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Mathis: Supreme Court errs by opening the door for unlimited DNA collection

An American flag flies in front of the

An American flag flies in front of the Supreme Court in Washington. (June 27, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

Want to see something rarer than a solar eclipse? Watch me type this sentence: ”Antonin Scalia is right.” How often is that going to happen?

But in this case, it’s deserved: Scalia joined three liberals who voted against the court’s DNA ruling, and wrote the blistering dissent.

The problem with the court’s ruling, as Scalia points out, is that there’s little to limit it: Yes, the court said DNA should only be collected in the case of ”serious” offenses, but it didn’t define just how serious those offenses should be.

”The (court majority) repeatedly says that DNA testing, and entry into a national DNA registry, will not befall thee and me, dear reader, but only those arrested for ’serious offenses,'" Scalia wrote. ”I cannot imagine what principle could possibly justify this limitation, and the Court does not attempt to suggest any. If one believes that DNA will ’identify’ someone arrested for assault, he must believe that it will ’identify’ someone arrested for a traffic offense.”

Which is probably what will happen, Scalia wrote.

”Make no mistake about it: As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.”

If that sounds paranoid, consider this: News broke Wednesday that Verizon has been giving the government data on every single call in its system — the communications information of millions of Americans collected ”indiscriminately and in bulk.” As the government’s power to intrude into your life expands, paranoia may be entirely rational.

Does that sound like the kind of America you want to live in?

”Today’s judgment will, to be sure, have the beneficial effect of solving more crimes. ... Perhaps the construction of such a genetic panopticon is wise,” Scalia concluded. ”But I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.”

Joel Mathis is a contributing editor to The Philly Post. 

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