Monday, 14 March 2016

United Kingdom Database Hold DNA Profiles of 7,800 Terrorism Suspects

A United Kingdom police counter-terrorism database contains the DNA profiles and fingerprints of more than 7,800 identified individuals, an official government watchdog has revealed.

The figure revealed by the biometrics commissioner, Alastair MacGregor QC, in his annual report on Friday, is far higher than any previous indications of the number of suspected terrorists in Britain.
The commissioner reveals that the number of individuals whose DNA profiles and fingerprints are being logged on the little-known database as a result of counter-terrorism investigations is growing rapidly, having risen from 6,500 identified individuals in October 2013.

The watchdog also reports that errors and delays in an official drive to delete the biometric records of those who have never been convicted of an offence – which account for 55% or 4,350 of those on the counter-terrorism database – have led to the destruction of a significant number of biometric records of terrorism suspects that should have been kept on national security grounds.

In his second annual report, MacGregor says 1.7m DNA profiles and 1.6m sets of fingerprints have been deleted from the police national DNA database since the home secretary, Theresa May, introduced legislation in 2012 requiring the removal of details of those who have never been convicted of a criminal offence.

He says the fact that the national DNA database still holds the biometric details of 12.5% of all men and 3% of all women in Britain and has not had any “demonstrably adverse impact” on its effectiveness; indeed, if anything, its overall “match” rate with DNA evidence found at crime scenes has gone up.

But the commissioner raises serious concerns about the standalone national counter-terrorism police database. It has been quietly built up under powers in the Terrorism Act 2000 by collating DNA profiles and fingerprints gathered from searches, arrests and crime scenes during counter-terrorism investigations.

MacGregor says he decided to publish the number of individuals on the counter-terrorism database after it was suggested to him in 2014 that to do so would be contrary to the interests of national security. He says he was “not wholly persuaded” by the argument and this year he sought and obtained agreement to disclose the number.

He also voices concerns about the delays and errors in the process of reviewing whether DNA profiles and fingerprints of terror suspects who have not been convicted of any offence should remain on the database. He says that by October 2015 about 1,900 cases had been reviewed and it was decided that 217 should be retained indefinitely for national security reasons.

However, the biometric details had to be destroyed in 450 or more other cases because their limited retention period had expired before a national security review could take place. MacGregor says he understands that in at least 10% of these cases it is possible a determination that they should be retained for national security would have been applied for. This happened in at least three cases.

“The full scale and continuing nature of the problems caused by delays in the national security determination process have only recently become apparent and I have been assured that further work is being done as a matter of urgency to prevent such problems occurring again and to mitigate their consequences,” MacGregor says.

May has given the police a new deadline of October this year to decide whether the biometric records of the 4,350 unconvicted individuals listed as of October 2015 should be destroyed or kept indefinitely on the counter-terrorism database.

Culled from: Guardian Newspaper

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