FBI to Vastly Enlarge DNA Database by Swabbing Suspects

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2009 7:37 PM CDT
A man holds a cotton swab used for DNA testing.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Following the lead of Britain and 15 US states, the FBI plans to swab suspects for DNA upon arrest—a move expected to massively expand the feds' genetic database and spark criticism from civil rights advocates, the New York Times reports. But law enforcement officials praise the practice and compare it to fingerprinting. “It saves women’s lives," said Denver's district attorney, who has "watched women go from mug-book to mug-book looking for the man who raped her."

The practice has already set off debate in the US and Europe. A European court recently ruled that Britain violated international law by collecting DNA from innocents as young as 10. In the US, critics complain of being unable to expunge genetic records; others fear racial disparities will worsen if blacks and Latinos fill most of the database. Countered one former prosecutor: “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear."