On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of the controversial practice of DNA collecting of suspected criminals for the first time ever- and the decision not to rule in the case of Clapper v. Amnesty International means that in all likelihood the highest court in the land will never rule on the constitutionality of DNA databases for arrestees--regardless of guilt or innocence.
Law enforcement agencies in more than one half of U.S. states, including many local police departments already collect DNA samples from individuals charged with serious crimes, even though the American criminal justice system assumes that all suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the 5-4 conservative majority called the potential uses of DNA:
"the most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades."
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has previously voiced concerns regarding how many people could be subjected to DNA swabs and how much private information could be disclosed.
Since 2008, plaintiffs including civil rights and human rights groups have challenged post 9/11 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), arguing that laws broadening surveillance practices such as allowing government agencies to intercept their international telephone calls and e-mails violate their Fourth Amendment rights.
Federal, state and local law enforcement officials insist that fingerprints are still the primary method for identifying suspects, and that their principal use of DNA is to solve cold cases.