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National Briefing | West

California: Background Checks Blocked at NASA Lab

Published: June 4, 2009

Judges for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit let stand a 2008 decision that blocked extensive background checks for “low-risk” contract workers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. The decision, affecting 28 scientists and engineers, might be used more broadly to challenge the background checks, which are required throughout the federal government as part of a broad federal security push after Sept. 11. Dan Stormer, a lawyer for the scientists, called the decision “a defeat for the policies of the Bush administration, whose overreaching and whose willingness to ignore constitutional protections are really addressed directly.” Judges filed three dissents; Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld scoffed that “no revival of McCarthyism is threatened by allowing as much inquiry for hiring a Jet Propulsion Lab engineer as a barista.” A NASA spokesman said the agency was “reviewing the decision.”

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