JPL Scientists Gain Reprieve from Intrusive Investigations

10.08.07 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

A federal appeals court on Friday granted a temporary injunction blocking implementation of a policy that would require scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to undergo intrusive background investigations as a condition of continued employment.

The requirement stems from President Bush’s Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, under which all federal employees and contractors are obliged to obtain secure forms of federal identification.

As interpreted by NASA, this provision means that JPL employees must not only provide verifiable proof of identity, which all are willing to do, but must also accept an open-ended background investigation into their personal conduct.

Under the NASA standard, according to critics, “any investigator” from “any federal agency” would be permitted to collect “any information” regarding the employee.

Dozens of JPL scientists said no.

A lower court rejected their request for an injunction against the policy on October 3. But the appeals court granted it on October 5, until further proceedings can be held. For background on the case see here.

“We cannot drive scientists into our laboratories,” said President Truman in a September 13, 1948 speech to the AAAS, “but, if we tolerate reckless or unfair attacks, we can certainly drive them out.”