Monday, January 23, 2012

Three bills that impacts our rights and liberties at 2012 Minnesota Legislature

Each session I anticipate proposals that can and will have an impact on our civil liberties, privacy, and open government rights.  One has been introduced as a bill already, DNA Familial.  The others on police intelligence gathering per the Minnesota Police Chiefs Association will be introduced as two bills, one as the same or similar to this bill, and another which the director of the Association did not have much detail on.  The bill which would deal with operational detail.
 1. Domestic Intelligence Gathering and Surveillance.
This bill would allow law enforcement to keep secret information on individuals who police think may commit a crime.  In proposals I have seen the data would be called criminal intelligence.  The threshold used to get into the intelligence file is reasonable suspicion.  There has been and will be sharp and direct discussion on this proposal.  Should government be collecting information on people who are law-biding in their secret files?  How are First Amendment activities protected from surveillance?  What information that has been public for decades in Minnesota no longer will be?  Who will the information be shared with?  What information that is now public will no longer be public and secret?  Many policy questions that need to be asked and answered with devil being in the details.

There had been a bill introduced 3 years ago in the Legislature.  It did not go anywhere.  Two years ago because of the GangNet database issue the Legislature created a work group to come up with recommendations.  Their report is here which was sent to the Legislature last year.  Information about the work group and detail information is on the BCA website.

As the headline states in a "Politics in Minnesota" news report on the intelligence proposal three years ago read:

"Criminal intelligence data or control files? New BCA proposal offers glimpse of major expansion in snooping"

With my years of lobbying and advocating on privacy and open government this piece of legislation in whatever form is introduced in my judgement if not done right could have the most serious ramifications for our states culture on privacy and open government and the civil liberties of Minnesotans.

2. Familial DNA
In the Star Tribune it was reported that Sheriff Stanek was interested to have a law to allow the use of familial DNA.  A KARE 11 piece also talked about it.

What it basically is as follows:  At a crime scene a DNA sample is collected.  The sample then is run through the DNA database to see if a match can be made to an individual.  Sometimes the match can be close to an individuals DNA in the data bank, but not enough as per DNA protocols for certainty. Suspicion could then be on the close relatives because another biological family member such as a son or non identical twin brother would very much nearly have the same DNA makeup.

There are civil liberty and privacy concerns with the proposal.  Very few states have done such DNA searches.  California being one of those few have rigorous guidelines and focus on specific situations.

The proposal poses Fourth Amendment questions.  Will an attitude be developed that there is guilt by your genes?  Will family members that are not in the states or local law enforcement DNA databases be confronted to give a sample posing due process questions.  Would a partial DNA match from a father be enough for a probable cause search warrant to ask for DNA samples from brothers, sons, and other close relatives.

There are two articles I would like to suggest. and 

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