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Police to use DNA "mugshots" as a predictive tool to narrow search

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posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 10:48 AM
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Scientist say that rather than simply try to match DNA to individuals already in their database, DNA should be used to suggest what a suspect might look like


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Detectives should use DNA to suggest what a suspect might look like, rather than simply try to match it to individuals already in their database. So say forensic geneticists who correctly deduced the ancestry of a suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings from unmatched DNA.

The 11 March bombing of several commuter trains in the Spanish capital killed 191 people and injured another 1800. A month after the attack, suspects facing a police raid blew up their apartment, killing themselves and one police officer.

In 2007 a judge ordered investigators to determine whether DNA recovered in the flat and other locations -- and unmatched to any suspects -- came from people of North African or European ancestry. "Knowing the ancestry of the individual would enable a more focused approach," says Christopher Phillips, a forensic geneticist at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, who led the analysis.

ETA or al-Qaida?
This is because the groups under suspicion -- the Basque separatist group ETA and sympathizers of al-Qada -- were assumed to be mutually exclusive by ancestry. ETA members would almost certainly be of European ancestry, whereas Islamist militants were expected to have their roots in North Africa.

"They really wanted to name or identify anyone that could be in any way remotely involved, be they European or North African," says Phillips.

Forensic geneticists normally rely on mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA to establish ancestry. Trouble is, interbreeding among southern European and North African populations makes it hard to discern the two. "There's been this two-way exchange of ancestry between both continents on each side of the Mediterranean. In genetic terms they can be thought of as the same population," Phillips says.

Telltale toothbrush
New Scientist's Ewen Callaway writes that better to resolve suspects' family origins, his team genotyped 34 single DNA-letter differences on other chromosomes in the unmatched samples connected to the bombings. They determined that DNA scraped off a toothbrush from the bombed apartment almost certainly belonged to someone of North African ancestry, even though mitochondrial and Y-chromosome sequences indicated otherwise.

Conventional DNA testing later confirmed the accuracy of the ancestry test, when a relative's DNA in a crime database was matched to Ouhane Daoud, an Algerian who is suspected of planning the attacks and is still at large. Two other samples were assigned to North Africans, one to a European.

Racial identity is not the only physical trait that may guide police. DNA gathered from a scarf found in a van connected to the bombings probably belonged to someone with blue eyes. Some shades of hair color can also be deduced from DNA, and researchers are working to correlate facial proportions to genetic markers, Phillips says.

Politics and prejudice
Policy makers, however, may hold off using these techniques in everyday policing until the public understands -- and embraces -- genetic profiling, Phillips says. Police could save money and resources by ruling out certain suspects on the basis of race, but ancestry testing might alienate ethnic groups who think they are unfairly targeted. "I don't think it's going to be mainstream for a while. I think decision-makers and the public will have to digest the consequences," he says. "We have to tread carefully."

Such concerns will not keep investigators in high-profile cases like the Madrid bombings from following every last base pair, even if the connections between genetics and visible physical traits aren't completely established, he says. "Any lead is a good lead. If the lead turns out to be a bad lead in 10 percent of cases, I think most police officers would take that."

Mark Shriver, a biological anthropologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, thinks fears of genetic profiling are misplaced. No one cries foul when police look for suspects based on eyewitness accounts of their physical description, so why should genetic tests that offer the same information be different, he asks.

-read more in Christopher Phillips et al., "Ancestry Analysis in the 11-M Madrid Bomb Attack Investigation", PLoS ONE 4, no. 8 (11 August 2009): e6583 (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006583)


So....racial profiling is a 'no go' but DNA profiling should be fine? What a joke. The technology behind this boggles my mind, and is a short trip to profiling everyone. Genetic predisposition towards violence, drug abuse, etc.

Is it too late to stop this bus and get off?




posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 11:15 AM
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is a short trip to profiling everyone. Genetic predisposition towards violence, drug abuse, etc.


No it isn’t! The idea is to determine physical features of a suspect from DNA found at a crime scene and look only for people who fit that description. In what way is that the same as taking a random persons DNA, finding they have a genetic predisposition to whatever and penalising them without them having committed a crime?

Even where a predisposition to certain mental states is found (such as schizophrenia) that in itself if far from enough to predict behaviour and that is very well understood by the scientific community. So the prospect of this being used in the manner you are concerned about is non existent outside of a totally corrupt system; but then if you’re living under a corrupt system this is the least of your problems anyway.



posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 11:20 AM
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Good thing DNA can't be compromised...

Oh wait, yes it can.

www.abovetopsecret.com...



posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 11:44 AM
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Originally posted by Mike_A

is a short trip to profiling everyone. Genetic predisposition towards violence, drug abuse, etc.


No it isn’t! The idea is to determine physical features of a suspect from DNA found at a crime scene and look only for people who fit that description. In what way is that the same as taking a random persons DNA, finding they have a genetic predisposition to whatever and penalising them without them having committed a crime?

Even where a predisposition to certain mental states is found (such as schizophrenia) that in itself if far from enough to predict behaviour and that is very well understood by the scientific community. So the prospect of this being used in the manner you are concerned about is non existent outside of a totally corrupt system; but then if you’re living under a corrupt system this is the least of your problems anyway.






Yeah...the trouble is we're not talking about oppression by the scientific community...we're talking about the government. I wish I could have faith that this isn't just another step along a treacherous road.

They already use profilers extensively. They already use DNA extensively.

I suppose my presumption is that the system IS corrupt. Yeah, I know there is more to worry about. I just like keeping tabs on the next rung of the ladder.

Thanks for your input.



posted on Aug, 18 2009 @ 01:08 PM
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My point is there is no basis for the government to make any claim about prejudging people based on DNA. They could try but the entire scientific community, media and public would know it is nonsense.

If you’re going to worry about this you might as well worry that the government is going to start arresting people on the basis of what psychics tell them.




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