The Power Of DNA And The Potential For Misuse

Most people have heard the term ‘DNA’ and seen the ‘double helix’ diagrams. Many are also aware of the growing use of DNA by the ‘authorities’ across the world. Governments in the West and India in particular are engaged in creating various biometric databases for the claimed purposes of ‘identity proof’ and ‘law enforcement’. But how many people realise how dangerous such a database is, or the potential for its misuse?

There also appears to be an unwavering belief that DNA is an infallible tool for use as evidence in legal cases.

With these ideas in mind I thought I would conduct some research into the background of DNA, the fallibility of its use, and the dangers of such a database and its accessibility by the state.

Wikipedia summarizes:

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms and many viruses. Along with RNA and proteins, DNA is one of the three major macromolecules essential for all known forms of life. Genetic information is encoded as a sequence of nucleotides (guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine) recorded using the letters G, A, T, and C. Most DNA molecules are double-stranded helices, consisting of two long polymers of simple units called nucleotides, molecules with backbones made of alternating sugars (deoxyribose) and phosphate groups (related to phosphoric acid), with the nucleobases (G, A, T, C) attached to the sugars. DNA is well-suited for biological information storage, since the DNA backbone is resistant to cleavage and the double-stranded structure provides the molecule with a built-in duplicate of the encoded information.”

And under the sub-section heading ‘Forensics‘:

Forensic scientists can use DNA in blood, semen, skin, saliva or hair found at a crime scene to identify a matching DNA of an individual, such as a perpetrator. This process is formally termed DNA profiling, but may also be called “genetic fingerprinting“. In DNA profiling, the lengths of variable sections of repetitive DNA, such as short tandem repeats and minisatellites, are compared between people. This method is usually an extremely reliable technique for identifying a matching DNA.[142] However, identification can be complicated if the scene is contaminated with DNA from several people.[143] DNA profiling was developed in 1984 by British geneticist Sir Alec Jeffreys,[144] and first used in forensic science to convict Colin Pitchfork in the 1988 Enderby murders case.[145]

In more basic terms, a DNA sequence makes up a gene, and each gene or combinations thereof supposedly determines a particular characteristic in an organism, such as that of eye colour or natural strength. In turn, a series of genes make up a chromosome. In essence DNA appears to be an individual’s unique biological code.

A human DNA sample may potentially hold the full genetic blueprints (or ‘genome‘) to create, or recreate that human, and because that code is unique, a sample can be used as a ‘genetic fingerprint’ to trace the source human.

Around ninety-five percent of DNA is still not understood. Anything outside of the known percentile is technically referred to as ‘noncoding DNA‘, or more often by the arrogant label ‘junk DNA‘, equating a lack of understanding with a lack of purpose. Surely nature doesn’t make mistakes?

There are also regular announcements involving discoveries relating to the purpose of previously misunderstood genes, such as the 2012 announcement of the discovery of the first gene believed to be linked with intelligence. In the wake of the Sandy Hook incident scientists are apparently searching samples from the alleged gunman Adam Lanza in an attempt to find a gene for ‘evil’ – though this headline is somewhat superficial.

Perhaps the most well known use of DNA is in the confirmation of paternity. Indeed it is a deep vein mined by exploitative daytime T.V. talk shows, such as the one hosted by Jeremy Kyle in the UK. Kyle’s format includes presenting members of the underclass, often ‘teen mothers’ with multiple sexual partners, with the results of DNA tests which verify the identity of the child’s father.

Because the genome holds the entire hereditary code, it can also highlight potential hereditary health problems someone might experience, such as a predisposition to heart disease or a specific type of cancer. One of the more controversial aspects of modern genetics is that the human race now has the ability to alter the genetic code of a developing foetus, and alter potentially ‘faulty’ genes with ‘healthy’ genes from a third party, in effect creating a child with three parents, something that can also happen through modern IVF techniques.  Britain has recently become the first nation to officially approve ‘germ-line gene therapy’ to allow for the switching in or out of various genes in human embryos. This poses serious moral questions. A prospective parent who would choose to alter a potentially ‘faulty’ gene in the code of their unborn child would also be removing some of their own genetic lineage arguably making the child less their own?

And further than hereditary diseases, infectious diseases (i.e. diseases caught as an adult) such as HIV also show up in DNA. In fact DNA based tests are now becoming the norm in looking for these types of diseases.

Just how far this science has progressed and how accessible it has become has been demonstrated by New York artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg in her ‘Stranger Visions‘ project. The artist realised she could harvest the DNA from discarded chewing gum and cigarette butts then recreate the faces of the strangers who had used the items.

While there are undoubtedly limitations to her technique, for example she cannot define the age of the human source from a sample – yet, the ramifications of this are troubling when one remembers that this level of ability is available to a private individual, without the resources of an NGO, corporation, or a government agency. The ability of those kind of heavily funded entities to manipulate available DNA must be far more advanced than Dewey-Hagborg’s.

DNA is also the foundation of the cloning process, where genes can be removed from their original chromosome and placed in an artificially constructed carrier cell which then allows the genes to replicate independently of their natural source lifeform (be that human, plant, animal, or bacteria).

The first publicly announced cloned mammal was ‘Dolly the sheep’, ‘born’ July 5th 1996 in Scotland. Dolly was put down while suffering from a lung illness in 2003, not even seven years old – the average sheep lifespan around ten to twelve years. It was also disclosed that Dolly had been suffering from arthritis during the final year of her life. Both of these ailments are common to older sheep, and it transpired that the source sheep, from which Dolly had been cloned, was already six years old when the cells used in the cloning process were harvested.

Further controversy was ignited after it was discovered that meat from the offspring of cloned cattle had appeared in the food chain of the UK, followed by the appearance of actual cloned meat in both the UK and  the U.S.

Had Dolly continued to age from the point at which the cells were harvested, rather than from the point of a newborn lamb? Would this have any effect on consumers eating similarly cloned meat? This is something that was, and still is, unclear.

After the announcement of the creation of Dolly, discussions have taken place worldwide on a human cloning ban. In the U.S. Congressman Andy Harris (Republican, Maryland) has recently introduced a bill (H.R. 2164) to ban somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the technical name for the cloning process. But even if such a ban were to be effected, having seen the lack of respect government and its entities have already shown for their own laws, whether that be in the financial arena through the LIBOR scandal amongst others, to the recent Prism scandal involving the recording and tracking of the communications of literally everyone, what’s to say that any government would obey or enforce such a ban regardless of the legal status?

DNA clearly has many powerful applications, and some positive uses, particularly in the detection, and possible treatment of disease. DNA use has the potential to spot or prevent diseases early on and if a sample truly contains the entire blueprint for someone’s body, perhaps we are simply waiting for the announcement of discoveries allowing for the repair of faulty eyes or ear drums, or even the re-growing through cloning of missing limbs, etc.

Now that we have some idea of what DNA really is and how it can be used let’s explore the potential downside and ability for misuse.

Following the second world war the ‘Berlin wall’ was erected and Germany was split into two. The East German side (officially titled the ‘German Democratic Republic‘ or ‘GDR’) became a repressive authoritarian state ruled by the Soviets, until the country collapsed in 1989. The repression was carried out by the utterly ruthless state security apparatus known as the ‘Stasi‘. At it’s height in the 1980s, the membership of the Stasi including it’s informers, supposedly ammounted to a fifth of the GDR population!

In the 1970s the Stasi began implementing a new operating technique called ‘criminal odorology’ [chapter 12 page 303]. This process involved interviewing an arrested subject, and at the point at which they began to sweat a Stasi member would enter the room holding a cloth with tweezers. The cloth would then be used to swab the subject’s sweat. Alternatively the subject may have been seated in a customised chair containing the cloth (as depicted in the 2006 German movie ‘The Lives Of Others‘ at approximately [0h05m]). The cloth was then placed into a vacuum sealed jar known as a ‘smell conserve‘, whereupon the subject was informed they had recorded his ‘scent’.

The Stasi’s use of criminal odorology was often cited as one of their most disturbing and intrusive activities, in fact it has even been described as ‘perverse’ – yet it is nowhere near as intrusive (or disturbing) as placing someone’s DNA on a record somewhere.

In law, there is a basic presumption that the burden of proof lies with the accuser. This is most famously expressed in the maxim ‘innocent until proven guilty‘, and dates back at least as far as the Romans. This is one of the most basic principles our entire society is based on. It is a rule that stops people constantly looking over their shoulders in a state of paranoia that they may be accused of something and have to prove their innocence. If one is accused but was home alone, one cannot provide any witnesses to verify one’s innocence. On the other hand, if one committed the crime surely there must be some evidence to corroborate this?

The very existence of a DNA database is a fundamental reversal of this. By holding evidence in the form of our DNA, we are being declared ‘guilty until proven innocent’ which we will ultimately have to do by dying without ever having been convicted of a crime. It’s tantamount to dunking an accused witch, while the only way to prove her innocence is to drown.

Though some may tediously argue “if you’ve got nothing hide, what’s the problem?” – would those people stick to that belief if the police suddenly barged in to their home and demanded fingerprints?

It comes as no surprise that the UK is a leader in genetic surveillance with an estimated six million entrants on the DNA database (roughly ten percent of the population). The UK is also the leader in CCTV monitoring, and until the recent Snowden affair, was poised to be the leader in communication surveillance as well.

Since 2004 the police have been granted the power to unlawfully take the DNA of a subject arrested for any ‘recordable offence’ without consent and regardless of whether charges are pressed, yet the police still continue attempting to expand upon these powers. In the U.S. a recent Supreme Court decision has granted similar powers, allowing for the swabbing of people arrested but not charged.

There are also many examples of flaws in collection methods by investigators, bad handling in laboratories, or collection during an overlong time duration, all of which have the potential to contaminate samples. This was perhaps most famously highlighted in the Meredith Kercher murder investigation in Italy. Add to that findings by Israeli scientists that DNA evidence was ‘easy to fake‘, and comments by Tania Simoncelli of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who stated “DNA is a lot easier to plant at a crime scene than fingerprints” and this supposedly infallible technique starts to look problematic.

If DNA can be used in cloning then surely this allows for the possibility of cloning (and planting) genetic evidence?

A DNA database held by a well funded entity such as a government has the power to discover what diseases individuals may be prone to, what diseases they have contracted, their parentage, and potentially even the ability to clone them (or at the very least experiment with cloning humans).

This information offers the holder unprecedented power over individuals. A rape victim wishes to withhold the identity of the child’s father? The state knows. Contracted HIV through sexual contact? The state knows. How about the possibility the state may decide to profit by selling your personal information to private companies?

If that last thought doesn’t get your immediate attention consider this. An insurance company purchases access to your data and discovers a hereditary predisposition to some potentially fatal illness. As a result your life insurance premiums double overnight…..

The movie ‘Gattaca‘ (1997) dealt with an extension of this concept. A dystopic future where pilots are refused jobs on the basis of hereditary predisposition toward certain diseases regardless of whether the ‘diseased’ genes remained dormant.

But DNA must hold even more potential than we have already been made aware of, otherwise why would the U.S. secret service feel the need to ‘protect’ the DNA of the President as stated by Ronald Kessler’s 2009 book entitled ‘In The President’s Secret Service‘?

If DNA offers a unique code to every individual, is it not possible to create toxins or diseases that only target a specific genetic structure? A poison could be fed to everyone at a banquet, but would only affect one victim with the targeted genes…..

This is not so outlandish a claim. Prior to his death and during the same period as other South American leaders were involved in cancer scares, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez said:

It’s very difficult to explain, even with the law of probabilities, what has been happening to some of us in Latin America. Would it be so strange that they’ve invented technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years?

In September 2000, the ‘neoconservative’ think tank the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) released the document ‘Rebuilding America’s Defences‘. This document has become infamous both for promoting a doctrine of pre-emptive warfare to take control of global resources, and for including this sentence concerned with galvanizing support for the doctrine one year prior to 9/11:

Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor.

But the document also contains this lesser publicised sentence from page 66:

And advanced forms of biological warfare that can ‘target’ specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.

A call to develop race specific bio-weapons that would only attack certain gene sequences, possibly specific family bloodlines or ethnic groups is perhaps the most chilling of all the suggestions contained within the document. The very definition of ‘genocide‘. And where would the source DNA code for such biological weapon experiments come from? The DNA database?

While these weapons might kill, they might not necessarily have to. As scientists identify the purpose of each individual gene in the genome, and with their growing ability to switch ‘faulty’ genes with ‘approved’ ones, it may be possible to switch out a chosen gene, such as that for aggression, with a replacement, say a ‘compliance’ gene. Perhaps this could be delivered through the water supply in a similar manner to fluoride now, or through an airborne nanotech smartdust?
These are obviously only theoretical suggestions but it’s telling that PNAC felt it important enough to note.

It seems after only seven decades, roughly a single lifetime, humanity has forgotten the horrors of the Nazi’s eugenics programme. This programme designated certain subsections within society as a ‘genetically contaminated’ burden on the remainder. These subsections comprised of the physically or mentally disabled,  the ‘racially impure’, and the ‘criminally minded’ which included dissidents. The ‘solution’ to tackling these genetic inferiors ‘bringing down the racial quality of the nation’ began with sterilization and eventually progressed into an involuntary ‘euthanasia’ programme.

The Nazi’s also brought in a standard identity card for the population. Jews and Christians may not have a distinctly different physical appearance as for example black and white people.  The card of a Jew would feature a letter ‘J’ stamped on the front and this allowed German ‘officials’ to single out Jews with great ease on presentation of the card, perhaps for arrest, while non-Jews could be given superior treatment.

Eugenics was not confined to Nazi Germany either, having originated in the UK with Sir Francis Galton, and partly inspired by Galton’s cousin Charles Darwin with his theories of ‘natural selection’. It’s ironic that if Darwin’s natural selection theory is true then surely ‘genetically contaminated bloodlines’ would naturally work their way out of the human race dispensing with the need for eugenics! The famous British concept of selective ‘breeding’ is also rooted in these same ideas.
In the U.S. the Rockefeller Institute bankrolled the Nazi’s leading research centre, the ‘Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics‘ and assisted in domestic programmes too, as did both the Carnegie Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune, amongst others. Some U.S. domestic programmes continued as late as the 1970s!

Alternatively, genetic weapons could be used as part of the ‘depopulation agenda’. It appears that many of the ‘farmers’ of society think ‘the herd’ has grown too large. Ted Turner, the founder of CNN who also happens to be the largest landowner in the U.S., discussed depopulation in an interview with Charlie Rose.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates, whose father sat on the board of ‘Planned Parenthood’ (originally a racist Eugenics group) has also been promoting depopulation. In a 2010 ‘TED talk’ [the specific excerpts referred to are here] Gates discussed reducing CO2 emissions by bringing down the population of the world using vaccines. It has been suggested that this was not a slip of the tongue or faux pas, but rather Gates’ logic is that when the survival rate of children in the developing world rises, families are likely to have fewer children. Even if this claim were true I suspect it would take decades to create the huge population decline Gates wants to see. Later in the talk he discusses his one ‘wish’ for the future, the creation and implementation of zero emission energy technology, which he ends by saying:

If you give me only one wish in the next fifty years…..” “…If we don’t get this wish, the division between the people who think short term and long term will be terrible, between the U.S. and China, between poor countries and rich, and most of all the lives of those two billion will be far worse…..

‘Two billion’? In ‘fifty years’? Where did those numbers come from? Is that the population number the depopulists are aiming for? Ted Turner also seems to think two billion would be the perfect number of occupants for the planet.

So how do these people intend to reduce population to that number within fifty years? Current White House science ‘tsar’ John P Holdren wrote in his 1977 book ‘Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Enviroment‘ (cowritten by Paul and Anne Ehrlich) on page 787-788:

Adding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods is a suggestion that seems to horrify people more than most proposals for involuntary fertility control. Indeed this would pose some very difficult political, legal, and social questions, to say nothing of the technical problems.

What if someone created a bioweapon that could switch off the gene for ‘fertility’? In 2001 the U.S. company Epicyte created a genetically modified ‘spermicidal corn‘ so the world clearly cannot be far away from that eventuality, if not already there. Would these depopulists use such a weapon? Whether targeted at a specific ethnicity or the human race as a whole (assuming ‘insiders’ have some kind of vaccination) this would be sheer insanity.

What unforeseen effects could arise from the use of genetic weapons? Rootworms have already adapted to genetically modified ‘bt-corn’ which produces it’s own insecticide and modified corn stalks are so tough farmers have found a need to fortify tires of farm machinery such as tractors with kevlar as the stalks damage the tires! While these two problems may not have the gravity of anti-human genetic weapons they do demonstrate the law of unforeseen consequences. ‘Children Of Men‘ (2006) hints at just such a scenario. A not too distant future civilisation is all but collapsing after an unexplained lack of human pregnancies for almost two decades. While the cause is never explored, it can certainly be read as a side effect of a genetic weapon unleashed by depopulation supporters.

The UK, the U.S. and India, amongst other countries, have been spearheading the creation of biometric databases with the intent of holding the genetic information of their entire respective populations. The UK attempted to introduce biometric ID cards in 2005. This attempt failed though it has often been claimed that this was down to the costs for individual citizens. They have, however, gotten around this to some degree by introducing a biometric requirement in the application for a passport.  At this point the requirement is only for facial biometrics taken from a specific type of photograph rather than genetic details. EU signatory countries to the Schengen agreement have the additional non-genetic biometric requirement of fingerprint data.

One reason cited for the use of biometric ID cards during the 2005 campaign to promote them, was the threat of terrorism and the possible prevention of a new 9/11. Even the mainstream media pointed out that the alleged nineteen hijackers were foreigners to the U.S., and so that even if the U.S. had been implementing an ID card system, it would have been useless in stopping these attackers, who got in to the country through an old cold war CIA consulate in Saudi Arabia that fast-tracked Visas to the Soviet fighting Mujahideen.

Home secretary Charles Clarke famously commented “I argue the ID card system is a bulwark against the surveillance society, the Big Brother society“, probably the greatest real world example of Orwellian ‘double-think’ ever. A little over a week later the July 7th bombings occurred, allegedly perpetrated by four British born Muslims (though never proven in a court of law), and offering a convenient justification for ID cards.

By October of the following year Tony Blair was calling for the inclusion of everyone; “The number on the database should be the maximum number you can get.

Similarly, India’s 15th census in 2010 attempted to create a non-genetic biometric database and I.D. card scheme for the entire 1.2 billion population. Though the ID aspect remains incomplete with a massive 200 million people registered, animosity toward the database is growing, partly caused by a lack of legal protections on the collected data, partly through the centralisation of all that information, and partly because both fingerprint and retinal scans have been shown to be ‘spoofable’.

Regardless of country, these non-genetic I.D. requirements are an obvious example of incrementalism toward full DNA collection. First the collection of facial biometrics, then later the collection of fingerprints, then later still iris scans, and finally DNA itself. Once people accept one biometric, the misleaders have a short pause before attempting to implement the next, and so on.

In 2009 The Telegraph published an article following a timeline of selected events surrounding the DNA database. Some excerpts:

*May 5, 1998: Chief Supt Peter Gammon, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, calls for the establishment of a national DNA database for the entire population.
*September 16, 1998: Det Ch Supt Robert Taylor, of the elite National Crime Squad, says a DNA sample should be taken from every baby at birth to help solve crime.

*February 18, 2001: Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the scientist who discovered genetic fingerprinting, calls for the entire population to be DNA tested in a bid to combat serious crime.
*September 5, 2007: Lord Justice Sedley proposes creating a DNA database of everyone in the UK, provoking outrage from civil libertarians.

We see a pattern emerging of repeated calls to profile everyone, criminal and innocent alike. There is also this:

*March 4, 2008: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, Britain’s most senior policeman, raises the prospect of a EU-wide DNA database to catch criminals.

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s recent revelations and the Prism scandal providing further confirmation that certain countries are swapping intelligence with each other, is it not likely that these same countries are also swapping DNA database information? If and when the U.S. introduces DNA swabbing for all foreign visitors, and the UK does the same, will the U.S. send back copies of the DNA data of British citizens to the UK, and vice versa?

When it comes to biometric or genetic ID, why would we require it? We’ve never needed it before and the world still functioned. On the other hand, a modern day digital identity card or passport containing either coded genetic data or allowing for a cross reference against a database containing the same data could allow for the singling out of less distinct minorities as with the Jews of Nazi Germany.

In China, it has been claimed practitioners of the spiritual exercise ‘Falun Gong‘ are persecuted by the government to the point of murder and organ harvesting. If this is true, a DNA database would simplify the targeting of victims per bloodtype for the state.

The government/s controlling the DNA database have the power to know the lineage, diseases, physical characteristics, and potentially even mental characteristics or predispositions of the individual. That data could be used to plant fake evidence, which in my mind negates any real usage in criminal evidence without corroborating evidence, or it could be sold to private companies for commercial use.

The database could (and most likely already does) provide source DNA for scientific research. The genetic code of database participants may already have been used in human cloning experiments. Worse still, some of this genetic material may be used to create human/animal hybrid experiments. While some of these experiments seem to offer genuine hope for medical advances in the future, other experiments appear to be attempts to find out if these things can be done, with no regard as to whether they should be done! Regardless of whether this science is for positive reasons or not, if samples from the database are being used, there is the question of consent.

It would be naive to think the threat of targeted assassination or genocide through DNA specific bioweapons is likely to go away in the event of a DNA database shut down either. After all the human body sheds around a third to half a billion skin cells a day! If ‘they’ want your genetics it’s very difficult to stop the acquisition of them. Plus government doubtless already has a large range of samples across all ethnic groups. But this does not mean we shouldn’t still fight against the existence of the database to begin with.

These DNA and biometric IDs and passports should receive large scale boycotts. The irony, of course, is that if a DNA based passport is introduced, the people who do not wish to hand over their genetic code will be the ones who can’t leave!

Personally, I am not opposed to the use of DNA testing within murder investigations or sex crimes, though with additional corroborating evidence such as witness testimony, and the proviso that innocent parties have their samples destroyed under threat of imprisonment for the failure to do so. But I am in complete opposition to the carte blanche collection and/or exchange of private individuals’ information including DNA data between governments or between governments and private agencies.

‘Power corrupts…..’

Further Reading:
You Are Eating Cloned Meat and They DON’T Know If It’s Safe
Microchipping Dogs: Government Ignoring Common Sense

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