WVU's Law Review symposium looks at forensic, biometric security

By The West Virginia Record | Mar 23, 2006

MORGANTOWN -- It wasn't so long ago that biometrics – which uses retina scans, vocal prints and other genetic markers for personal identification – was solely in the realm of science fiction and James Bond.

And the "science" in forensic science usually meant dusting for fingerprints or making a plaster cast or two of tire tracks at the crime scene, well after the perpetrators had fled.

Today, more often than not, we can find out whodunit – or who didn't – by way of DNA.

We can even bring perpetrators in with the help of their own Internet browsers.

But while such state-of-the-art sleuthing has kicked the pursuit of justice into hyperdrive, is all this technology treading on our civil liberties?

The West Virginia Law Review at West Virginia University 's College of Law is taking up that issue March 27-28 with its annual spring symposium, "Brave New World – Developing the Legal Frontier in Light of Forensic and Biometric Advances." The symposium will emphasize collaboration among the disciplines of law, forensics, biometrics and journalism.

Look for forums on biometrics and the law, and terrorism and privacy, along with an address for former CIA and FBI director Judge William Webster, as part of WVU's Festival of Ideas lecture series.

Now a consulting partner with a Washington , D.C. , law firm, Webster will discuss "Forensics – Guardian or Threat to Our Civil Liberties" at 7:30 p.m. March 27 in the Mountainlair Ballrooms.

Other speakers over the two-day symposium include:

Jay T. McCamic, the only federally qualified death penalty expert in the state of West Virginia ;
John Woodward, a former CIA operations officer and associate director of the nonprofit RAND Intelligence Policy Center ;
Sam Cava, who directs the Biometrics Fusion Center for the Department of Defense; and
Marcia Ashdown, prosecuting attorney, Monongalia County , W.Va. ( Morgantown ).
Co-hosting the symposium are West Virginia University 's Forensic Science Initiative and Biometrics Knowledge Center . Members of the West Virginia State Bar can receive up to 12 hours of CLE credit for attending.

"We just want to get people thinking and talking about all these issues," said Jason Nutzman, the Law Review's editor-in-chief. "Whether you think it's Big Brother or a slap to civil liberties, we are living in different times. Being able to combine the resources available here at West Virginia University is exciting, and we hope to foster continued collaboration in the future."

For more information, visit www.wvu.edu/~biometricsandthelaw/ or http://www.wvu.edu/law/lr/wvalrev.htm.

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