Joint Intelligence DNA Database Described

11.18.08 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Scattered details of a little-known U.S. government database containing the DNA of suspected terrorists were gathered and reported today in the Financial Times.  See “Fears over Covert DNA Database” by Stephen Fidler.

The Joint Federal Agencies [or more often: Antiterrorism] Intelligence DNA Database (JFAIDD) is described in a 2007 briefing slide (pdf) as “a searchable database of DNA profiles from detainees and known or suspected terrorists.”

The JFAIDD contains 15,000 DNA profiles, according to a 2007 report of the Defense Science Board, with “a queue of 30,000 new samples in the laboratory and 400 [pending] requests for DNA profiles, searches, or comparisons.”  See “Defense Biometrics” (pdf, at page 32).

The collection of the DNA samples was described in a 2006 Army document.  “U.S. military units shall collect two buccal [intra-oral cheek] swabs from each person.”  See “Biometric Collection, Transmission and Storage Standards” (pdf), U.S. Army Biometrics Task Force, July 24, 2006 (at pp. 21-22).

“The FBI has been collecting biological evidence from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) removed from Iraq and Afghanistan and databasing the mtDNA profiles from this evidence since February 2004,” the Justice Department said in its 2009 budget justification book for the FBI (pdf).  “Only occasionally can these profiles be compared to reference samples from suspected terrorists or their maternal relatives.”

“Collecting DNA from detainees and obtaining the mtDNA profiles from these samples has the potential to provide excellent actionable intelligence in the Global War on Terror through comparison with evidence already analyzed…”

But “The FBI can process [only] two samples every three days using manual methods.  Given this rate, the DNA Analysis Unit… cannot keep up with the collection of these samples and would likely lose valuable intelligence from the lag time required to analyze these samples.”

The Justice Department therefore requested funding to automate the DNA analysis process, to permit analysis of 40 samples a day, five days a week so as to keep pace with the anticipated delivery of “approximately 9,000 samples per year from detainees of the U.S. government.”  See the 2009 FBI budget justification (at page 6-112).