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HSPD-12 personnel issues

The LA Times has a fascinating story this morning -- a group of scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are filing a lawsuit over the HSPD-12 background checks.

JPL scientists sue to block security checks for staff [LAT, 8.31.2007]

The group says the background checks would access too much personal information.

A group of 28 scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory filed suit in federal court Thursday to block implementation of a Bush administration directive requiring new background checks for employees.

The employees, including senior scientists who have worked on projects including the Voyager missions and the Cassini mission to Saturn, say they will lose their jobs unless they consent to allow the government to scrutinize such things as their sexual history.

"Our clients are exemplary employees who have spent their work lives bettering this country. This attack on their right to privacy will not be tolerated," said Dan Stormer of the Hadsell & Stormer law firm in Pasadena.

The class-action lawsuit seeks a court order that would prevent JPL, in La Cañada Flintridge, and NASA from imposing the new security background requirements. A hearing on the request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for Sept. 24.

JPL and other NASA centers have been ordered to issue new badges to federal employees and their nongovernmental workforce under a 2004 executive order, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12. To obtain the badges, employees must be fingerprinted, fill out a questionnaire and authorize access to some personal information.

FCW gave an early peek into some of the personnel issues that HSPD-12 was causing in our July 19 HSPD-12 package.

This story in particular:

It's hand-holding time [FCW, 7.19.2007]
Employees facing background checks will need reassurance and training to help them adjust to the new smart cards

Update: FCW reporter Wade-Hahn Chan got a copy of the suit and filed we have filed a story as well.

It is interesting because the LA Times story quotes David Mould, a NASA spokesman here in DC, as saying "he was unaware of any organized opposition to the new security requirements at NASA's other centers in Texas, Florida, Ohio and elsewhere." In fact, while feds understand the need for security, many are uncomfortable with the provisions of HSPD-12.

And NASA is taking a horrible "take it or leave it" attitude on the issue.

This from the LA Times story:

David Mould, a NASA spokesman in Washington, said JPL employees were being treated no differently than other executive branch workers.

"We're implementing this with all other federal agencies," he said. "These are standard background checks."

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, in a meeting with employees June 4, said the increased security was a direct result of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He said the agency would not budge on the new security order.

"We will miss those folks" who do not comply with the order, he said. "That is their choice."

Ah, enlightened management. I'm sure that Griffin and NASA's leadership will take a moment to actually listen to the concerns before writing them off.

I just have a suspicion that the issue is larger than most government officials think it is, and if they don't handle this carefully, it could become a real problem.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Aug 31, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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