Police Testing Controversial Portable DNA Machine

By Aaron Kesel

For the last 10 months, Houston police have been testing a new mobile DNA machine called rapid DNA that runs tests in under two hours.

HPD launched a pilot program with the company ANDE to test a machine that runs DNA tests in under two hours, local news station KHOU11 reported.

“This rapid DNA is the future. It comes down to when mathematicians stopped using abacuses and started using calculators. It’s that important to criminal justice,” said Lt. Warren Meeler, Houston Police Department, Homicide Division.

As part of the test program, proper protocol for using the technology has been to swab each piece of evidence twice. First, the Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC) takes an official sample for the lab, then Houston police take a second sample for the trial machine.

Houston police have used rapid DNA analysis in approximately 60 cases so far which range from aggravated assaults to murders according to the report.

Rapid DNA results can’t be used in court and the technology is only used for investigations in Houston according to the news outlet.

However, the technology has some forensic scientists worried about whether it should be used at crime scenes, warning about the accuracy of the technology.

“I think everybody is comfortable that if there is a high concentration of DNA from a single source, so an oral swab from an individual, we’re confident the instruments produce good data. The questions start to come in circumstances where we’ve got touch DNA — smaller quantities of DNA, more mixtures, there’s more people on that doorknob that I’m swabbing – there I’m not sure anybody knows yet,” said Dr. Peter Stout, President and CEO of the Houston Forensic Science Center.

Houston isn’t the only city using rapid DNA, police departments across the country—from Florida to Arizona—have rolled out their own pilot programs to test these miniature portable DNA lab machines.

In December of 2015 results from a rapid DNA device were submitted as evidence in a successful murder prosecution for the first time attempted murder case in Richland County, South Carolina. (That article now has been curiously deleted from Reuters and is only available on archive.org)

A bill before Congress, introduced on December 2015 by Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, called for profiles collected by rapid DNA devices to be connected to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, the software and national database that stores DNA profiles from federal, state and local forensic laboratories.

During a Senate committee hearing on the Rapid DNA Act of 2015, disgraced former FBI Director James Comey said that passage of the bill “would help us change the world in a very, very exciting way. It will 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.”

In 2017, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced “the SECURE Act” (S. 2192) on December 5th. The bill largely borrows from two other federal bills—H.R. 3548 and S. 1757

The Rapid DNA Act of 2017, S.139 and HR.510 passed last year, amended the DNA Identification Act of 1994, allowing previous hurdles to be surpassed by the new technology.

The bill was sponsored by U.S. Senate sponsor Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and lead co-sponsor Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) as well as House sponsor Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and lead co-sponsor Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA), along with 12 Senate and 24 House co-sponsors for their support, Business Wire reported.

“Today marks a landmark day in more efficiently fighting crime and supporting law enforcement,” stated Robert Schueren, President and CEO of IntegenX. “IntegenX products have already enabled numerous DNA profile uploads to our nation’s DNA database (CODIS). We look forward to the updated FBI guidelines, and subsequent CODIS uploads from the booking environment.”

“Rapid DNA is a promising new technology and an effective tool for law enforcement – I’m thrilled to be seeing it signed into law. This technology will help quickly identify arrestees and offenders, reduce the overwhelming backlog in forensic DNA analysis, and make crime fighting more efficient while helping to prevent future crimes from occurring. It will also save time and taxpayer dollars,” commented Congressman Sensenbrenner, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Oversight.

“This bill will help law enforcement agencies solve crimes faster and help those wrongfully accused to be exonerated from crimes they did not commit—almost instantly. The Rapid DNA Act updates the statutory framework in how DNA samples are entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System by allowing the use of this remarkable Rapid DNA technology,” stated Senator Hatch.

Even the DHS is looking into using the technology for immigration purposes to stop adults fleeing with kids and ensure that they are their actual relatives. But later the DHS postponed the technology in 2015 to develop a stricter protocol for its use, Next Gov reported.

“The implementation of the program has been postponed until new voluntary consent forms are developed as well as operational protocols for translation,” Department of Homeland Security spokesman John Verrico told Nextgov in an email.

DHS documents obtained by the EFF state that the military may be interested in using rapid DNA in the future to reveal information about individuals such as their sex, race, health, and age.

In a 2013 privacy impact assessment for rapid DNA pilot testing, the DHS stated that the portion of DNA analyzed by the devices does not reveal any “sensitive information about an individual, and will not, under any circumstances, be used for decisions based on those criteria.”

The EFF disagrees with Comey and the DHS and has previously stated that the test pilot DNA program “may create controversy,” according to internal documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation civil liberties group. In a high priority e-mail from 2011, a DHS officer wrote to colleagues that “if DHS fails to provide an adequate response to media inquiries regarding RapidDNA quickly, civil rights/civil liberties organizations may attempt to shut down the test program.”

Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Steemit, and BitChute. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.

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9 Comments on "Police Testing Controversial Portable DNA Machine"

  1. a lot of prisoners have been exonerated after finally having DNA testing.
    this new tech could be a good thing.

    • I figure like any technology it could be used for good or evil. Suspect if it goes into use as protocol we’ll start noting cases of false positives, corruption in its use. Would like to be more optimistic regarding human nature but little presents itself to help in being that. Will remain at a firm 50% good or evil view, taking into account the intent behind the implementation.

      Numbers don’t lie they say. They also say artificial sweeteners were not linked to various cancers when there was proof of it. They say one guy killed a president. They say a lot. But then ultimately it’s not the numbers doing the lying but the man(gender neutral) that uses the tool that lies.

      Statistics can be made up on the spot to either support or discredit any perception or notion. So, we’ll see.

      • come-and-take-it | April 20, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Reply

        Figures don’t lie, but liars figure. Lies, damned lies and statistics. DNA should not be take without a court order. It is a violation of your 4th Amendment right to privacy in your person.

    • This is not the same thing. First this is being implemented on general public /suspects [not those arrested for serious crimes as per SCOTUS ruling] without regard for fourth amendment rights. Second the ACCURACY of the machine & skill of the operator can be faulty. Certainly there have been major problems with facial recognition and other biometrics misidentifying people or systems being hacked.Third any spit test ALWAYS gives millions of bits of information about the person [and any relative as well] which is why this is so invasive. Fourth ; there are no restrictions on how long it can be retained or what other purposes it may be used for; such as selling to third parties for research or marketing.
      Here is an example: suppose you are DNA tested because you r in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then your SNPs are sold to insurance companies for “research”. They find out that you have the breast cancer gene, or have contracted a disease you prefer to keep private or may not even know about yet. There goes your health insurance.
      Doctors sell your info too. After being misdaignosed with acid reflux; within 24 hrs I was bombarded with ads & coupons for products to treat this condition. [and I had not searched the internet for it either]

      • well this is still a brand new concept with brand new devices – of course it could be used maliciously.
        what are SNPs?

        • Single Nuclear Polypeptides. It depicts the way the cell is being expressed. Check out the MTHFR gene mutation which is turning out to be more common than thought & can be the cause of late term miscarriages, folic acid derangement & other problems. The sad thing is the FDA does not want us to know our own genetic makeup such as: do you have the breast cancer gene, Alzheimers gene, CYP450 enzyme defects that could kill you on the operating table or make you wake up during surgery depending on if you are a fast or slow metabolizer, or perhaps be a carrier of a genetic disease such as hemochromotosis, hemophilia or Tay Sachs etc ,BUT they are perfectly willing to hand this info to the police & put it in a national data base with no restrictions on how it is used.
          23and me.com was stopped from revealing most SNP info by FDA but you can download your raw data and run it thru algorythims online like geneitc genie, prometheus and MTHFRsupport.com that can give you life saving information.

    • Kenneth_Brown | April 20, 2018 at 11:44 pm | Reply

      If the testing is done by a reputable lab, it could be. It has to be remembered that DNA testing doesn’t identify one person on the entire planet conclusively. It is a good indicator, but not perfect and other evidence needs to be considered when assessing guilt or innocence of a crime.

      It would be a grand injustice for a law enforcement agency to be sampling large numbers of people accused of a crime and storing the questionable results from process/machine that might not be up to proper standards. The possibility of false matches that put people in jail or prison is too great.

  2. Kenneth_Brown | April 20, 2018 at 11:39 pm | Reply

    Analyzing DNA is not a simple process. Significant errors can be made and it takes a trained professional that understands the process to identify problems. Machinery can help offload the more tedious work, but not all of it. In computers there is a situation called “garbage in, garbage out”. If sampling is done incorrectly, the results are useless.

    If the results, such as they are, are not going to be admissible in court, why should the tax payers buy the machines in the first place?

  3. Hmmm

    The government can do all the DNA “testing” they want as long as they have a warrant the fulfills all the requirements mandated by the 4th Amendment. Remember people, in this country you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The mere suspicion that a crime might have been committed does not automatically grant the government the power to simply wave your constitutional protections. Clearly the government wants the citizenry to believe they have that power, they don’t…….

    The fourth Amendment does not include anything about waiving its requirements if the government thinks you did something wrong….

    The 4th Amendment in its entirety is included below. Pay particular attention to what is NOT contained in the Amendment; no exemptions, no exceptions, no limitations…….Government fiat in the form of a laundry list of laws, rules and regulations, all of which are patently unconstitutional have attempted to nullify our 4th amendment rights. Don’t let them do it. this crap about DNA testing in just one more example of the government doing an end run around the Bill of Rights.

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

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