Expecting legislation that impacts our rights and liberties


Each session I anticipate proposals that can and will have an impact on our civil liberties, privacy, and open government rights. Here are some of those that may be introduced as bills.

Domestic Intelligence Gathering and Surveillance

This bill would allow law enforcement to keep secret information on individuals who police think may commit a crime.  In proposals I have seen the data would be called criminal intelligence. The threshold used to get into the intelligence file is reasonable suspicion. There has been and will be sharp and direct discussion on this proposal. Should government be collecting information on people who are law-abiding in their secret files?  How are First Amendment activities protected from surveillance? What information that has been public for decades in Minnesota no longer will be? Who will the information be shared with? Many policy questions, the with devil being in the details.

There had been a bill introduced 2 years ago in the Legislature. It did not go anywhere. Last year because of the GangNet database issue the Legislature created a work group to come up with recommendations. Their report is due out shortly. Information about the work group is on the BCA website.

With my years of lobbying and advocating on privacy and open government, this piece of legislation — if not done right — could have the most serious ramifications for our state’s culture on privacy and open government and the civil liberties of Minnesotans.

Familial DNA

In the Star Tribune it was reported that Sheriff Stanek was interested to have a law to allow the use of familial DNA.

Here’s an example: At a crime scene a DNA sample is collected. The sample then is run through the DNA database to see if a match can be made to an individual. Sometimes the match can be close to an individual’s DNA in the databank, but not enough as per DNA protocols for certainty. Suspicion could then be on the close relatives because another family member such as a son or brother would very much nearly have the same DNA makeup.

There are civil liberty and privacy concerns with the proposal. Very few states have done such DNA searches. California, being one of those few, has rigorous guidelines and focuses on specific situations.

The proposal poses Fourth Amendment questions. Will an attitude be developed that there is guilt by your genes? Will family members that are not in the state or local law enforcement DNA databases be confronted to give a sample, posing due process questions? Would a partial DNA match from a father be enough for a probable cause search warrant to ask for DNA samples from brothers, sons, and other close relatives?

There are two articles I would like to suggest: http://www.slate.com/id/2213958/ and http://www.dnaforensics.com/FamilialSearches.aspx#symposium

Personal Note

I am new to the self-publishing world of the Internet. Less than 6 months ago I would have been called a modern day Luddite. No internet connection, etc. I have been encouraged and helped by many people to get me this far and I thank them.

It is my intention for the next five months while the Legislature is in session to comment and give perspective on legislation that has impact on our privacy, civil liberties and open government.

To paraphrase Bettie Davis from the movie “All About Eve”: Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.