(Ken Silva, Headline USA) In his annual budget request to Congress in April, FBI Director Chris Wray asked for an additional $53.1 million to help the bureau process an untold number of DNA samples in a central database.
“The FBI has received an average of 92,000 DNA samples per month—over 10 times the historical sample volume,” Wray said at the time.
“When Title 42 ends, the FBI anticipates an additional 50,000 samples per month due to increased DHS detentions. This will eventually bring the total monthly samples received to approximately 120,000—about 1,440,000 samples per year.”
Wray didn’t reveal exactly how big the FBI’s DNA database is when he made his budget request. But on Tuesday, The Intercept published its own analysis, finding that the FBI has amassed 21.7 million DNA profiles—equivalent to about 7 percent of the U.S. population.
According to The Intercept, the FBI initially started collecting DNA from sex offenders in the early 1990s. As with most government programs, the DNA initiative was a slippery slope.
Much of the FBI’s growth is due to a Trump-era rule that mandated the collection of DNA from migrants who were arrested or detained by immigration authorities. But The Intercept noted a slew of other ways in which the DNA collection has expanded against Americans.
“Today, police have the authority to take DNA samples from anyone sentenced for a felony charge,” Intercept reporter Ken Klippenstein explained.
“In 28 states, police can take DNA samples from suspects arrested for felonies but who have not been convicted of any crime,” he said.
“In some cases, police offer plea deals to reduce felony charges to misdemeanor offenses in exchange for DNA samples. Police are even acquiring DNA samples from unwitting people.”
The Intercept added that the FBI’s DNA database was bigger than even China’s until recently—though it’s not clear how the publication would know this, as it relied on a 2017 report from BBC about the matter.
In her book, First Platoon, Pulitzer Prize finalist Annie Jacobsen chronicled the history of the FBI’s biometric data collection, starting with the bureau’s pioneering work on fingerprint analysis.
Her book largely focused on the U.S. military’s program to collect biometric data on the entire Afghanistan population, but she ended the book by warning that the U.S. is rapidly approaching China’s level of authoritarian bio-surveillance.
“The argument that what is happening in China—that is, the mandatory data-banking of a whole population’s biodata, including DNA—could never happen in America is an optimistic one,” Jacobsen said in her book, which was published in early 2021.
“The pandemic of 2020 has resulted in enthusiasm for government-led contact-tracing programs in the U.S., opening the door for military-grade programs to data-bank biodata of Americans,” she added.
“Because disease lies at the center of this new threat, the reality that citizens’ DNA cell samples are of interest to the government is no longer science fiction.”
Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.