Judge: NASA workers must submit to background checks

The 28 NASA scientists and researchers suing the government over Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 background checks will not be able to avoid the deadline their employer imposed for submitting initial paperwork authorizing the checks.

On Oct. 3, the U.S. District Court judge handling the case rejected a request for a preliminary injunction by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory employees. The California Institute of Technology — where the JPL employees work — required that the workers fill out the paperwork by today.

“The argument that plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm by signing an authorization form is without merit,” Judge Otis Wright said.

The JPL workers sued NASA and CalTech over the HSPD-12 background checks, saying they are intrusive.

On Oct. 1, Wright expressed interest in granting a partial injunction that would bar NASA from asking the workers if they had taken drugs. He said he didn’t want to see the JPL employees hurt, but also didn’t want “sleepers infiltrating NASA or the JPL.”

HSPD-12, which calls for the issuance of smart identification cards to all government employees and contractors, requires that employees undergo National Agency Check and Inquiries background checks. If the workers do not have HSPD-12 cards by Oct. 27, they may be terminated by their employers.

The JPL employees’ lawyers filed an emergency appeal Oct. 3 to block the background check paperwork.

“We are obviously disappointed at Judge Wright's refusal to protect our privacy rights; however, our hopes have been raised by the appeal efforts of our attorneys,” said Robert Nelson, lead plaintiff.

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