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JPL employees challenge Bush administration on background check policy
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08:20, August 31, 2007

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Scientists and engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory filed a lawsuit Thursday, challenging what they call the U.S. government's invasive background checks into their personal lives, including their sexual orientations.

At issue is a 2004 executive order signed by President George W. Bush requiring federal agencies and facilities to institute an identification badge.

The 28 plaintiffs allege the Bush administration is requiring them to consent to broad written waivers permitting investigators to obtain records from their past employment files. They are all long-term employees of California Institute of Technology (Caltech) , which manages JPL for NASA.

According to Dan Stormer, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, federal investigators will also be allowed to question the employees' friends and associates about their emotional and financial well-being, as well as their sexual histories.

"They're being required to give up every personal record they have," he said. "It's just a despicable incursion into constitutionally protected rights."

The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction against implementing the background checks.

Stormer said the JPL scientists and engineers, some of whom worked on the recent space probe sent to Mars, are not employed by the federal government.

JPL employees have been informed that they must comply with the background checks by Sept. 28 or lose their jobs a month later.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are NASA, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Caltech. The Commerce Department contracts with Caltech for various services.

Stormer said that he is very confident the injunction will be granted, adding the background checks were part of the Bush administration's assault on the U.S. Constitution.

Source: Xinhua

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