The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is asking armed forces personnel to voluntarily submit DNA samples leading to fears that they are becoming part of a larger national DNA database.
Under secretary of state for defence Derek Twigg told the Commons that voluntary DNA submission has been a gradual process across the armed forces. In 1999 all aircrew pilots were asked to voluntarily submit samples. This year the ministry is extending the voluntary policy to all personnel and civilian staff deploying on operations according to Twigg and by next year all new recruits will be asked to voluntarily submit samples. Finally, all remaining personnel who do not fit into one of these categories will be asked to give DNA samples.
Twigg defended the voluntary samples, saying that if a member of the forces had died, getting a DNA sample from a member of family could be traumatic.
“DNA matching is a near-failsafe method of identifying a deceased individual but only if there is a reference sample with which to compare the bodily remains,” Twigg stated.
“The aim of our voluntary DNA sampling scheme is to…. enable deceased personnel to be identified quickly and with less intrusion on the family.”
All samples are currently taken through blood, but soon the MoD will begin using cheek swabs.
Once the samples are taken they are stored in secure filing cabinets in rooms that have very limited access according to Twigg. Unless the donator signs a waiver, the samples cannot be accessed by the police or other criminal investigative units, and they will not be placed in the national DNA database.
However this will not reassure critics of the plan because Twigg admitted that a court order could force the MoD to release the DNA samples to law enforcement officials.
Otherwise the samples are left alone for up to 45 years when they are destroyed. Armed forces personnel are allowed to ask for the samples to be destroyed when they leave the forces Twigg acknowledged.