Elliot Mincberg, People for the American Way & Deborah Daniels, Asst. U.S. Atty. Gen. for Justice Programs

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, April 15, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Now in the meantime, a lot of controversy back and forth over a domestic decision of the Bush administration and whether it’s about to go too far. It wants to expand the FBI’s DNA database to include juvenile offenders and adults who have just been arrested, but yet not convicted. Privacy advocates have a big beef with the idea. But my next guest says its absolutely necessary. Joining us now is Deborah Daniels, the assistant U.S. attorney general for Justice Programs in Washington.

Thank you very much for coming.

DEBORAH DANIELS, ASST. U.S. ATTY. GEN. FOR JUSTICE PROGRAMS: Thanks, Neil, thanks for having me.

CAVUTO: Privacy groups say this is going too far, what do you say?

DANIELS: Well, actually what we have here is a opportunity greater than we’ve had in decades to protect innocent people in this country, and by that, I mean not only people who might be the victims of crime but also people who might be suspected of crimes. DNA is essentially to the 21st Century what fingerprinting was to the 20th, and so what we want to do is simply provide a means of identifying quickly those people who might be serial predators who might victimize people in the future, to convict them quickly, exclude people from suspicion who might otherwise be under suspicion and prevent future victimization.

CAVUTO: But Attorney General, a lot people worry that that is where it starts and it gets to be far more involved.

DANIELS: You know, I have heard some of the concerns expressed and I have great sympathy for those who are concerned about the privacy of their DNA. And what I want to tell you is the good news, that in fact this initiative, the DNA initiative does not impinge on those privacy concerns. And the reason for that is, and I’ll give you this very simply, the profile that goes into the national database is nothing but a identifier much like a fingerprint. It does not identify any of the genetic characteristics of the individual other than their gender. And there are specific laws in place that will carefully protect those privacy concerns.

CAVUTO: …Attorney General, back to what the Bush administration is planning to do here, do you know for a fact whether they are going to extend this beyond just the limited group they are looking at now?

DANIELS: Well, here is what we propose, we are suggesting to states, because we have seen the experience of states when they have expanded their collection beyond just violent criminals, we are suggesting to all of the states that they should collect DNA samples from all convicted felons. Now because we find that in some states the vast majority of people who are eventually convicted of rape had a prior conviction only for burglary. So it is very important to collect DNA from all convicted felons. Now the other thing that we are going to do, however, is when states pass laws enabling them to collect this identifying information from, for example, arrestees, we want them to have the opportunity to load that onto the federal database.

CAVUTO: All right. Attorney General, thank you very much.

DANIELS: Thank you.

CAVUTO: My next guest says, forget about sliding down the slippery slope, we’re already half-way down it with this idea. Joining us now is Elliot Mincberg, the vice president and legal director with People for the American Way.

Elliot your concern, this is already out of the bottle, right?

ELLIOT MINCBERG, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: Absolutely. There is certainly every reason for the FBI to have the tools that it properly needs and uses. But here is the situation where even with the current more limited database on DNA information, we see serious problems. There is an FBI technician under investigation right now for errors in more than 100 cases with DNA, including one in which five New Jersey police officers were convicted. The Houston Police Department has so many problems that the FBI won’t even allow their information to be put on the more limited database.

CAVUTO: So you think this is just plain intrusive.

MINCBERG: Well, to expand it in this way is potentially very intrusive because DNA is not like fingerprints. DNA does provide critical information, genetic information about each individual. And before Congress goes along with this kind of expansion, it is critical that we take a look at what is going on and why. Just a few years ago, we were told that they did not need to do this. What has changed to make it so important right now?

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