“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Familial DNA, Welcome to London.

Ministers plan 'Big Brother' police powers

By Patrick Hennessy and Ben Leapman, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:35am GMT 04/02/2007

A swathe of controversial "Big Brother" style crime-fighting techniques are to be introduced by the Government under the cover of the 2012 London Olympics, a leaked memo has revealed.

Oyster card with police in background
Police can already track individuals through their electronic travel passes

The document, drawn up by officials at the Home Office and sent to 10 Downing Street, paves the way for a much wider use of the police's DNA database to identify suspects through their relatives.

Police are also to be empowered to scan postal packages to find drugs and to monitor an individual's progress in even greater detail than they can today, by using advances in CCTV technology as well as electronic travel passes such as the Oyster cards in use in London.

The Conservatives and civil liberties campaigners are leading protests against the proposals, with Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, accusing John Reid, the Home Secretary, of presiding over a "make liberty history" campaign.

The memo, entitled No 10 Policy Working Group on Security, Crime and Justice, Technological Advances, asks: "To what extent should the expectation of liberty be eroded by legitimate intrusions in the interests of security of the wider public?"

It goes on to explore how to win over public opinion and concludes: "Increasing [public] support could be possible through the piloting of certain approaches in high-profile ways such as the London Olympics."

The games are expected to see millions of extra visitors to the capital in what will present the police with the biggest peacetime security threat on British soil.

The leaked document paves the way for a big leap in forensics, particularly with the "volume of information now available on the national DNA database", on which details of more than three million Britons are stored.

It suggests that police will make much greater use of a technique known as "familial DNA" where a suspect whose details are not on the database can be traced through a family member whose details are already recorded. The memo states: "Records could be trawled more routinely to identify familial connections to crime scenes, providing a starting point to investigations through a family member that is on the database to a suspect that is not, for example."

It admits: "Such use is clearly controversial and requires careful controls."

Familial DNA relies on the fact that close blood relatives share much of the same DNA coding; for example, a parent and child, or two siblings, have DNA that is 50 per cent identical.

Scientists can match DNA found at a crime scene with a named sample on the database which is similar but not identical, indicating that the two individuals are related.

The technique was used last year to snare a serial sex attacker known as the "shoe rapist" because he kept his victims' shoes as trophies.

The crimes, in the early 1980s, went unsolved for more than 20 years; but when police stopped June Lloyd for alleged drink-driving, tests showed that her DNA was similar to samples taken from the rape scenes.

The evidence led police to her brother, James Lloyd, who admitted the offences and is now serving a 15-year -sentence.

However, Sir Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, is already investigating the database after The Sunday Telegraph revealed that up to three in four young black men have their DNA stored, far more than their white counterparts.

Because of the imbalance, black criminals are more likely to have a relative on the database, so are more likely to be caught through familial DNA.

Ms Chakrabarti said: "Fundamental debates about freedom and security belong in public and Parliament, and should not be left to the praetorian guard at Number 10.

"It's particularly worrying to hear that the London Olympics - supposed to be a celebration of our multicultural democracy - might be manipulated for political ends into part of the Home Secretary's 'make liberty history' campaign.

"The document describes liberty as a mere 'expectation', but in Britain it should be a way of life."

The Home Office refused to comment.

The Telegraph


  1. OT, but Edwards is on , "Meet the Press". He is getting demolished.

  2. WASHINGTON -- A revolt against a national driver's license, begun in Maine last month, is quickly spreading to other states.

    The Maine Legislature on Jan. 26 overwhelmingly passed a resolution objecting to the Real ID Act of 2005. The federal law sets a national standard for driver's licenses and requires states to link their record-keeping systems to national databases.

    Within a week of Maine's action, lawmakers in Georgia, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington state also balked at Real ID. They are expected soon to pass laws or adopt resolutions declining to participate in the federal identification network.

    "It's the whole privacy thing," said Matt Sundeen, a transportation analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "A lot of legislators are concerned about privacy issues and the cost. It's an estimated $11 billion implementation cost."

    The law's supporters say it is needed to prevent terrorists and illegal immigrants from getting fake identification cards.

    States will have to comply by May 2008. If they do not, driver's licenses that fall short of Real ID's standards cannot be used to board an airplane or enter a federal building or open some bank accounts.

    About a dozen states have active legislation against Real ID, including Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

    Missouri state Rep. James Guest, a Republican, formed a coalition of lawmakers from 34 states to file bills that oppose or protest Real ID.

    "This is almost a frontal assault on the freedoms of America when they require us to carry a national ID to monitor where we are," Guest said in an interview Saturday. "That's going too far."

    Guest a resolution last week opposing Real ID and said he expects it quickly to pass the Legislature. "This does nothing to stop terrorism," he said. "Don't burden the American people with this requirement to carry this ID."

  3. SEATTLE -- Denied a chance to debate the legality of the Iraq war in court, an Army officer who refused to go to Iraq now goes to trial hoping to at least minimize the amount of time he could serve if convicted.

    Anti-war activists consider 1st Lt. Ehren Watada a hero, but the Army accuses him of betraying his fellow soldiers.

    The 28-year-old faces four years in prison if convicted on one count of missing movement and two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer for refusing to ship out with his unit, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

    Watada has spoken out against U.S. military involvement in Iraq, calling it morally wrong and a breach of American law.

    "As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order," Watada said in a video statement released at a June 7 news conference.

    Despite having already been charged, he spoke out again in August, at a Veterans for Peace rally in Seattle.

    "Though the American soldier wants to do right, the illegitimacy of the occupation itself, the policies of this administration, and the rules of engagement of desperate field commanders will ultimately force them to be party to war crime," Watada said then.

    Watada and his Honolulu attorney, Eric Seitz, contend his comments are protected speech, but Army prosecutors argued his behavior was dangerous to the mission and morale of other soldiers.

    "He betrayed his fellow soldiers who are now serving in Iraq," Capt. Dan Kuecker said at one hearing. Kuecker has not commented on the case outside of court.

    Seitz unsuccessfully sought an opportunity to argue the legality of the war, saying it violated Army regulations that specify wars are to be waged in accordance with the United Nations charter. His final attempt was quashed last month when the military judge, Lt. Col. John Head, ruled Watada cannot base his defense on the war's legality.

    Don't do the crime,
    if you can't do the time.
    Four years, seems fair to light.

    Summertime soldiers
    Sunshine patriots

    Out of hole at 32,
    broken and forgotten
    Good to go.