The idea of an all-powerful government that ignores our rights protected by the United States Constitution used to be an academic exercise for the vast majority of us. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the rule of law was paramount, and stories of the clearly guilty being freed or never found guilty because of overreach by government agents was troubling for the obvious reason, but in some ways reassuring, that eventually (to paraphrase Longfellow) the mills of justice grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small.
But that’s not true…maybe it never was! The insanity of the police state executing searches whenever they want, based on personal desires or the needs of the Deep StateTM has come to the fore with a vengeance. President Donald Trump is being persecuted by an unaccountable law enforcement apparatus under the control of the ruling party currently occupying the halls of power.
But the enemies of the State include not just its most important and conspicuous interlocutor (Trump); the enemies of the State include anyone with the temerity to stand in the way of the natural progression of totalitarianism. That means you! And the Weaver family, and the Bundy family, and the Branch Davidians and dozens of others who stood up to government overreach and were exposed to the full might of the United States government.
But the nobility or benignity of their actions is not justification for the case against the government. It is a hugely important concept in our once marvelous legal system that the rights of the accused are protected no matter what. So the principled law breaker and the rapist and the murderer and the church-funds embezzler are granted the same protections.
Except of course if the State wants to send you to jail…
If you were born in the United States within the last 50 or so years, chances are good that one of the first things you did as a baby was give a DNA sample to the government. By the 1970s, states had established newborn screening programs, in which a nurse takes a few drops of blood from a pinprick on a baby’s heel, then sends the sample to a lab to test for certain diseases. Over the years, the list has grown from just a few conditions to dozens.
The blood is supposed to be used for medical purposes—these screenings identify babies with serious health issues, and they have been highly successful at reducing death and disability among children. But a public records lawsuit filed last month in New Jersey suggests these samples are also being used by police in criminal investigations. The lawsuit, filed by the state’s Office of the Public Defender and the New Jersey Monitor, a nonprofit news outlet, alleges that state police sought a newborn’s blood sample from the New Jersey Department of Health to investigate the child’s father in connection with a sexual assault from the 1990s.
Crystal Grant, a technology fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, says the case represents a “whole new leap forward” in the misuse of DNA by law enforcement. “It means that essentially every baby born in the US could be included in police surveillance,” she says.
This is unbelievable on so many fronts that it is difficult to choose where to start!
First, what are the rights of the newborn’s parents to refuse blood testing? Why are those blood samples saved after testing is complete? Why can the police go on fishing expeditions into medical records without clear evidence and a warrant signed by a judge?
The lesson is clear; none of our medical records are safe from government search. In fact, any time our personal data are in hands other than our own we must assume that the government will access them at their leisure. And that includes supposedly private genetic testing for any number of reasons…genealogical research, genetic testing for disease markers, etc.
Most of us are 29, or fast approaching that age…how many of our blood samples are peacefully sitting in laboratory freezers, waiting for some overzealous jackbooted thug of the government to demand testing because of some 30 year old cold case sitting on his desk? Never mind those pesky rules of evidence and chain of custody…
The government is our enemy, and any accommodation is anathema to a free society. That means we should think long and hard about where our personal information is, and how much of it we release to third parties, most of whom are passive agents of the state. Medical laboratories, health departments, hospitals, genealogical companies, doctor’s offices…all have the potential to provide the authoritarians in power with evidence against us, and there is nothing we can do about it.