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National DNA database

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Alan H
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National DNA database

#1 Post by Alan H » February 23rd, 2008, 11:41 am

There has been a lot recently about a national database containing the DNA of everyone, not just convicted criminals or suspects. This from today's Guardian:
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Verdicts prompt calls for national register | UK news | The Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/feb/23/ukcrime1
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Verdicts prompt calls for national register

* Ian Sample, science correspondent
* The Guardian,
* Saturday February 23 2008

This article appeared in the Guardian on Saturday February 23 2008 on p7 of the UK news section. It was last updated at 00:06 on February 23 2008.

The convictions of Steve Wright and Mark Dixie this week prompted fresh calls for a nationwide register to hold DNA profiles of every citizen in the country.

Both men were convicted after DNA found on their victims was linked with samples they had supplied to the police national DNA database. In Wright's case, his DNA was logged in 2003, after being caught stealing. Dixie's DNA was added following a brawl in 2006, a year after he murdered the 18-year-old model Sally Anne Bowman. In both cases, DNA played a crucial role in their convictions.

Britain already has, per capita, the largest forensic DNA database in the world. Approximately 4m samples, or 6% of the population are registered on it. They are all people who have either been convicted of crimes, or arrested and subsequently found not guilty.

The database has undoubtedly become a formidable tool for fighting crime: in 2005, it was used in court evidence in 422 murders and manslaughters trials, 645 rapes and 9,000 domestic burglaries. To add a person to the database, scientists record a sequence of genetic markers, which are stored as a series of 20 two-digit numbers. The probability of a chance match of all 20 numbers is about one in a million.

An all-encompassing DNA database has powerful support from the scientific community. Sir Alec Jeffreys, the Leicester University scientist who invented DNA fingerprinting has called for a register that holds DNA profiles of everyone from birth. It would, he says, put everyone on a level playing field. Today, at least 37% of samples on the UK's police DNA database, for example, are from black males.

Critics, among them civil rights groups, fear the existing DNA database already has serious flaws. Liberty claims that storing DNA of people who are innocent is an infringement of civil rights, and favours a system that holds only the DNA of those convicted of sexual and violent crimes.

Their position was bolstered last year by the influential Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which urged the government to prevent the police storing DNA profiles of acquitted suspects, and to drop plans to collect DNA from those suspected of minor crimes.

The council was more damning of a population-wide DNA register, claiming it was impractical and an intrusion of privacy that would be compensated for by "only a negligible increase in public safety".

Professor Allan Jamieson, director of the Forensic Institute in Glasgow and an expert witness in the Omagh bombing trial, said a national DNA register might quickly give police an overwhelming number of suspects to investigate, and would almost inevitably lead to more miscarriages of justice.

"We already know your DNA can turn up in places you haven't been, but we're now increasingly working with lower and lower amounts of DNA and many of these are mixtures from different people, and that brings new problems," he said.

The difficulty is that while a sample collected from a crime scene might contain DNA from three different people, it is jumbled up, and sorting it out can give investigators four, five or more possible DNA profiles to look into.

"You're then in the situation where you've generated extra DNA profiles, and if you have more people on a database, it is more likely that one day they will match someone," Jamieson said.

Richard Spring, Tory MP for West Suffolk, said he was against putting more people on the DNA database, because the information might not be secure.

[Captured: 23 February 2008 11:30:45]

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I'm sure it's true that if a database containing everyone's DNA existed, crimes would be solved far quicker and some criminals would be arrested before they had the chance to re-offend. In recent cases, it's easy to see that this could have prevented the tragic murder of the women in Ipswich. This gives a powerful argument to those proposing a national database and one that is hard to counter, given the crimes that would be prevented, but there are civil liberties arguments against such a database. How is the benefit to crime detection and prevention balanced against the civil liberties aspects? In fact, before answering that, what exactly are the civil liberties issues? What freedom are we losing by having our personal DNA profile available for instant recall by the police? What safeguards would need to be in place before you'd be happy to support a national database? Is the murder or rape of a few women a price worth paying for that freedom?
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

FloatingBoater
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Re: National DNA database

#2 Post by FloatingBoater » February 23rd, 2008, 12:24 pm

As much as I feel that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear, the recent cockups with lost data does not fill me with confidence. I also feel that too much reliance on dna evidence is counter productive to good detection work. It would be all to easy to frame someone either by the police or the crims. I vote no to extending the data base even though my own dna details are on it from being wrongly arrested and not charged. :cross: ,
Let us accept that the difference between a prophet and a madman is not what they say but whether the crowd accepts the story and tells their children to believe it.

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Alan C.
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Re: National DNA database

#3 Post by Alan C. » February 23rd, 2008, 3:39 pm

FloatingBoater
It would be all to easy to frame someone either by the police or the crims.
I agree completely, there could be nothing easier than getting hold of somebodys DNA and leaving it at a crime scene, I mean.....They need so little, I believe a single hair will do.
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Alan H
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Re: National DNA database

#4 Post by Alan H » February 23rd, 2008, 7:31 pm

Alan C. wrote:
FloatingBoater
It would be all to easy to frame someone either by the police or the crims.
I agree completely, there could be nothing easier than getting hold of somebodys DNA and leaving it at a crime scene, I mean.....They need so little, I believe a single hair will do.
I must admit I had never thought of that. Am I right in thinking that a lot of weight is given to DNA evidence from a crime scene? The question is whether DNA evidence alone would be seen as sufficient to convict or even whether it would be enough to override other evidence (eg a solid alibi)?
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Alan C.
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Re: National DNA database

#5 Post by Alan C. » February 23rd, 2008, 10:39 pm

Alan H
The question is whether DNA evidence alone would be seen as sufficient to convict or even whether it would be enough to override other evidence (eg a solid alibi)?
That's my biggest problem with the whole issue, they (the police) seem to be treating DNA as the holy grail of crime solving, and I don't think it is, it's a very good "last nail in the coffin" thing, but I don't think anybody should be prosecuted on DNA evidence alone, as I said earlier, it's far too easy for somebody to be framed for a crime in which they had no involvement.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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Lancaster_Daf
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Re: National DNA database

#6 Post by Lancaster_Daf » February 23rd, 2008, 11:10 pm

I feel that this is relevenat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSI_Effect


In theory, i feel that people with nothing to hide have nothing to fear, but that probably won't work in practice with a national DNA database.

I spend most evenings in my house alone and with no real alibi, so if someone really wanted to frame me for something, then it wouldn't be too dificult.
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Alan C.
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Re: National DNA database

#7 Post by Alan C. » February 23rd, 2008, 11:25 pm

Lancaster_Daf wrote:I feel that this is relevenat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSI_Effect


In theory, i feel that people with nothing to hide have nothing to fear, but that probably won't work in practice with a national DNA database.

I spend most evenings in my house alone and with no real alibi, so if someone really wanted to frame me for something, then it wouldn't be too dificult.
Same here, I am alone most of the time, I suppose they could check the time you were on your computor, as an an alibi, but it still worries me.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

tubataxidriver
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Re: National DNA database

#8 Post by tubataxidriver » February 24th, 2008, 10:47 am

As humanists we're probably keen to see a scientific approach applied to the psychology of religion, but I think another social institution with its roots in the ancient world and the middle ages also needs a fresh look through scientific eyes, and that it the law. In our part of the world the law has a number of "tenets of faith" that appear to me to be more dogma than thoroughly tested hypothesis, including the principle of "innocent until proven guilty". Where does this come from, and is it still valid given today's knowledge? Is there something better that could be adopted? Effectively this means that you are free to commit any crime as long as there is no evidence to link you to it.

Many people at the present time commit crimes and get away with them because there is little deterrence because no evidence is available or the evidence assembled is not enough to prove guilt. But because we have incorrect convictions (often called miscarriages of justice) in one direction, it works the same the other way. Just because someone has been "acquitted" it doesn't mean they didn't do it! Society should be as outraged about these cases as with bad convictions.

Technologies like DNA and CCTV can help provide a bit more objectivity to legal issues, but I agree with the previous posters that they do not provide cast iron proof, they are fallible, and they need to be handled carefully in context and with a view to other possibilities. We should be able to trust the police and the CPS/PF, but experience has shown that they too stretch the science too far on occasion.

The technology that is required to achieve fully reliable conviction / acquittal results, but which is not yet available, is the perfect "truth drug" or brain scan that can reveal thoughts, motives, memories and actions. This technology is foreseeable. However, should we as a society want to go that far in dealing with crime and with criminals? Should individuals be permitted to use their free will to commit crime and get away with it? A religious approach would refer back to the "Ten Commandments" or equivalent, and deliver punishment to those found guilty and nothing for those criminals not identified. What would be a humanist approach to this? Should humanists favour more intrusive technology to find out the truth?

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Alan H
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Re: National DNA database

#9 Post by Alan H » February 24th, 2008, 4:27 pm

tubataxidriver wrote:We should be able to trust the police and the CPS/PF, but experience has shown that they too stretch the science too far on occasion.
There are two things here: the trust in the police, etc and I think it's not just them who can stretch science. I have never seen the inside of a court, so all my knowledge is third party or TV shows! However, I can see it could be all too easy to blind a judge or jury with science. What trust do we have that science will not be so abused (assuming it isn't already)?

As for trusting the police, we may do now, but what do we need in place so that trust is not abused in the future by a future Government? Anyone watching The Last Enemy (the second episode is on BBC1 at 9pm this evening)?
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Lord Muck oGentry
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Re: National DNA database

#10 Post by Lord Muck oGentry » February 24th, 2008, 5:40 pm

I think the discussion may have skipped a stage. There is, or ought to be, a presumption in favour of individual liberty- and, crucially, the liberty to tell others to mind their own business.

Suppose I am asked by a beggar whether I have any loose change, and I reply that I have not. Must I turn out my pockets at his request to show that I have nothing to hide? Obviously not: it's none of his business if I have lied.

Or suppose that I am bombarded with letters from the TV Licensing Authority pointing out that I have not got a licence and demanding a written assurance that I have not got a TV. As I haven't got a TV, I have " nothing to hide and nothing to fear". Should I write to them? Well, no. I resent their impertinent assumption that it is for me to declare my innocence.

Or suppose that personal information is wanted to prevent or detect serious crime. Well, CCTV inside every room in every home would help to prevent or detect rape or child abuse. But I hope we can all agree that any such proposal is just insane.

There are two points that need to be got across. First, privacy is worth having for its own sake, even if it may also be wanted for some other, possibly ignoble, reason. The desire for privacy needs no justification: it is for those who want to curtail it to make their case. Second, the bar has to be set very high for opponents of privacy. As I have suggested above, the prevention and detection of serious crime is not an adequate reason for gross violations of privacy. If the state wants intimate information about me, it needs to come up with something very much better.
What we can't say, we can't say and we can't whistle it either. — Frank Ramsey

Firebrand
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Re: National DNA database

#11 Post by Firebrand » February 25th, 2008, 10:24 am

The rules about admissibility of DNA evidence need to be drastically improved. In the US a much higher standard of evidence with respect to DNA is required - I think in Britain only about one cell is considered sufficient.

I wouldn't actually object to a DNA database if the rules were tightened up and I could be confident that it wouldn't be abused by rotten apples. I do think catching a murderer before he becomes a serial killer would be worth the risk of being wrongly accused of something myself because I see that as a very tiny risk compared to the risk of a psychopath who has killed once, killing again and again.

Ted Harvey
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Re: National DNA database

#12 Post by Ted Harvey » February 25th, 2008, 11:28 am

The core question about the DNA National Bank proposal is 'are we to assume trust in every future government, police or security agency that will rule in our country now and, more importanlty, in the future?'. For me at any rate I know the answer, based on long and sad experience of such matters (the Commie threat, the IRA, Satanic ritual child abuse, WMD and the so-called war-on-terror etc., etc,. etc.)

Secondly, I just don't accept the proposition of 'well, if you have nothing to hide' as a proposition for any political, police, security or legislative action - unless in the final anaylsis, in a demonstrably clear situation of national survival (and before anyone sidlines the issue, we have not faced such a situation in my judgement in over half a century at least). If you do accept the 'nothing to hide' proposition there is no logical or reasonable limit to it. Then you have to just allow the government and its agencies to do whatever they like - because after all, you 'have nothing to hide'.

FloatingBoater
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Re: National DNA database

#13 Post by FloatingBoater » February 25th, 2008, 7:38 pm

in a demonstrably clear situation of national survival (and before anyone sidlines the issue, we have not faced such a situation in my judgement in over half a century at least).
Have we not?

Sorry Ted, but I have to disagree with your assessment regarding the issue of the threat to ,’national survival’.
How can this statement be made without regard to the events in Spain or London 7-7, and similar atrocious events across the world, carried out in the name of Islam and Islamic expansionism . Surely no greater threat to our way of life and value system has ever been undermined by the wider implications Islamic extremism. This pernicious form of subversive extremism that seeks to Islamicise the entire world?
OK, this is not like WW2, but the aims of the agressors are no less determined or even, benignl disguised.
Little by little, Western values and liberal idelogy is being eroded ever so slowly by appeasement, soft legislation and gradual sell out in the nonsensical guise of multicultural universialty, so that most of us can't, or won't make the call that ...'the King is naked!' :exit:
Let us accept that the difference between a prophet and a madman is not what they say but whether the crowd accepts the story and tells their children to believe it.

Fiona
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Re: National DNA database

#14 Post by Fiona » February 25th, 2008, 8:59 pm

Do you really mean that, Floating Boater? I have to say that I cannot myself see that terrorism, however scary, is a threat to national survival. I cannot think of a time when there was not terrorism and I cannot think of an example of a nation which succumbed to it. But then I am quite ignorant of history so I will be really interested in hearing about where and how this happened

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wizzy
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Re: National DNA database

#15 Post by wizzy » February 25th, 2008, 9:47 pm

I'm with Ted Harvey and Fiona.

I don't trust the current government not to abuse the information they already hold and are planning to hold, let alone any potential future government. It's easy for some people to say if you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear, but with a more draconian government there could easily be laws you want to break.

I also don't agree that terrorism directly is a huge threat to our country. The indirect threat of terrorism is the way the government are using it to implement all kinds of new legislation, infringing on our privacy and our civil liberties. Did anyone read the article in the Guardian on Saturday (or possibly Sunday's Observer) about the UK government wanting to collect loads of data including credit card details, phone number etc, on all travel on planes, trains etc within the EU? Well I suppose it's one way to get people to reduce their carbon footprint - you'll have to cycle everywhere wearing a balaclava to be safe!

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Ninny
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Re: National DNA database

#16 Post by Ninny » February 26th, 2008, 10:16 am

[quote][/quote] You're not a Jew, then!

Ted Harvey
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Re: National DNA database

#17 Post by Ted Harvey » February 26th, 2008, 5:30 pm

FloatingBoater I meant it and I had very much in mind the managed hysteria over the so-called War on Terror' as an excuse to remove freedoms and liberties.

Twin Towers had absolutely nothing to do with Iraq. But the neo cons in the USA were not interested in concentrating the true source of the (temporary and sparodic) threat and on making good their previous catastrophic mistakes in Afghanistan. Nor were they interested the other main inspiration of Islamist terror; namely Saudi Arabian interests. A mixture of idealogs and the oil-driven military-industrial complex in the USA wanted Iraq and its oil.

Consequently they immediately exploited the Twin Towers tragedy to their own ends and invented the 'War on Terror'. It is a nonsense, an intelligence and political community inspired ferrago of half-truths, outright lies and barbarity (the whole Iraq thing, WMD, Guantalamo Bay) amounting to one of the blackest lies in history - that of the 'War of Civilisations'.

It is no coincidence that these things are followed by the steady and deliberate downgrading and removal of civil liberties in the USA and particularly in the UK. Indeed the UK was earlier this year on an international benchmarking list downgraded from 'free' to 'mostly free'.

But on the core topic of this thread... the National DNA bank is simply one aspect of this anti-liberty drive. What worries me is what is the intelligence/political community really after? The DNA proposal is such a patently daft and impossible non-starter (other senior police officers point out that it would need every individual in the country to be required to to deposit DNA and somehow this massive undertaking is to be managed, maintained and paid for? - and by a Government that cannot even manage the data it already has?).

Therefore, assuming that the people making this proposal are not daft (big assumption there maybe) just what is it that they will later come out with and that will, after the original draconian proposal, not look 'all that bad' in comparison? After all this is the exact tactic being used to gradually crank up the powers of detention in the UK, already some of the most draconian in Europe.

Meantime of course if you visit our capital city just don't hurry to catch a tube train lest you are shot down and killed by inept police who are then cleared of any responsibility, doubtless in keeping with the spirit that we are fighting a 'War on Terror'. Can you imagiine how that kind of police service might misuse a DNA bank in future? :idea:

Let's keep vigilent and not be led like fools by redtop populist press tripe being posed as reporting.

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Re: National DNA database

#18 Post by FloatingBoater » February 26th, 2008, 9:26 pm

Fiona said …… ‘
terrorism… and I cannot think of an example of a nation which succumbed to it’
One only has to consider the spread of Islam through terror since its conception. The history books are full of how religio-political ends have been met by out and out terror tactics. More recently refer to the actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan post Russian detachment. The of course there is the partition of India. The creation of Pakistan was of a direct result of terrorist actions. What about Kosovo and the litany of terrorist activities against the minority Serbs that has been endorsed by Western governments and essentially rewards terrorism with statehood.
By way of evening thing up, take a look at the actions of the Inquisition in Europe or the actions of the like of Matthew Hopkins post the English civil war. Russia under the Tsars and later Stalin. Hitler with his Brown Shirts in the 1930s, the list is endless and still very scary.

Wizzy
I agree that too much information about the individual by the state is abhorent to any right thinking person. Whether or not there is a government consipiracy to dupe us into accepting unnescessary intrusion into our civil liberties I’m not too sure, but considering the concessions being made world wide to accommodate the sensitivities of the followers of Islam, I may take a bit of convincing; unless of course to eventually hand it over to some future Caliph.

Ted.
We [the west and allies] have been subjected to terrorist activities of all sorts well before the Twin Towers atrocity. American embassy staff 444 days as prisoners of the Khomeini revolution in Iran. The Munich olympics murders in 1976. The attack on he USS Cole in Yemen. Madrid railway bombings. Tourists in Egypt and Bali. The London bombings. Abu Hamza and all his cronies, tried and convicted and now being treated royally in British jails. The brutal treatment of Ken Bigly, Daniel Perl and others. Theo van Gogh and Pym Forteiun. Beslan school massacre, the Russian theatre siege. This list is far from complete but can you spot the ‘cultural’ connection here??

Could anyone say with conviction that without the combined effort against this allegedly ficticious ‘war on terror’ (however stupidly named) how many, many more mass murders would have succeeded.

Regards FB :deadhorse:
Let us accept that the difference between a prophet and a madman is not what they say but whether the crowd accepts the story and tells their children to believe it.

Ted Harvey
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Re: National DNA database

#19 Post by Ted Harvey » February 26th, 2008, 10:51 pm

FloatingBloater your scatter gun history is very selective and partial, moreover it evidences nothing. On a number of matters you are plainly just wrong – Pakistan was not created as ‘a direct result of terrorist actions’. It was created ‘as a direct result' of the inept way and indecent haste with which the British Raj run out of the continent after having pimped of its resources for around a century and then bled its army to fight for the British in WW2. The ‘terrorism’ as you call it was unfortunately perpetrated by both sides with equal viciousness and eagerness. I suggest you re-read a little more extensively and with an open mind on that.

Your remarks about Kosovo and the Serbs shows an eye-watering lack of knowledge or understanding about the near-rise of a new fascism by the Serbs, following on from their long historical subjugation of Muslim and other minorities. I can understand and accept that anyone may lack a full grasp of some histories (even over one of the most recent greater threats to the European peace, and one that was not perpetrated by any alien terrorism). But I find that hard to accept if they then use their partial knowledge to assert all sorts of wrongness.

I note that you disregard the truth of what I stated on the Twin Towers terrorism having nothing to do with Iraq and that therefore all that followed on the so-called ‘War on Terror’ is a contrivance. You instead do as the USA neocons did, and conflate it with all sorts of voodoo theories about worldwide terrorism. never mind.

Ironic that you further display a lack of historical knowledge and understanding when you cite the USA hostage-taking as evidence of what you unctuously call the ‘cultural connection’ in a list of terror that includes the Twin Towers. Ironic because the hatred between Iran and Iraq has been long-enduring and includes war of World War 1 casualty proportions – and yet when it came to it after the Twin Towers, the USA invaded Iran, and not Iraq, on the pretext of the ‘War on Terror’ (and now, guess which country has the greates oil reserves?).

When you take up a scattergun to history it is no surprise that you can concoct all sorts of supposed linkages between all sorts of single incidents. What you cite as a long list, even with inferences of more, is actually in the context of the historical period and global context, unfortunately merely, arbitrary, incidental, occasional, fragmented and marginal.

Many people have always found this reality about history all very daunting and even frightening. Some of these impressionable folks try to deal with this through immersing themselves in religion or ideological fixations such as Communism. Other folks opt for conspiracies – usually complete with the ‘Other’ who is to be castigated, whether Jew, Catholic, Foreigners or now Terrorists (with, ‘Terrorist’ as usually a weasel code word for Muslims).

I find what you post to have at the very least, an unpleasant undertow of preoccupation with your ‘cultural connection’ – I’m always alerted by the use of that at once obtuse and opaque term; I prefer plain and honest language. A final thought for you in your ‘war on terror’ and the’ many, many mass murders’ you emotionally employ – what about the many, many mass murders that your leaders the USA perpetrated against ten of thousands of innocent civilian households when they flattened Faluja in Iraq? Yes that truly is a war of terror… and that is where the thinking of those you follow has taken us.

In reply to your demanded answer I say with conviction that “the combined effort against this” actually fictitious ‘war on terror’ has greatly added to mass murder, for example through the immoral and illegal invasion of Iran.

But there you nearly have me at playing at shroud waving! So, I'd prefer to not be adding anything further to this thread, I don’t think we have the basis for a meaningful and rational discussion on something that is too important to be used as the basis for nonsensical flannel about supposed ‘cultural’ terrorism, Islam, Caliphs and all the rest seeking to dominate the world. I don't want to log onto this board to witness that kind of unpleasant and unwarranted thing; if I did I would elect to log onto one of those frightening USA right-wing Christian fundamentalist websites.

Lord Muck oGentry
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Re: National DNA database

#20 Post by Lord Muck oGentry » February 27th, 2008, 12:07 am

FloatingBoater wrote: Could anyone say with conviction that without the combined effort against this allegedly ficticious ‘war on terror’ (however stupidly named) how many, many more mass murders would have succeeded.

FB,

Two points here.

First: I for one do not accept that preventing or detecting serious crime is- or even begins to be- an excuse for a universal DNA database.

Second: you have just reversed the burden of proof on a matter of fact. It is for you to show that " many, many more mass murders would have succeeded" in the absence of ...well, what, exactly? If the terrorists you seem to have in mind are dangerous, it is not because they can conceal their identity but because they can conceal their intention. There is no such thing as terrorist DNA.
What we can't say, we can't say and we can't whistle it either. — Frank Ramsey

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