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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Supreme Court conceal toward NASA on privacy .….

The U.S. Supreme Court restrict the government's ability to investigate the people who want to work inside its installations in the post-9/11 world, despite the suggestion that federal officials could go too far when prying into people's private lives in name of safety.

The high court heard arguments from government contractors at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, who are fighting the government's request to have them submit to what they call intrusive background checks as a condition of their continued employment.

The case could have ramifications far beyond NASA.

"It's a big government, adding the government cannot be expected to individualize background checks to avoid asking questions one person might find intrusive while another might not.

An applicant might have a yard sign proclaiming a wish for the space shuttle to blow u.But with "low-risk or no-risk employees, the government doesn't need to know,"

JPL is NASA's premier robotics lab, famous for sending unmanned spacecraft to Mars and the outer solar system.

Employees said the agency was invading their privacy by requiring the investigations, which included probes into medical records.

None of the JPL workers who sued work on classified projects or have security clearances, although several are involved in high-profile missions, including the twin Mars rovers and the Cassini spacecraft studying Saturn and its moons.

NASA extended background checks for federal employees to its contract workers in response to a presidential directive that ordered government agencies to reinforce security at facilities and computer systems by issuing new identification badges for millions of civil servants and contractors.

A federal judge originally refused to stop NASA's background checks, saying they could continue while the lawsuit made its way through the courts. He was overturned by the San Francisco-based appeals court.

The contractors pointed to a chart that showed up on NASA's website after they asked about the criteria for employment decisions. Some of the factors that showed up on that chart to be considered in deciding whether to hire someone included carnal knowledge, sodomy, indecent exposure.

"NASA does not and will not use" that chart when it comes to making employment decisions.