Hand Bugs: An Emerging Forensic Threat {Updated}

Today, we’re taking a brief break from showing how CIA and other intelligence agencies around the globe create false narratives in order to achieve nefarious goals. Instead of showing how dangerous individuals and groups are manufactured, we’re going to talk about framing innocent people because intelligence agencies hate us for our freedom.


Besides potentially being blackmailed, the reward-punishment system from on high, there’s simple the desire to win, the arrogance that spying powers bring when the ‘boss’ {so quoted because this means politicians and Wall Street rather than the taxpayer} winks and nods approval.

Kelly McLaughlin, “‘I was arrogant, narcissistic, caught up in the culture of winning’: Prosecutor who helped put an innocent man on death row for 30 years admits he was a ‘coward’,” DailyMailUK, 11 October 2015:


Even to the point of fakery in forensic tests today:

Rebecca Trager, “Forensic chemist imprisoned for falsifying tests,” Royal Society of Chemistry, 27 November 2013:


And those are not the only examples.

We’re all I suppose familiar with DNA and fingerprints. They’ve been the mainstay of the criminal justice system for some time now as well as 1,578 television series. While it is not only probable but quite likely that organizations like the CIA have spent lots of money figuring out how to lift and plant fake fingerprints, a brief anecdote from my exile in Minneapolis describing how DNA might be abused, then on to the “new” method being considered.


Went for a walk one day in June of 2011. Had a strange blister on my leg when I returned home: A near perfect oval about 6 inches long, 4 inches wide. Peeling it off was strangely non-painful and it only seemed to be a layer or two deep. I was out front of my apartment building at the time, and just tossed the dead skin off the curb.

I went inside to grab a drink and returned a few minutes later. The skin was gone.

Imagine what could be done with it. I’m still waiting for indictment over my DNA evidence showing up where Jimmy Hoffa was last seen.


But it gets worse. Depicted on CSI: Cyber the other night…


But I must interrupt this sentence in order to launch into a brief rant about the show in general. While sometimes they do actually have a case where ‘cyber’ is central, most of the time it is warmed-over episodes of the various incarnations of the ABC/NBC/Saturday/Sunday Night Mystery Movie show. The difference, grizzled gunslinger and lawman Hec Ramsey is replaced by Galen from Dragonslayer {who also voices various superheroes and supervillains in cartoons including X the Eliminator on Harvey Birdman and what the heck was Snowden’s Christmas [1999]?}, the Dawson from Dawson’s Creek, and a woman whose ‘scooping’ is somewhat less annoying than Bones‘ uptalking…or sidetalking…or bad case of syllabic-emphasisyphilitis. Plus now Ted Danson.

If you must have a Danson fix, Fargo is a lot better. Note the Fauxpocalypse delivered unto Oliver Platt by Billy Bob Thornton in Season 1.

For example, while the show had a very feasible episode loosely based around an Uber-type car service company not providing sufficient security for their system which, of course meant that their passengers were being assassinated left and right, they also simply replace things from Hec’s day like telephones and the postal service but leave the rest of the plot alone. Someone meets someone online? ZAP! Cyber killed you! Got a baby monitor? ZAP! Your child is now on the Kazakh black market to meet the demands for spoiled brat yuppie millennial hell-baby offspring. And so on. These newfangled means of communications mean you need someone watching you using it at all times lest your worst nightmares come true. As long as your worst nightmares stem from McMillan and Wife plots from the 70s.

“In my day, you’d jus’ drop an extra piece with the seer-yull numbers filed down.”

But we are not here for criticism of the surveillance industrial complex’s many means of disseminating propaganda. No.


The other night CSI: Cyber featured a new type of test which merely matches your natural, and theoretically unique, combination of microbes that cover your skin. On it’s face, it seems like kind of a cool idea. And they actually use it, in the show, to stop someone from being framed. Real killer planted a phone. The forensic scientists show that the apparent owner never even touched it. Beautiful, right?

What if the killer had simply wiped it with an article of his frame-up target’s dirty clothing?

Worse, what if intelligence and law enforcement agencies start doing things like framing political activists by planting evidence?

This forensic method is real and there are lobbies pushing for its approval in courts of law.

ScienceDaily, “New hand bacteria study holds promise for forensics identification,” 16 March 2010:


The CU-Boulder study showed that “personal” bacterial communities living on the fingers and palms of individual computer users that were deposited on keyboards and mice matched the bacterial DNA signatures of users much more closely than those of random people. While the development of the technique is continuing, it could provide a way for forensics experts to independently confirm the accuracy of DNA and fingerprint analyses, says CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Noah Fierer, chief author on the study.

“Each one of us leaves a unique trail of bugs behind as we travel through our daily lives,” said Fierer, an assistant professor in CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department. “While this project is still in it’s preliminary stages, we think the technique could eventually become a valuable new item in the toolbox of forensic scientists.”

While in that piece they are talking about supplementing other evidence, somebody needs to tell PopSci.

Clay Dillow, ” Bacteria On Your Hands Could Become New Forensic Fingerprint,” PopSci, 16 March 2010:


Those bacteria could potentially become a damning forensic tool at crime scenes, allowing investigators to gather DNA information unique to a perpetrator even without recovering any of that person’s actual DNA.

Seems to me that this could in some ways make framing someone even easier. While it might not mistake one person’s mix for another as sometimes happens with DNA, what are all the ways it can be transferred? And with today’s out of control intelligence community.

Remember, kids: CIA wants your pubes for a reason.


Update 1: Added the PopSci article to show possible applications are not clear cut.


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