Court considers dismissing JPL HSPD-12 lawsuit

NASA contractors who are suing the government over Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 identification cards could face a motion to dismiss this case Jan. 11.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory employees sued the government and the California Institute of Technology, which oversees JPL, because of background checks required for the issuance of the cards. The employees say the checks would invade their privacy.

HSPD-12 requires all government employees and contractors to be issued standardized ID cards. The plaintiffs believe that they do not need a full background check because they do not have a security clearance and do not work on classified projects.

The Justice Department, which runs the HSPD-12 background checks, filed the motion to dismiss Nov. 21, 2007, saying the possibility of privacy invasion is low. Caltech filed a separate motion the same day asking to be released from the case, saying it had nothing to do with the background check process and shouldn’t be held accountable for it.

The hearing on the motion to dismiss the case comes as a temporary injunction allowing the employees to avoid the background checks remains in place.

The U.S. District Court judge presiding over the case originally denied the injunction, saying that the employees were required only to sign an authorization form that would not cause harm to them. But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided Dec. 5, 2007, that there was sufficient cursory evidence to show possible privacy concerns and temporarily granted an injunction.

The JPL plaintiffs said they were unsure what would happen next if the appeals court didn’t come to a decision by Jan. 11. They said the hearing could be postponed, or the judge could continue with it but postpone a decision until after the appeals court makes its decision.

“We cannot predict what will happen, and we do not know whether the Ninth Circuit will issue its ruling before the Friday hearing,” the JPL plaintiffs said on their Web site.

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