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Music Celebrities Shania Twain and Kanye West's Comments This Week Were Analyzed; MSNBC Host Joy Reid's Alleged Hack was Discussed; North and South Korean Talks; Trump Getting Credit for Talks; Joy Reid Homophobic Blogging; MSNBC Host Joy Reid, Hack Victim or Homophobe?; Online Family Tree Helps I.D. Serial Killer. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 28, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our views in the United States and around the world. Shania Twain and Kanye West set the internet on fire this week by merely saying positive things about Donald Trump. If consumers can't tolerate public figures to have different beliefs, are the thought police winning?
And when President Trump handed the reins - when President Obama handed the reins to President Trump, he warned the biggest problem would be the Korean Missile Threat. Now that North and South Korea are finally ending their conflict after 65 years, will Trump receive any credit from his political opponents? Jeff Greenfield is here to weigh in.
Plus depending on which side you're on, MSNBC anchor, Joy Reid is either the victim of a sinister hack or someone with a long history of homophobic writings. I want to know what does the evidence show?
And 30 years after his rampage of rape and murder, the Golden State Killer finally behind bars but he was caught using DNA matching from family tree websites. After a false match nailed the wrong guy, what does this mean for those of us researching our family trees online?
But first, this week the internet imploded over celebrities Kanye West and Shania Twain who dared to expressed some admiration for President Donald Trump. People are claiming they will now boycott their work and their concerts. Twain, a Canadian, felt compelled to apologize after telling "The Guardian" that if she could have she would have voted for Trump because of his forthrightness.
Twain's backtrack was four tweets long ending with my answer was awkward but certainly should not be taken as representative of my values nor does it mean I endorse him. I make music to bring people together. My path will always be one of inclusivity as my history shows. No doubt Twain panicked about possibly damaging her brand just as she embarks on a comeback tour.
And then came Kanye West. On Wednesday, here's what he tweeted, you don't have to agree with Trump, but the mob can't make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don't agree with everything anyone does. That's what makes us individuals and we have the right to independent thought.
Now meanwhile it was revealed by "The New York Times" this week that at a private meeting last fall of NFL owners and players about the National Anthem controversy, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie, when describing President Trump used a profanity to emphasize disastrous before adding don't quote me. This has me wondering if lovers of Shania Twain or Kanye West who don't' prove of the President see fit to walk away from recording artists from expressing a rather benign political opinion that has nothing to do with their work than will Philadelphia Eagles fans who voted for Trump similarly be expected to abandon the team because of Lurie's comments?
Where does that nutty thinking end? Are family members from the opposite side of the political aisle now to be excommunicated?
Should social circles be defined by red and blue colors? If you learn that your pet groomer, favorite restaurant owner, mechanic, exterminator, don't share your ballot preference, is that a reasonable grounds to abandon a business relationship? Is a teacher with a yard sign for a candidate you didn't support no longer fit to teach your kids? That Shania Twain would think that she needed to apologize for a vote she never cast for Donald Trump is a sad commentary on today's political incivility.
I say if you like Shania Twain's music or Kanye West's music, go listen to it. If you respect what the Super Bowl Champion Eagles accomplished on the gridiron, celebrate them, but to take out your political grievances on somebody's livelihood, that don't impress me much. I want to know what you think this hour. Go to my website at smerconish.com and answer this question now. Do Kanye West and Shania Twain have anything to apologize for regarding their pro Trump remarks?
So where is America's partisan identification on everything going to take us. Joining me now two great guests. Jonah Goldberg, Senior Editor of "The National Review." He's got a brand new book, "Suicide of the West; How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy." And "New York Times" reporter Amy Chozick who's new book is her memoir of the 2016 Clinton Campaign, "Chasing Hillary, Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns and One Intact
Glass Ceiling". Amy, there's no room for nuance, isn't that the takeaway from Shania Twain and Kanye West and something that you learned in chronicling Hillary Clinton?
AMY CHOZICK, AUTHOR: Absolutely. I mean I wrote a book that I think is sympathetic; it's incredibly honest about both my own mistakes and those of Hillary Clinton and her campaign. It's a really honest nuance portrayal, and the reaction has been very eye opening. I mean intense backlash from both sides. I think to your point we saw what happened to the Dixie Chicks. This isn't entirely new but we now live in a media environment in which you can consume news entirely based on your own biases. And this is exacerbating the problem that you only want to consume whether it's books or newspaper articles that confirm your existing biases.
SMERCONISH: Jonah, the tribalism that you write about in your book is that which presumably caused Shania Twain to make a business decision in thinking I better send out these four successive tweets and back off otherwise it will hurt me at the box office.
JONAH GOLDBERG, SENIOR EDITOR OF "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Look, I think Shania Twain probably made a silly mistake in tweeting about this -- about saying anything about who she'd vote for in another country to begin with and these tweets are kind of like Ron Burgundy in "Anchorman" after he jumps in the bear pit saying I immediately regret my decision.
But, part of the problem we have in our culture is we are increasingly seeing politics as entertainment and when we see politics as entertainment we root for villains and heroes in a way that our brains see everything as basically an us versus them story.
At the same time our entertainment is being politicized. One of the problems is you get people becoming spectators to everything in life and they view everything through this prism of Facebook and television and they're not actually living in their own communities, we tend to not only politicize your lifestyles, we turn our politics into a lifestyle and it becomes very difficult to see where the bright lines are and judge people based on their partisan affiliation in ways we never have before.
SMERCONISH: Right. Jonah, it's a lack of evidentiary thinking, and more of -- well tell me who's on both sides of the aisle. Oh, that person or that group opposes this? Then they pick their own side.
GOLDBERG: Right. In my book I call it exstatic shoddenfroid (ph). Right. There's this thing that something is worth doing only because it makes your enemies feel bad. You know, do it to own the Libs or your tears are delicious. And it doesn't matter what the policy is underlying the position, it's just simply I want to punish the other side because we're going to have this tribal mindset about all sorts of things these days.
SMERCONISH: Amy, from your book, the quote, they were never going to let me be President. Is that not part of the same conversation we're having?
CHOZICK: Well, right. That goes back to the 90's and Hillary Clinton's belief there's a vast right wing conspiracy working against her and her husband, and she has a long list of adversaries, some real and some imagined. But to me, as a public figure, she's always been sort of a barometer of this division. People want to see her either as a saint or a sinner, and the fact is that like all of us, she's some of both and very much in between.
SMERCONISH: I want to make the point that I think my blame is at both ends of the political spectrum on this and I'll illustrate my argument by showing you both a clip from 2006, Kanye West. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO) KANYE WEST, ENTERTAINER: The destruction of the people of the people
of southern Louisiana and Mississippi may not be the most tragic loss of all.
George Bush doesn't care about black people.
SMERCONISH: Jonah, that's the same Kanye West being embraced by the right today because now he's saying kind things about Donald Trump. It's only the here and now and which side you're on that matters.
GOLDBERG: Yes it's the nearest weapon to hand style of politics. And this is the point you got into in your column about Shania Twain. You know, it used to be if I asked you if were you a Republican or Democrat 40 years ago, I'd have to ask you follow-up questions to find out if you were liberal or conservative. Today the social science is pretty settled; partisan affiliation tells you more about someone than race, gender, ethnicity in many cases, or religion.
It's becoming a secular religion for people and part of it comes from this big sort that is upstream from Washington in our culture where we only want to associate with people who agree with us. We want only associate with people who share our values, and so any time there's somebody on the throne, as it were, who comes from a different value set, you just assume they've an existential enemy and go into a panic about it.
SMERCONISH: Amy, I'm going to get into the Joy Reid situation later in this program but I put it in the same category where it almost seems to matter not to some whether she uttered these statements. Instead, via her blog, instead it's oh she's on MSNBC and how
do I feel about that particular cable outlet.
CHOZICK: Oh absolutely. I sort of experienced this first hand because I covered Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama when I was the correspondent at "The Wall Street Journal" and all of the readers assumed I was conservative running around who hated Democrats. As soon as I switched to the "New York Times," it was the opposite. You have a liberal bias and you're in the tank for Hillary. There's very much this identity associated with these networks. I think some fair and some imagined.
SMERCONISH: Jonah, final word goes to you. On the Joy Reid relevance or not to this discussion that we're having.
GOLDBERG: I think Joy Reid has behaved poorly in this in the sense I think she probably wrote those things. There's all sorts of things I wrote 17 years ago that I'm embarrassed about. But the conspiratorial approach to this and counting on the fact her fans will go with her.
I flatly don't believe it's true there was hacking involved. But this assumption that you can put a story out for your fans and they will pick it up and believe it simply because of the sort of tribal attachment to your heroes and because you don't like her enemies. I think it is really kind of sad. She should have owned up to what she wrote, said I've matured since then and moved on.
SMERCONISH: I have read both of your books. They're terrific. Thank you for being here.
CHOZICK: Thanks for having me. Thanks.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? tweet me & smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. What do we have Kathryn?
Nope, they don't owe an apology but I don't owe them anything either. I would have unfollowed Kanye too but I didn't have to because obviously Lady Larue (ph) you weren't following him to begin with. My take it this, if you look Kanye West's music, if you like Shania Twain's music, then support it and if you don't then you don't. But to get so into it as to say, oh, they said something favorable or unfavorable about President Trump and now I'm going to take that out of my iPhone. I just think goes too far and where exactly does that thinking end? I want to know what you think. Go to my website at smerconish.com. Answer this question; do Kanye West and Shania Twain have anything to apologize for regarding their pro-Trump remarks? Won't it be interesting to see the results at this end of this hour?
Up ahead, North and South Korea finally ending their conflict after 65 years where the news comes on the watch of President Trump, will he ever receive any credit from political opponents? Jeff Greenfield is here to weigh in and as I was just mentioning MSNBC Host Joy Reid, under fire for homophobic posts on her old blog. She claims they're fake, the work of a hacker. What is the evidence suggest?
[09:16:44] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: History will be made with the Korean War finally comes to an end this July after 65 years. And even those who don't support President Trump might be willing to give him a smidgen of credit. When President Obama was leaving office he warned President Trump the North Korean Nuclear threat was likely to be the most urgent problem he would confront. So, how did Trump decide to handle it by belittling Kim Jong-un on Twitter. You'll remember as "Little Rocket Man", rattling people to the point where some were lobbying to have the President's Smartphone taken away.
But he seems to have succeeded at least temporarily. When we look back at this time will Trump have achieved an actual legacy in foreign policy. Or will his style forever prevent him from getting his just due. Joining me now legendary journalist at this network and many others Emmy winner Jeff Greenfield. Hey Jeff, this was another of those topsy turvey news weeks. But you'd have to say the optics of the North and South Korean leaders coming together was really pretty stunning and something that six months, a year ago, we would have believed could never happen. JEFF GREENFIELD, FORMER CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It reminds us once again that the visceral power of visual images can sometimes just dominate what we think about the news. You know, when we see - - you know, President Carter and - - and Sadat and Begin shaking hands. We know the world has changed. When Ronald Reagan and Mikahail Gorbachev are walking the streets of Washington something about that tells every veteran of the Cold War, wow, something's different. And those - - those pictures - - that picture of - - of - - of the two leaders of the Koreas stepping over that concrete barrier immediately makes you think wow something has changed.
What - - what has to happen is a kind of - - we're sober remembrance that the Presidents are the leaders of the two Koreas met 18 years ago and that was supposed to heal things. We've - - in some sense what I'm saying is, we do have to remember that in the past American Presidents have been Charlie Brown and North Korea has been Lucy with the football. And that picture should both encourage us given what we thought might be happening a few months ago, but also remind us that beyond the picture there's some really serious stuff - - you know, before we actually can celebrate a genuine change. You know, a prominent change in that peninsula.
SMERCONISH: OK. And the biggest optics I'm - - I'm so glad that you framed this the way that you just have. The biggest optics presumably are yet to come when it's President Trump with Kim. What are you expecting from that moment?
GREENFIELD: Well I'm - - I'm - - again I'm expecting an enormous amount of gee whiz, look at this, whoever thought this would be possible. And sometimes in the past, those kinds of pictures have told us something really important. President Nixon greeting Mao Tse- tung in Beijing. That was a see change. The - - the question is whether or not that picture which will dominate every front page and every television network and every Smartphone is actually the precursor to something that genuinely changes the conditions on the ground. In other words, I think the President - - he's already - - seems to think that Kim has agreed to denuclearization.
By which he means he's going to get rid of all of his nuclear weapons first. That has not been the position of North Korea ever. And the question then is after the handshakes, what happens when the two of them sit down and actually try to hammer out an agreement. And that's why - - that's why the picture can sometimes not only be 1,000 words by several hundred words that may not be accurate in terms of what's really going on.
SMERCONISH: I want to share with you an observation in the Times today. Can we put that up on the screen so I can read it to Jeff? About an apparent inconsistency between the Iranian posture and that with the Korean peninsula. Quote, "By pledging to break one nuclear deal just as he enters negotiations for another, Mr. Trump risks sending the message that American promises are empty. Giving adversaries little reason to make concessions." The point being Jeff, that there's some risk involved here for President Trump in the way that he's handling this. This is not a certain win. GREENFIELD: Right. But I have to say that I think compared to what a - a lot of folks were fearing several months ago. That we were virtually on the edge of a genuine confrontation, war confrontation, the fact that something seems to have changed. Even if it's just a - - an effort by North Korea to try to pull the wool over our eyes again. You know, if - - if you measure these things more modestly that is - - that's better. I think it's Winston Churchill's famous line, you know, "Jaw, jaw is better that war, war." And I - - I noticed to your point that you made in the introduction, that both writers in the Washington Post and the New York Times have said, yes.
I think Trump deserves some credit for moving Kim - - moving North Korea toward a more - - at least apparent effort at some kind of accommodation, you know. And you trace that back to the Olympics, to the fact that China seems to have - - have pushed North Korea. It's very hard. It - - it - - it kind of reminds me of what you guys just talked about in the earlier segment. I think for some people it is so hard to look at the way Trump has behaved, which Lord knows it's worthy of much criticism, and - - and even come to the conclusion that on anything. Well maybe on this he - - he - - his instincts maybe bearing some fruit. That's hard sometimes. And it's very hard in a time of polarization.
For one side to say, yes, when you go - - go back and look at, you know, what kind of credit if any did any Republican ever give Barack Obama for anything in eight years. So that's kind of where we are in - - in - - in the domestic response to this. But I thought it was interesting that a couple of voices in anti-Trump publication if you will said yes, he gets some points for this.
SMERCONISH: Yes. I see it all related in the same conversation with Jonah and with Amy and now having with Jeff Greenfield. This tribalism has gotten the best of - - of two many of us. Hey Jeff Greenfield, thank you for being here. You know we appreciate your perspective.
GREENFIELD: OK. Pleasure to join you.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying via my Twitter and Facebook pages. What do we have Katherine? From Facebook, how wonderful President Trump ended the Korean War, Stacy Lewis Felt. Hey Stacy, I'm - - I'm willing to give him credit for the current posture of events. I don't want to be premature. We're not there yet. But I for one am - - am willing to say, I think that his posture with regard to Kim probably scared the hell out of him and is reminiscent to me of how the Iranian hostages came home. Literally as Ronald Reagan was being sworn in. Because I believe the Ayatollah didn't want to have to deal with the cowboy. That's how I size it up.
One more if I've got time. What is it? Smerconish, Trump deserves no credit for bringing North Korea to the table. He only inflamed the situation and took it to a level headed South Korean President to get Kim Jong-un to consider ending Korean War. But Miles, would this all have happened if - - if Secretary Clinton had been elected President? Are you saying that - - that everything was already in motion to bring this about. Then I would say why didn't it happen on President Obama's watch. Just asking.
Up ahead, TV host Joy Reid under fire for now deleted homophobic blog posts from over a decade ago. But will her claim that a hacker wrote them prove to be a bigger problem, and, unbelievable story. A California serial killer from 30 years ago finally captured via crime scene DNA. But is it a problem for the rest of us that law enforcement found the match using genealogy websites.
[09:24:40] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[09:28:57] SMERCONISH: Depending on who you believe, MSNBC anchor Joy Reid is either the victim of a sinister hack or someone with a long history of homophobic writings. Reid came under scrutiny this week for recently unearthed posts on her defunct blog from the 2000's that were first tweeted out by somebody called Jamie Maz (ph). Reid appeared to crassly mock gay celebrities, defend homophobia as intrinsic to straight people and implied that gay advocacy groups prey upon impressionable teens. The post variously insinuated things about Karl Rove, Charlie Crist, even Judge Harriet Miers.
Another example, quote, "Here's your chance to watch sparks fly as FNC's Sean Hannity get a good topping off from his very favorite, ogrish love sponge Vice-President Dick Cheney. In writing about homophobic remarks about NBA star Tim Hardaway she opined most straight people cringe when they see two men kissing. When certain posts first surfaced last year, she apologized saying she'd evolved since then. But with the newly discovered posts she claimed they're fakes, and that her former blog was hacked.
Reid's attorney announced that the FBI had opened an investigation into potential criminal activities surrounding several online accounts including personal e-mail and blog.
Yet, as experts and journalists investigated her claims are being hacked are not panning out. Leading me to wonder if this is going to be another situation where the cover-up could end up having more consequence than the initial act itself.
Reactions are all over the place and seem to be falling along partisan lines, not evidentiary ones. Sex advice columnist Dan Savage tweeted, "Allegedly Joy Reid wasn't great on gay issues 10 years ago is a really stupid battle to be engaged in only complete f-ing idiots."
My earlier guest, Jonah Goldberg of the "National Review," tweeted, "I wrote some things 17 years ago I'm embarrassed by. I'd be even more embarrassed if I find myself claiming that hackers made them up. Just apologize or recant or stand by what you wrote. But this stuff is sad."
Then the "Daily Beast," which Reid herself writes for, reported, "Claims by Joy Reid's cyber security expert fall apart," which led the "Intercept's" Glenn Greenwald to tweet, "Joy Reid's own magazine published a scathing report proving the hacking tale she told is based on an utter farce." Despite that, we have Democrats today tweeting, "I stand with Joy."
Just spend a minute pondering what those Democrats are saying about themselves.
My next guest is a computer expert who has researched all of this. Joining me now is Michael Nelson, professor of computer science at Old Dominion University.
Professor, dumb it down for me because I've read in on this but it gets very technical in a hurry. I want to know what does the evidence show relative to her having been hacked?
MICHAEL L. NELSON, PROFESSOR OF COMPUTER SCIENCE, OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY: Yes. So the evidence that we can find in the Web archives do not support her version of events. So there are several posts in question, and I won't go over all of the posts, but I've read the letters that her lawyer sent to both Google and the Internet archive, and for one example that we can discuss in some detail, there was a post from 2006, January 1st -- excuse me, January 11th, and in that post, there are two posts that her lawyers argue that she did not write.
So there are copies of that post in the Internet archive which have since been redacted using something called a robots .txt exclusion protocol from Joy Reid's camp. But the key issue is a copy of that page still exists in another Web archive, in this case the Library of Congress Web archive, so we can go and inspect that page, and one of the things that we see is the window of opportunity, if there were a targeted hack, is as small as less than 30 minutes for a hacker to go in, change the content, have the Internet archive make a copy of that page, and in 2006, you could not control when the Internet archive came to visit your page.
You can do that now, but not then. So the window of opportunity for this hack to have occurred and nobody to have noticed, including Joy Reid and other people controlling the blog, it does not seem like a likely explanation of events.
SMERCONISH: If the 2006 blog that you're referring to were hacked, would it have been hacked recently? Or hacked back in 2006? Or don't you know?
NELSON: So this is actually a really important point. And I think a lot of people don't understand the difference between the kinds of crawling that Google does and what a Web archive like the Internet archive does. So when the Internet archive or other Web archives visit a page they make a snap shot of it and index it under the date that it was visited. In this case, January 11th, 2006.
They might come and visit it later, and we might get additional snapshots of that page. But they would be indexed under the time that they were visited, which, so if they visited a year later in 2007, the content would be from 2006, but it'd be indexed under 2007. Google, on the other hand, every time it visits a page it overwrites the index with the latest content. This is important because if the blog were hacked, say, in 2007 or '08 and the post back dated, which you can do, so in 2008, it could have been hacked for example and said this post appeared in 2006. It would show up under the 2008 version of the Internet archives copy of that page, not the 2006.
[09:35:02] So the Internet archive is actually the tool that allows us to establish when certain pages were observed by an independent party. And to the extent that we can no longer see the full contents of what's in the Internet archive in part because someone in Joy Reid's camp has put a robots .txt to block that, it becomes harder to establish when certain posts were made and how they persisted over time.
SMERCONISH: Let me see if I have it. A snapshot is essentially taken in real time or close thereafter so that if there were a hack taking place more recently you'd be able to compare these two images. I think that's what you're saying.
NELSON: That is correct. It's like taking a picture so if I take a picture of a building and then the next month that building is vandalized or spray paint, the spray paint doesn't show up on my picture. Right? So the picture, the snapshot shows the building that particular point in time but anything that happens to that building is not reflected in the snapshots that we have indexed under the time where the images were taken.
SMERCONISH: And if she were a victim of a hack back then, you would have expected her in 2006 to say something about it. Perhaps the reason she said nothing in 2006 is because they were her words and not those of a hacker.
NELSON: That seems like the most likely explanation. So sometimes blogs are hacked or vandalized, but if you are interacting with the blog a lot, you would notice this and edit that content out. And often this is in terms of comments so you just delete them. But if somebody's actually entering your site and changing the content, the first thing you do is change your password.
So the fact that we don't have any contemporary 2006 era notes about this was blocked, I've removed a post that was incorrectly stated, suggests that it was actually a legitimate post that stayed over time.
I'd like to also point out --
NELSON: -- that she at this time was a prolific blogger and blogging as many as 10 times per day. So the idea that it was hacked and it wasn't noticed doesn't seem to hold up either because if you're checking on something 10 times a day you would notice fraudulent content.
SMERCONISH: OK. That's what I wanted. Dispassionate, evidentiary thinking, not left, not right. Not Republican, not Democratic. So thank you for that, Professor.
NELSON: Thank you, Michael. Thanks for having me.
SMERCONISH: Let me check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. Time for one, I think we've got. What is it?
"Leave her alone. Gucifer the Russian hacker. She could never say those horrible things."
Bartholomew, Chief of the Boat, I'd like to see your boat, by the way. I think the professor just made a pretty compelling case that it was not a hack that brought this about which begs the question of why then just not own up to it if that's accurate? We'll see how it plays out.
I want to remind you, answer the survey question at Smerconish.com right now. I cannot wait to see the result. Do Kanye West and Shania Twain have anything to apologize for regarding their pro-Trump remarks?
Still to come the Golden State Killer finally behind bars 30 years after his rampage of rape and murder. But the way he was caught could have implications for any of us sending our DNA to a genealogy Web site.
[09:43:20] SMERCONISH: A serial killer on the loose for decades was finally apprehended this week. Great news, right? But the way the so-called Golden State Killer was identified also poses a possible privacy threat for the rest of us.
Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former police officer, was arrested outside his Sacramento home on Tuesday. He's expected to face charges in 12 homicide cases in several California counties, part of a rape and slaying spree that lasted from 1974 to 1986.
The Golden State killer tormented his victims with sadistic rituals, some he shot and killed. Others were bludgeoned to death. He wore a mask, he bound his victim's hands.
Law enforcement identified DeAngelo using DNA obtained at one of the crime scenes but there was no match in the FBI's national DNA data base or in the state of California's. The clue instead came from an amateur genealogy Web site WhySearch.org. They compared their sample to 189,000 online genetic profiles uploaded by people seeking family tree information.
At first, however, they identified the wrong man, a sickly 73-year- old. They eventually located DeAngelo using a different site, GEDmatch, the site which is never advertised lets users upload DNA profiles obtained from companies such as Ancestry.com to expand the search for relatives. Investigators uploaded the crime scene DNA profile to GEDmatch using a fake profile and pseudonym. They then found a distant relative of DeAngelo before narrowing it down.
So what does this mean for the millions of us who are looking to learn about our ancestry and relatives who've sent their DNA swabs to one of these companies or those who get tested at hospitals for possible genetic predisposition to diseases?
[09:45:09] Are they unwittingly going into a registry accessed by law enforcement?
Joining me now former FDA associate commissioner Peter Pitts who's now president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. He published this piece in "Forbes." "The Privacy Delusions of Genetic Testing."
So, Peter, I am one who in pursuit of my family tree has given a swab. Was it in the fine print somewhere that I overlooked that it could have this ramification?
PETER PITTS, FORMER ASSOCIATE COMMISSIONER, FDA: Well, when you check "I agree" at the bottom of these sites you're basically giving a lot of these companies the ability to share or sell your data to a variety of sources. So I guess the two key words here -- unintended consequences. You know, these tests are more than just fun things to chat about at work or share at a memorial day barbecue. They have serious consequences in that we saw on the one hand it can be used for good to capture a criminal but it can also used for ill.
Imagine if your genetic information is stolen. If you think having people steal your Social Security number is bad, imagine genetic theft on the genetic level.
SMERCONISH: Something that occurs to me after reading your piece in "Forbes," by checking the box I'm not only impacting myself. I'm impacting my family. Right? I'm now essentially putting all of us into a database.
PITT: That's exactly right because your generic code is also going to implicate or identify other members of your family. So in a lot of these websites say your information can't be identified, that's not necessarily true. There have been many examples most recently out of MIT that show that you can pretty easily re-identify data an itemized data. So you're not only putting yourself but your immediate family as well.
SMERCONISH: So how do we strike a balance? Because of course, we're all celebrating the fact that presumably they've got the right guy through this DNA break through, but at the same time, you know, I worry about the big brother implications. And, as I understand there's no regulation of any of this.
PITT: Well, it's like -- that's exactly right. There's the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, the GINA act of 2008 that makes it illegal for employers for example to use genetic information to discriminate against employees but you're not supposed to discriminate against employees on -- based on race or gender or sexual orientation but people get discriminated against all the time. And this is now a new way that that can be done. So I think that there may be a role for government.
You don't want to stymie scientific information. This is important stuff. But on the other hand, you don't want it abused. So I think regulation with a light hand and certainly, you know, more robust self--regulation by a lot of this genetic companies so that we could be more certainly about the security mechanisms that are guarding where we are because if these Web sites get hacked and all of a sudden identifiers millions of generic information identifiers are out there, wow, that's a bad proposition.
SMERCONISH: So the trial lawyer in the -- upon first learning of this aspect of the story thought HIPAA. Is this not a HIPAA violation?
PITT: Well, I certainly think that it should be. I mean, we have to agree here that it's wonderful that they caught this monster but you won't be able to catch people using evidence that's actually usable in court. You know, clearly this is somebody's private information. No permission was granted. Before they got the right guy, they got the wrong guy who's actually lying in a hospital bed.
PITT: And they swabbed his cheek. So I guess you can't discriminate against people at work but it's OK to walk into an elderly man's hospital bed and swab the inside of his cheek, get information. So there are a lot of unanswered questions. It's not -- this is not a parlor game, it's not science fiction. It's real, it's happening right now. And we have to have some real solid legal precedence, otherwise criminals that are caught using this type of data are going to be set free on appeal and that would be a disaster.
SMERCONISH: Hey, one other thing. Apparently they used this guy's disposable DNA. I suppose that means he threw away a cigarette or can of soda or some such thing to which there were no privacy implications.
PITT: That's right. You know, if you don't swab somebody's cheek but they threw down a coffee cup and you could get DNA off of that or tissue, I don't know the legal ramifications but you'd have to be really careful about not only leading papers out or leave your computer on, and not putting a security code on your e-mail, but now what's happening to your personal bodily fluids in hospital rooms.
SMERCONISH: Peter, nicely done. Thanks for being here.
PITT: My pleasure. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Sill to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments like this one. "Smerconish, if you didn't do anything wrong in your life don't worry about submitting your DNA to genealogy Web sites. Period. It's the 21st century. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."
Yes, really? What about crimes against humanity? What about ethnic cleansing? What about when the wrong actors get control of that data? I mean, that's the concern. Right? It's not a concern that I have in the here and the now, but you need to be worried about where it all might lead.
Coming up, I will give you the final results of the survey question.
[09:50:01] I love this one. I have no idea where this is headed. Do Kanye West and Shania Twain have anything to apologize for regarding their pro-Trump remarks. Go vote at Smerconish.com. The results are upcoming.
SMERCONISH: All right. Let's see how you responded to the survey at Smerconish.com. Do Kanye West and Shania Twain have anything to apologize for regarding their pro-Trump remarks?
Survey says, 7,847 votes. Oh great, that's the right answer. No, no say 71 percent of us. I mean, if they said something hateful for or against the president, but hate inspired, then I'd be saying apologize for it.
[09:55:05] But that's the right outcome. Only people who don't participate have something to apologize for.
What have we got, Katherine? Real quick. "I unfriended everyone I knew who supported Trump. Family, lifelong friends, everyone. I want nothing to do with homophobic, sexist, morons. It's my right as an American."
Hey, Francine, it's your right but you're in a bubble now. You're interacting people and you're not going to bring about change. Candidly you're part of the problem.
One more quickly. "Joy Ann Reid segment changed my mind. She needs to take responsibility for those writings."
I liked our guests. It was evidence based, straightforward and devoid of partnership.
Thanks so much for watching. You can catch up with us at any time on CNNGo or on demand. I'll see you next week.