The use of forensic DNA databanks by law enforcement has exploded since the mid 1990s. We’ll examine the implications widespread stockpiling of genetic information has for criminal investigations and civil liberties. We’ll speak with Tufts University professor Sheldon Krimsky and former ACLU science advisor Tania Simoncelli, co-authors of the book Genetic Justice: DNA Data Banks, Criminal Investigations, and Civil Liberties.
In a newly-released paper in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics, scientists in Tel Aviv, Israel, describe how they have found a process to fabricate DNA. The process involved removing DNA from a woman’s blood sample and adding DNA from a different person. The process was so easy, they say, that any biology undergraduate has the tools to engineer his or her own crime scene. (DNA evidence left at crime scenes has been considered nearly incontrovertible in the past; this process raises questions about its reliability going forward.)
We talk to Timothy Bestor, a professor of genetics and development at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, and Tania Simoncelli, a science advisor at the American Civil Liberties Union.