‘Biopolitical tatooing’

From The New York Times, “U.S. Set to Begin a Vast Expansion of DNA Sampling

The Justice Department is completing rules to allow the collection of DNA from most people arrested or detained by federal authorities, a vast expansion of DNA gathering that will include hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, by far the largest group affected.

The new forensic DNA sampling was authorized by Congress in a little-noticed amendment to a January 2006 renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which provides protections and assistance for victims of sexual crimes. The amendment permits DNA collecting from anyone under criminal arrest by federal authorities, and also from illegal immigrants detained by federal agents.

Over the last year, the Justice Department has been conducting an internal review and consulting with other agencies to prepare regulations to carry out the law.

The goal, justice officials said, is to make the practice of DNA sampling as routine as fingerprinting for anyone detained by federal agents, including illegal immigrants. Until now, federal authorities have taken DNA samples only from convicted felons.

From Jason Adams, “Redrawing the ‘Imaginary Lines’: Exceptional Space in an Exceptional Time,”Borderlands:

In removing his own body from the ‘exceptional space’ of the American security state, Agamben confirms his observation from one decade prior, that the political paradigm of the West is no longer to be discovered in the city-state of Athens but is instead located in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. This is demonstrated especially in the parallelism emerging today between the political tattooing of ineligible bodies at Auschwitz and the ‘biopolitical tattooing’ now required by the US VISIT Program, as well in as the new RFID passport requirement for ‘citizens’ to enter ‘the Homeland’. Just as Nazi Germany employed the American IBM corporation’s pre-computer ‘Hollerith Machine’ to quickly sort through millions of numbered punchcards, most of which eventually corresponded with the tattoos inscribed on the bodies of camp internees (in order to industrialize the production of millions of deaths), today the same computer corporations are working with the Department of Homeland Security and the European Union to digitize the life-signs of the entire world population through the creation of a universal passport standard, creating the necessary conditions for any number of new totalitarian potentialities yet to come (Lee, 2006; Black, 2001). As the recent experience of Mexican and other Latin American populations in the United States attests, as much in the narrative structure governing Touch of Evil as in the rise of developments such as the LAPD’s SkySeer program (which like new identification technologies, individualizes surveillance to an extent unseen before), the spatiality that once characterized the border has given way to a temporality in which the border becomes internalized and externalized, both inside and outside the national space, such that all space that was once ‘normal’, has now become ‘exceptional’ (Bowes, 2006).


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