stations around
the country, if someone's arrested, to know instantly, or near
instantly, whether that person is the rapist who's been on the
loose in a particular community before they're released on bail and
get away, or to clear somebody, to show that they're not the
person. It's very, very exciting. We are very grateful that we're
going to have the statutory authorization if that passes to connect
those Rapid DNA technologies to the national DNA database.
Hatch: Well, thank you. My bill, the Rapid DNA
Act, will not affect when or under what circumstances law
enforcement collects DNA samples. These decisions would be governed
by state or other federal law. What it will do is affect where
samples are processed and how quickly they're processed. Now, Mr.
Director, what would you say to individuals who may be concerned
that Rapid DNA technology will raise privacy concerns, and what
would you say to individuals who may be concerned that this
technology could affect the integrity of FBI's Combined DNA Index
System, or CODIS? And I would note that my bill restricts access to
CODIS to FBI-approved Rapid DNA instruments operated in accordance
with FBI-issued standards and procedures. Comey:
The first—you said it well, Senator: folks need to understand this
isn't about collecting DNA from more people. It's about the DNA
that's collected when someone is arrested, being able to be
analyzed much more quickly, that can show us in some cases this is
the wrong person or can show us in some cases this is someone we
have to be very worried about. That is good for our justice system
as a whole. And you're exactly right. The national database, the
CODIS database, is the gold standard. This legislation does not
make it any—water down the standards that are applied before a DNA
result can be pressed against that database. We're still going to
have high standards. We're still going to require that this is the
gold standard for identification in the United States.
H.R. 320, the “Rapid DNA Act”, House Judiciary Subcommittee on
Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, June 18,
- Amy Hess - Executive Director of Science & Technology at
- Jody Wolf - President of the American Society of Criminal
- Natasha Alexenko - Founder of Natasha’s Justice Project
Timestamps & Transcripts
- 6:05 Amy Hess: All 50 states, Puerto
Rico, the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Laboratory, and the
FBI contribute DNA records to and participate in NDIS, which
contains almost 14 million offender or arrestee DNA records and
over 630,000 forensic or crime scene DNA records.
- 11:06 Jody Wolf: Currently, these
devices are best suited for use with single-source, high-quantity
biological samples such as referenced standards of blood or saliva
from known individuals, thus limiting its usefulness for complex
crime scene samples of more than one person. These instruments also
currently can’t analyze trace amounts of DNA. Consequently, these
instruments are not designed for the routine testing of evidence
types found in rape kits and will not help with the reduction of
rape kit backlogs.
- 22:03 Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA): Would
this legislation help speed this up a lot? Jody
Wolf: Well, comparing 90 samples utilizing Rapid DNA would
take almost 27 hours. Using the—processing it using a traditional
existing technology would take 7 to 8 hours. So the limitation with
the Rapid DNA is that you can only run 5 samples at a time, whereas
on current technology, we can run 24 samples at a time. To process
90 samples utilizing Rapid would take 27 hours. Using existing
technology would take 7 to 8. Same result.
Goodlatte: So do you think that this is a good
thing for people to have the option here, or not?
Wolf: It depends on your goal. The advantage that
Rapid DNA has is that you have that answer while the person is
still in the booking station. With traditional databasing, there’s
a delay because you have to transport the sample from point of
collection to a laboratory for analysis.
Supreme Court Argument: Maryland v. King, February 26,
- Katherine Winfree - Chief Deputy Attorney General of Baltimore,
- Michael Dreeben - Deputy Solicitor General of the Department of
Timestamps & Transcripts Part 1
- 3:24 Katherine Winfree: The
cornerstone of our argument is that when an individual is taken
into custody, an individual is arrested on a probable cause—a
probable-cause arrest—that person, by virtue of being in that class
of individuals whose conduct has led the police to arrest him
on—based on probable cause, surrenders a substantial amount of
liberty and privacy. Justice Elena Kagan: But, Ms.
Winfree, that can’t be quite right, can it? I mean, such a
person—assume you’ve been arrested for something, the state doesn’t
have the right to go search your house for evidence of unrelated
crimes. Unknown Speaker: Justice Kagan.
Kagan: Isn’t that correct?
Winfree: That’s correct, Justice Kagan.
Kagan: Doesn’t have the right to go search your
car for evidence of unrelated crimes. Winfree:
That’s correct. Kagan: Just because you’ve been
arrested doesn’t mean that you lose the privacy expectations and
things you have that aren’t related to the offense that you’ve been
arrested for. Winfree: That’s correct, but what
we’re seizing here is not evidence of crime. What it is, is
information related to that person’s DNA profile. Those 26 numbers—
Kagan: Well—and if there were a real
identification purpose for this, then I understand that argument.
But if it’s just to solve cold cases, which is the way you started,
then it’s just like searching your house to see what’s in your
house that could help to solve a cold case.
Winfree: Well, I would say there’s a very real
distinction between the police generally rummaging in your home to
look for evidence that might relate to your personal papers and
your thoughts. It’s a very real difference there than swabbing the
inside of an arrestee’s cheek to determine what that person’s CODIS
DNA profile is. It’s looking only at 26 numbers that tell us
nothing more about that individual. Kagan: Well,
but, if that’s what you’re basing it on, then you’re not basing it
on an arrestee. I mean, then the chief justice is right: it could
be any arrestee, no matter how minor the offense. It could be just
any old person in the street. Why don’t we do this for everybody
who comes in for a driver’s license because it’s very
- 0:20 Katherine Winfree: Since 2009,
when Maryland began to collect DNA samples from arrestees charged
with violent crimes and burglary, there have been 225 matches, 75
prosecutions, and 42 convictions, including that of Respondent
King. Justice Antonin Scalia: Well, that’s really
good. I’ll bet you, if you conducted a lot of unreasonable searches
and seizures, you’d get more convictions, too. That proves
Press Briefing: DNA
Use in Law Enforcement, Attorney General Ashcroft, March 4,
Timestamps & Transcripts
- 0:33 Attorney General John Ashcroft:
Douglas and Laura White were married just 11 days when, walking
down a bike path in Mesquite, Texas, in November of 1993, a man
jumped out from behind the trees and demanded their money. The
frightened couple began to pray, which enraged their attacker. He
shot Douglas dead on the scene, raped Laura, and disappeared into
the Dallas suburb. Eight years later, in January of 2001, under the
federal DNA Backlog Reduction Program, police in Dallas matched a
DNA sample taken from Alvin Avon Braziel Jr., with DNA evidence
collected from the crime scene. Braziel was convicted of capital
murder and given the death sentence. The murder conviction of Alvin
Brazil is a powerful example of how one technology, forensic DNA
analysis, has revolutionized law enforcement. Over the short span
of 10 years, DNA technology has proven itself to be the truth
machine of law enforcement, ensuring justice by identifying the
guilty and exonerating the innocent. With a strong support of
Congress, the Department of Justice has served as a leader in the
national effort to maximize the benefits of DNA evidence, and the
past 5 years have seen a national explosion in forensic DNA
collection. All 50 states and the federal government now have laws
on the books that require DNA to be collected from convicted
offenders for the purpose of criminal DNA databasing. The strong
trend is toward broader DNA sample collection, including collection
from all felons in many states. And the reason is simple:
experience has taught law enforcement that the more offenders that
are included in the database, the more crimes will be solved.
- 9:23 Attorney General John Ashcroft:
The law enforcement tool that makes this DNA analysis useful to
state and local police and prosecutors throughout the nation is the
Combined DNA Index System, known as CODIS. It’s administered by the
Federal Bureau of Investigation. CODIS brings the power of DNA
technology to bear on thousands of law enforcement investigations
by integrating information obtained by state DNA databases and
making that information available nationwide.
Timestamps & Transcripts
- 8:00 Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner: Like
fingerprinting, photographing, and other booking procedures which
at the time were novel but now have become routine, Rapid DNA will
soon be standard procedure in police stations throughout the
country. There is only one problem with Rapid DNA technology:
federal law. Our law, written in 1994 when DNA technology was still
in its infancy, prohibits the use of Rapid DNA technology in
booking stations. This is not because of any limitation in Rapid
DNA technology, but simply because at that time Rapid DNA
technology was not even contemplated.
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