Panel okays police DNA info legislation

Bill enables biometric cross-referencing among data banks, will help police identify missing persons and mass-casualty fatalities.

Strings of DNA 311 (photo credit: Wikipedia images)
Strings of DNA 311
(photo credit: Wikipedia images)
The Knesset Law Committee approved Tuesday for second and third readings a bill to enable the police to create DNA and fingerprint data banks to aid in the identification of missing persons, and mass-casualty fatalities.
If passed in the plenum, the law will enable the cross-referencing of the data with other biometric databases, like the criminal-offenders database, the border-control database and the military data bank.
The bill also authorizes police to sign agreements with law enforcement agencies in other countries to exchange information that can aid in criminal investigations.
The police legal counsel said the law would enable prescreening of entrance permit requests of Palestinians entering Israel to determine if they were involved in security or criminal offenses before issuing the permits.
In a previous committee meeting, a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officer said that currently it is impossible to cross-reference a genetic sample or fingerprint of a person arrested in the West Bank with the police data bank. He added that if the law had been different, it would have been easier to locate the suspects of the Fogel family murders in Itamar.
Figures presented to the committee showed that there are 500 registered missing persons and the Institute of Forensic Medicine has accumulated information on at least 320 unidentified bodies.
The main opposition to the bill was expressed by the Association for Civil Rights over the transfer of private information to other countries.
Lila Margalit, the group’s attorney in charge of human rights in the criminal process, said that the bill did not provide sufficient supervision over the agreements that the police signed with other countries. She added that the group would like to insure that the genetic information sent abroad does not leak out.
“We would like to see more substantive criteria determining when the police can send out the biometric information,” said Margalit. “If the information is needed to establish a forensic link, it’s one thing – but if the data does nothing to solve a crime, there is no reason for it to be shared.”
Committee chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) demanded that in order to keep tight reign over the transfer of biometric data, every transfer would require the approval of the attorney-general and the public security minister.
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