Caltech Scientists Sue NASA Over Mandatory Background Checks
By Edvard Pettersson
Aug. 31 (Bloomberg) -- A group of California Institute of
Technology scientists and engineers sued the U.S. government,
saying new background checks by the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration violate their constitutional rights.
The scientists must submit to ``an open-ended background
investigation'' and a determination of their suitability for
their jobs based on ``wrong-headed and/or dangerously vague
criteria such as sexual orientation,'' they said yesterday in a
complaint in Los Angeles federal court.
The 28 scientists and engineers who sued work at the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, operated by
Caltech for NASA. The laboratory runs missions such as the Mars
Rover project. None of the scientists, some of whom have worked
at JPL more than 20 years, have security clearances or work with
classified material, they said in the complaint.
``NASA will be deprived of talented scientists and engineers
who will be deterred from applying to work at JPL because of the
newly required background investigation and waiver of privacy
rights, both of which are antithetical to the type of autonomy
and academic freedom needed to maintain JPL's status as the
preeminent research institution for space exploration,'' the
The requirements are part of a uniform identification system
for federal employees in the executive branch, David Mould, a
NASA spokesman in Washington, said. He declined to comment on the
claims in the suit.
The case is Nelson v. NASA, 07-5669, U.S. District Court,
Central District of California (Los Angeles).
To contact the reporter on this story:
Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles
at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Last Updated: August 31, 2007 16:11 EDT