Background Checks for NASA Scientists Blocked

By Matthew Harwood

A recent Bush Administration directive that would require scientists holding non-sensitive positions at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to submit to background checks and answer questionnaires was blocked by a federal appeals court on Friday, reports the Associated Press.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued the emergency temporary injunction requested by the 28 employees after a lower court denied the request Wednesday. The lab, managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology, has about 5,000 employees.

"As far as we can determine in the short time available, appellants likely raise serious legal and constitutional questions and show the probability of irreparable harm. What is quite clear is that the balance of hardships tips strongly in their favor," the court said.

The court also said another issue was that the scientists have been employees of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for "many years" while the government has been "considering the planning the implementation of the new requirements for well over a year."

The scientists say they had up until last Friday to cede to background checks and questionnaires or they would have been fired.

NASA has said all it is doing is following a government-wide background check policy for all civil servants and contractors.

The temporary injunction lasts until October 12 or until further order of the court, whichever comes first, said the court's ruling.

Read the federal appeals court's ruling here.



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