Yesterday, you'll recall I blogged about the newly emerging field and theory of epigenetics, and about the apparent discovery of fifth and sixth base pairs. My high octane speculation branched out from considerations of the implications of such discoveries for gene expression and genetic engineering, to speculations about the utility of these new discoveries for testing - quietly, of course - the origins of DNA and, perhaps, determining if a sample was from any known terrestrial source.
Yea... I know. It sounds totally wild and crazy.
But wait, there's more wild craziness in store.
A few years ago, on the late Ms. George Ann Hughes' The Byte Show, and on a number of other shows, and indeed, in a couple of blogs here, I indulged in a little more high octane speculation. Ms. Hughes asked me a question, namely, why did one see very law enfarcement "check points" popping up, and officers taking people's DNA samples under the duress that such checkpoints inevitably imply. And why, she asked, were there suddenly all these websites where one could, for a small fee of a few dollars (or pounds or euros... pick a region in the world), take a swab from one's mouth, send off the sample to the "ancestry site", and voila, the distant laboratory would sequence your DNA and compile a profile for its basic history, based on the genetic reconstruction of the history of haplogroups such as conducted by Dr. Sykes of Oxford, and other geneticists.
I responded to Ms. Hughes' question by stating that it was my strong suspicion that these samples were being gathered because the ever-present "They" were looking for something. What? she asked. "Any number of possibilities," I responded. In my list of possibilities, I suggested that a global database of individual DNA samples would be of inestimable value for a bioweapons project targeting certain specific genes. Or, alternatively, if one were looking for the presence of DNA or a particular sequence that appeared to have no terrestrial origin, one would need to gather a great deal of specific data, and the only way to do so would be to collect a huge database. Or (final possibility), I suggested that perhaps "They" were looking fo genetic confirmations of old traditions and family lore about their "ancient origins" and "bloodlines," a meme within the alternative community, for as most are aware, there are ancient stories of the rise of modern man from some sort of ancient miscegenation between humans and "genetic cousins" from "out there." The only way to prove such a story would be to find out whether there were genetic markers consistent with it.
Now it appears there might be at least partial confirmation of these high octane speculations, thanks to the following article shared by regular reader, Mr. K.L.:
Here's the central, and thought-provoking, core of this story:
"Fast forward to 2014. The Idaho police sent the semen sample to a private lab to extract a DNA profile that included YSTR and mtDNA—the two genetic markers used to determine patrilineal and matrilineal relationships (it’s unclear why they reopened the case after nearly 20 years). These markers would allow investigators to search some existing databases to try to find a match between the sample and genetic relatives.
"The cops chose to use a lab linked to a private collection of genetic genealogical data called the Sorenson Database (now owned by Ancestry.com), which claims it’s “the foremost collection of genetic genealogy data in the world.” The reason the Sorenson Database can make such an audacious claim is because it has obtained its more than 100,000 DNA samples and documented multi-generational family histories from “volunteers in more than 100 countries around the world.” Some of these volunteers were encouraged by the Mormon Church—well-known for its interest in genealogy—to provide their genetic material to the database. Sorenson promised volunteers their genetic data would only be used for “genealogical services, including the determination of family migration patterns and geographic origins” and would not be shared outside Sorenson. Its consent form states:
"The only individuals who will have access to the codes and genealogy information will be the principal investigator and the others specifically authorized by the Principal Investigator, including the SMGF research staff.
"Despite this promise, Sorenson shared its vast collection of data with the Idaho police. Without a warrant or court order, investigators asked the lab to run the crime scene DNA against Sorenson’s private genealogical DNA database. Sorenson found 41 potential familial matches, one of which matched on 34 out of 35 alleles—a very close match that would generally indicate a close familial relationship. The cops then asked, not only for the “protected” name associated with that profile, but also for all “all information including full names, date of births, date and other information pertaining to the original donor to the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy project.”
Now, what this story suggests - as Mr. K.L. speculated in his email to me - is that if such private "let's-have-fun-and-trace-your-family-history-genetically" companies can share DNA without warrant and entirely voluntarily with police, then they probably can, and will, do it with anybody.
Indeed, such companies would be the perfect fronts for a covert project being run for the other three purposes that I suggested to Ms. George Ann Hughes, for the article carries with it the very disturbing implication that the border or membrane between such companies and government agencies is rather porous. If such a company will share data with local police, imagine what the reaction might be if, say, the "Federal Information Bureau"(FIB) shows up, stating that it is running a project to document the family origins of, say, the German "Bauer" family in ancient Mesopotamia, or that it needs their database for biological warfare "defense" purposes, or to find out who is from "here" and who is "not from here" and you get the idea. Would such a company be in a position to refuse? Not likely.
Hovering over all this, as the aricle itself suggests, is the Mormon Church, which has, as the article points out, a genealogical interest. Indeed, it has a large "church only" database of other types of genealogical records of family trees and so on that would be of inestimable value used in conjunction with genetic techniques. And such techniques and such immense databases would also require a massive computational capability. Recall only what I summarized in Genes, Giants, Monsters, and Men, and how the computing power and algorithms also had to be invented to make the Genome project work.
Funny thing, too, that the Reichsicherheithauptamt, or National Security Agency as it is more commonly known today, has its national data collection center in Utah, obvious home to the more well-known branch of the Mormon church.
it sort of makes one wonder...
See you on the flip side...