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Justice wants detainees' DNA put in FBI database

Kevin Bohn
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department is preparing to ask Congress for permission to keep DNA samples from wartime detainees in the FBI database, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Tuesday.

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Currently, only DNA samples from convicted felons can be put into what is known as the CODIS system. The Justice Department is drafting legislation that would create a new category for the database.

Ashcroft told reporters that putting the DNA samples into the database "would assist law enforcement officials in the identification of those who might seek to harm the United States and U.S. interests through terrorism either now or in the future."

The government has already taken samples from the 300 detainees from the Afghanistan conflict housed at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba as a way to help identify them.

Some of the detainees are giving authorities false names, complicating the job of finding out who they really are and whether they pose a threat.

"DNA is the one thing that does not change," Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock told reporters.

Some civil liberties groups have opposed the taking of detainees' DNA samples, saying it is an invasion of their privacy.

Ashcroft also announced that some detainees' fingerprints have been taken.

"Those fingerprints will be added to the criminal law enforcement database for the United States and the database used to screen entrants into the United States."


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