Big Bureau Is Watching

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WASHINGTON: Criminals, watch where you spit -- the FBI may have your DNA on file. On Tuesday, the agency that brought you the President's bodily fluids will open a national DNA computer database, linked to databases in all 50 states, that will hopefully be able to catch a murderer by the eyelash he leaves behind. But civil libertarians -- and George Orwell fans -- are more than a little worried about arming the agency of J. Edgar Hoover with the resources to identify and track down anyone who's ever had dandruff in a public place.

For John Q. Public, the trick will be to stay out of the system. Under proposed federal legislation, only violent felons will be covered. But Virginia, for instance, already includes white-collar criminals in its database -- how long before "tough on crime" politicians start fighting to include petty thieves and jaywalkers? That battle will be fought in the courts and in the more fickle arena of public opinion. For now, there's only 250,000 genetic profiles in the national system, all of convicted felons, with another 350,000 on the way from various states. Better hope you're not a match.