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JPL Background Check Case Reaches Supreme Court 112

Posted by timothy
from the faster-boys-if-you-want-your-pay dept.
Dthief writes "A long-running legal battle between the United States government and a group of 29 scientists and engineers of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has now reached the US Supreme Court." At issue: mandatory background checks for scientists and engineers working at JPL, which they allege includes snooping into their sexual orientation, as well as their mental and physical health.
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JPL Background Check Case Reaches Supreme Court

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  • by BitterOak (537666) on Friday March 12, 2010 @11:52PM (#31461552)

    And TFA doesn't provide much enlightenment. They claim it's a violation of their privacy, but it isn't unusual for government jobs to require background checks. There's no constitutional right to work at JPL. Even if the employees concerned do not handle classified data, they do work at a lab where classified information is kept and highly secret defense projects take place. If they think their background checks are intrusive, they should see what White House employees had to go through in the Obama administration.

    If they're that concerned about their privacy, maybe they should work elsewhere.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 12, 2010 @11:58PM (#31461586)

      I am also not entirely sure what the issue is, but it could be something like this: JPL, as an EO employer, cannot discriminate based on sex, race, sexual orientation, etc. Therefore any background checks that are done should not be explicitly seeking out information on, for instance, whether they are gay or not unless there is some outside relevance (eg, their gay S/O is a known terrorist or something). If the background checks /were/ screening for sexual orientation without cause, I can see where they might get uppity about privacy concerns and the like.

      Also, low-level clearances (Secret, for example) are basically just a criminal background check and a quick sweep over the government databases to make sure you're not someone /obviously/ bad. There'd be no reason whatsoever to stick in "are you gay?" to that level of check.

      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @12:34AM (#31461796) Journal

        I am also not entirely sure what the issue is,

        Scientists working in the lab on unclassified and non-sensitive research are objecting to an invasive background check.

        If the background checks /were/ screening for sexual orientation without cause, I can see where they might get uppity about privacy concerns and the like.

        The reason sexuality and sexual activity is part of a background check is because, in the past, it has been used to blackmail individuals into disclosing classified and sensitive information.

        Background checks aren't just snooping for red flags.
        All that information gets considered together and used to make a risk assesment.
        To the government, a guy secretly cheating on his wife can be just as risky as a closeted homosexual.

        • Actually, the probability of being blackmailed goes up significantly once the government has access to the information.

          A lot of this stuff comes from the cold war era and is rarely re-evaluated for efficacy.

          • by TheMidget (512188) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @05:06AM (#31462800)

            Actually, the probability of being blackmailed goes up significantly once the government has access to the information.

            ... and the probability goes up once the government cares about this information. Indeed, if being gay can get you fired or will harm your career, then any "bad" guy could threaten to reveal this info to the government.

            If, on the other hand, the government doesn't care, that'll leave only decompilers.

            • Indeed, if being gay can get you fired or will harm your career, then any "bad" guy could threaten to reveal this info to the government.

              I'm not surprised the employer wants to know, simply to compare the reality (as seen by an investigation) to what you tell them and to what you tell the world. In a place and time where there is discrimination against some concealable characteristic you may possess (whether sexual or religious or genetic or something else like a criminal uncle or a youthful DUI), you may feel like hiding that. If you do so, then someone who finds out can try to blackmail you, on the basis that 1) you want to keep your secre

        • And as a consequence of this filtering (if it's successful), only church-going, teetotaling heterosexual monogamists (or the undersexed) who have no political interests will be allowed employment. What they're really trying to promote is compliance to authority. In short, selecting exactly the kind of people who are likely to unquestioningly follow orders, no matter how criminal.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @01:42AM (#31462118)

        Also, low-level clearances (Secret, for example) are basically just a criminal background check and a quick sweep over the government databases to make sure you're not someone /obviously/ bad. There'd be no reason whatsoever to stick in "are you gay?" to that level of check.I agree with you completely.

        However, it would be nice if we could even find out what is included in the background check.

        As an example -- I am an amateur radio operator who would like to be of assistance in a disaster to help organizations like the American Red Cross. However, the haughty management at ARC, a couple of years back, took it upon themselves to mandate the imposition of a very intrusive background check on all employees -- and on all VOLUNTEERS.

        It is a three-part check -- criminal, credit and LIFESTYLE.

        What is that in aid of? They refuse to say what is included in the lifestyle check, beyond saying it's "not limited in scope". And you can be damned sure they will not tell you on what basis you may be rejected. They've obviously been sucked into the current DHS hysteria and think they can just lay on requirements and expect those affected to just knuckle under and accept their crap without question.

        The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) is a nationwide organization which covers issues affecting radio amateurs. As a result of the ARC's decision, the ARRL found it necessary to caution amateurs that they should carefully consider what they are giving permission for if they sign up as a volunteer. In further negotiations, the ARC apparently backed off the lifestyle requirement for people volunteering for seven days or less. (Pretty minor disaster, huh?).

        Here is a link to the ARRL statement on this issue

        http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/RC-Background-Checks0610.pdf [arrl.org]

        The ARRL takes no position recommending any specific action to be taken over this issue beyond cautioning potential volunteers to carefully consider the details of what they are authorizing. The link includes the high-handed language insisted upon by the company to which the investigation has been outsourced.

        Note that the doc is dated son\me two years ago. To the best of my knowledge, the situation has not yet been resolved to the point where the ARRL will sign a final MOU for co-operation with ARC.

        A later doc explaining the ARRL position, after further negotiation, is at http://www.arrl.org/announce/ARRL-ARC-bg-check.html [arrl.org]. Despite the ARRL backing down, the investigating company still asserts that you are consenting to investigations of unlimited scope.

        Raw intransigence, if you ask me.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          This [hspd12jpl.org][PDF Warning] is the "suitability matrix", their criteria. Notice that "sodomy" is a Class C (D being the worst) offense. Weren't the nations archaic sodomy laws struck down by the supreme court in 2003?
        • by iamwahoo2 (594922)
          You can find all the information included in a government background check here: http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf86.pdf [opm.gov] Sexual preference is not included. Identifying information like Male/Female is. There is a mental health section.
      • by Jeian (409916)

        With security clearances, sexual orientation only becomes a concern if the investigator thinks that it opens you up to blackmail or coercion.

      • Because some people fear it being revealed. Remember that a security clearance background check has one and only one question (which is why it's called a Single Scope Background Investigation): Is there something that could cause this person to give up secret information? Well that sort of check involves some obvious things, like if you are affiliated with a foreign government in any way, and if you have large debts and so on. However it also involves less obvious things, but things that could be used as le

        • by TheMidget (512188)

          So, they don't care if you are gay, they care if YOU care that you are gay.

          But by appearing to care if you are gay, they actually could cause you to be concerned, where you weren't concerned before. So, in the end, this "are you gay?" question might be quite counterproductive.

          A potential blackmailer now has an obvious place where he can threaten to reveal the info to.

      • by gardyloo (512791)

        Since when is Secret a "low-level clearance"? Yes, different agencies have different classification schemes, but Secret is nearly as high as one can get. Even Restricted and Confidential (the only two levels for which *I* have undergone background checks) required check-ups with friends and family by an FBI agent before I was granted need-to-know at that level.

        "Secret" level clearance requires a LOT of money (probably on the order of $50k - $150k) and at least several months (sometimes

        • by bware (148533)

          The great majority of people at JPL don't require any clearance at all. Only about 100 people out of 5000 need any sort of clearance, be it Secrit, Duper Super Secrit, or Pinky Swear. The point is, all 5000 would be required to undergo the background check, clearance or no.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by gardyloo (512791)

            I don't disagree. I work in a facility in which nuclear weapons and chemical/biological weapons research is done, but I am nowhere near it. The fact that all of the researchers have to go through nominal background investigations despite having nothing to do with the "behind-the-fence" stuff is pretty annoying. It makes life pretty difficult for everyone.

      • by jittles (1613415)

        Their sexual orientation DOES Matter and let me tell you why. Suppose they are closet heterosexual but are in a committed homosexual relationship. If some foreign power was able to determine that they're having an illicit love affair they could be blackmailed into giving out secrets. Imagine the shame and horror they would feel to have to tell everyone that they were really heterosexual when they haven't come out of the closet yet.

        I've gone through background checks and they look for ANYTHING that could

      • by milkmage (795746)

        ...well, let's say you're a closeted homosexual with access to classified information. that could put you in a position to be blackmailed. someone threatens to out you if you don't give them whatever they want.

        it doesn't make it OK.. just a little easier to understand.

        your sexual orientation probably doesn't determine your eligibility for a job, but i assume it's a factor in the level of clearance you get.

        i had to answer similar questions for a friend of mine who's MOS was intelligence (in the Air Force). s

    • by shoota (834369) on Friday March 12, 2010 @11:58PM (#31461588)
      JPL employees are not federal employees. Rather they are employees of Caltech which is contracted by NASA to run JPL. The federal government owns all of the equipment and facilities, but Caltech is in charge of the personnel.
      • by kriston (7886) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @12:22AM (#31461738) Homepage Journal

        It still does not matter. The customer is the US Government. They want contractors to abide by certain rules including security clearance vetting. These do not involve sexual orientation but they do involve blackmail risks which is perfectly reasonable for them to be concerned about.

        If you do not agree with security clearances you should not work for entities that require them. They really do not care about sexual orientation. They only care about exploitation risks. It really is that simple. The question is: can you be extorted? It's a valid question. It needs to be addressed.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          These jobs do not involve security clearances. RTFA please.

          Much more at plaintiffs' http://hspd12jpl.org.

          • by kriston (7886)

            I didn't say they required security clearances, but they do require security clearance vetting. It's not the same thing.
            RTFP, please.

        • by jrumney (197329)

          They really do not care about sexual orientation. They only care about exploitation risks.

          That was my thought. In certain jobs that involve national security, openly gay employees are fine, but closet homosexuals are at risk of blackmail (along with employees with anything else they want to hide from those close to them).

        • by Vellmont (569020)


          The question is: can you be extorted? It's a valid question. It needs to be addressed.

          No, it's not a valid question. Extorted for what? These guys work for JPL [nasa.gov], which works on such projects such as the Mars Rover.

          "Tell me the composition of rock 153 on mars... or I'll tell the world you're a fagot!"
          "Tell me the composition of the Jovian moon Titan... or I'll tell the world you're a former alcoholic!"
          "Give me pictures of the nursery nebula taken by the wild field camera on Hubble... or I'll tell

        • If you do not agree with security clearances you should not work for entities that require them.

          Bingo! But what you fail to take into account is that the government CHANGED ITS MIND after DECADES of not requiring background checks. In fact, many of the scientists chose those jobs specifically because they did not want to suffer a background check. What's particularlly damning is that there has been no new threats to justify the change in security policy, if anything risk has been reduced over the years, not increased.

    • In other words. What has sexual orientation got to do with security?
      • by timmarhy (659436)
        i'm not sure they have hard evidence of that. i'm pretty sure the gubberment looked long and hard into their life as a whole though.
      • If they are trying to keep their sexual orientation a secret, and someone blackmails them to provide (or sell) classified information or else their sexual orientation will be revealed, then it becomes a security issue. If they're not trying to hide anything, then it's a non-issue.
        • I'm sure there are plenty of people in high places who want to keep extra-marital affairs secret but I doubt they would resort to treason to do so.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @12:51AM (#31461870)

      There's no constitutional right to work at JPL.

      STOP IT RIGHT NOW, YOU POMPOUS, BLOODY FUCK!!!

      I am sick to goddamned death of you little shits who pretend to be Constitutional scholars and can't understand (likely due to having never read) the Ninth amendment -- a single clear statement.

      "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

      IOW, asshole, rights need not be explicitly granted to the people.

      Harsh language and harsh argument were had to guarantee the inclusion of the Ninth Amendment in the Bill of Rights. It was absolutely a show-stopper. One sentence used was directly aimed at dipshits like you -- "... otherwise some fool, two hundred years from now, will try to assert that people may not have a certain right, just because we failed to enumerate it."

      Write to your congress-critter, dumbass -- they pass out copies of the Constitution for free.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        First time in a long time I've seen an AC make sense. Mod parent out of the gutter so people see this.

    • by astar (203020)

      pooh, I could not reach an opinion, so it was late and I was bored and so I googled a bit.

      http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/03/scientists-case-on-background-ch.html [sciencemag.org]

      it looks like this is a new 2007 rule stemming from a 2004 homeland security thingy. it is making long time employees upset.

      and among the scientists in the case are mars rover types, for which anyone might question the need for intrusive background checks

      and i notice they got an injunction, maybe easily and maybe sometime ago. now

    • by honkycat (249849) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @01:06AM (#31461956) Homepage Journal

      There is very, very little classified work at JPL. The vast majority of the jobs have no need for any sort of clearance. The few that require a clearance already have it, and there is no objection to this requirement or to the background checks for those who need the clearance. The problem is that they're essentially asking for a carte blanche to probe the backgrounds of employees who have explicitly been categorized as not needing special access. Furthermore, there were strong signs that absurd criteria based on the results of these background checks were going to be used to deny them.

      I was affected by this as a graduate student who used to work at JPL. As you suggest, I would have changed projects rather than submit to this. Several high-profile scientists and engineers there made a similar decision, and they and others filed this suit. You can be flippant about it, but the work they do there is important, and it's awful, awful policy to force these people out over a ridiculous show of force like this. These people could make a lot more money working in the private sector, but they offer their talents toward projects that benefit us all. It takes a special kind of stupid to act like anyone's doing THEM a favor by "letting" them work there.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      These employees had gone through a background check (NAC) when they were first hired. They have no access to classified information, nor do they have access to locations where classified projects may be developed. The requirement extends to the cafeteria workers and the groundskeepers. The plaintiffs are employees of Caltech and are not civil servants.

      The investigations (and re-investigations every 5 years) would require the employees do "voluntarily" sign a waiver ( http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf85.pd [opm.gov]

    • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @01:42AM (#31462122) Homepage Journal

      OK, so you're a little uninformed about the whole issue. Well, a lot uninformed.

      The deal is that people who have been working loyally FOR YEARS could suddenly find themselves unacceptable and out of a job due to a background check that is abusive enough to qualify for a security clearance even though in fact it would not be a security clearance. Not only that, but the abusive snooping extends to everyone you've ever known. That's a wide net. Not to mention having to list every place you've ever lived in the past 7 years along with contact info to prove you were there.

      Also, very little classified work goes on at JPL. Very little. Most everything they do is released to the public sooner or later; usually sooner. They partner with universities all over to provide them with scientific data from instruments on spacecraft and those institutions get their data in minutes, not even days or weeks.

      "There's no constitutional right to work at JPL."

      Yeah, I love that one. There is no constitutional right to privacy either, but it would be a mistake not to fight the government every step of the way when it comes to invasion into the personal lives of its citizens when it is not warranted.

    • by bware (148533) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @02:16AM (#31462248) Homepage

      JPL employees do not work for the government; they work for Caltech. NASA data is not classified; just the opposite. By law it is required to be made available to the public (subject to ITAR restrictions). Very few projects at JPL require any kind of clearance. 5% of JPL works on non-NASA projects, i.e., something that could be classified, so 250 people of 5000. Of those, probably less than 100 need a clearance (most non-NASA projects at JPL are not classified, rather the money comes from NSF or industry or some other grant). Those projects that are sensitive, are not "highly" secret, as those things go. It just isn't that kind of lab. On those that are sensitive, the people working on them do go through the background checks. On the usual need-to-know basis, why does that mean that everyone else working there (4900 people of 5000) need to have a clearance or this sort of intrusive background check? If the 100 people with clearance do their job, no one else has access to anything classified. If they don't, having the other 4900 people have a background check won't help because security has already failed. I've had a clearance elsewhere so I'm familiar with the drill. If you have clearance to one thing, that doesn't mean you have clearance to anything else, whether at that level or below. One of the reasons I took this job is because it had no background check.

      These sorts of checks haven't been required at JPL for the last 50 years, through wars cold and hot. Why now?

      Or are you suggesting that anyone who works for the government, directly or indirectly, be subject to this sort of background check? Teachers? Dept. of Interior? Fish and Wildlife? USGS? Highway subcontractors? After all, it's all federal funds. No one has a right to government money. Do your rights go out the window if you get paid by the government first, second, or third hand?

      Clearly it's ridiculous to suggest that USFS employees go through a background check, as it is the guys pushing shovels on the highway. So the question is, where is the line drawn? For the past 50 years, it's been drawn on the other side of JPL employees with no issues. Why so eager to toss our rights down the drain, and for what benefit?

    • by kyrcant (858905)
      I think the point of checking the S/O is a legacy procedure that was built in to ensure that they could not be blackmailed. The security people want to know you're not hiding anything so that a bad guy can't say, "if you don't hand over those pictures of alien spacecraft around Jupiter I'll tell your wife/parents/dog that you're gay/use drugs/watch manga." As long as you are up front with your past drug abuse and s/o, the bad guys can't blackmail you with it, and you're okay.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CheshireCatCO (185193)

      As someone who was likely to be required to undergo a background check to get a badge (as an external contractor working on the Cassini mission), I have some knowledge of the checks they want to do.

      First of all, many, perhaps most employees and contractors don't handle classified data. We're doing scientific work with technology that's 10-20 years old by the time it's in orbit around another planet. So it seems excessive to worry about the security risk.

      Second, the form that they wanted us to fill out (th

    • by kevinT (14723)

      If you are not sure - read the linked articles. These are employees of a civilian contractor working on NON-classified projects funded by the government. They are NOT government employees.

      They object to having a very invasive background check, a check that would not stop even if they left their position, simply because George Bush wanted to be King!

    • it isn't unusual for government jobs to require background checks.

      It wasn't usual for employers to refuse to hire people because of their race either. If we really care about rights, then we're going to have to constrain the behavior of not only government, but private entities. And "don't work there if you don't like it" won't solve the problem. What do you do when all employers impose such intrusive conditions of employment? Piss testing, polygraphs, what next? Most of the unaccountable power that we

    • This is a follow up to at least one story /. covered waaaay back. In the first article it basically has two points for why the employees objected. 1) They were already employees. Some had been for a VERY long time prior to being asked to do the background. 2) They felt threatened. Supervisors informed employees that they would either tell them all about there personal life, including sexual history and personal political views. They were told if they did not comply there existing contract would not be

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... you take the man's shit. Or work someplace else.
    • Same should apply to welfare too. There's a debate in my state arguing against random drug testing for those receiving welfare checks. As far as I'm concerned, you have the right to privacy; when you apply for a job that is related to anything secretive (corporate secrets or government secrets) you relinquish your right to privacy to a necessary extent. If you want a want to privacy? Good. You want your privacy to remain unviolated AND get handouts or a job that requires secrecy and loyalty? No.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you take the man's money ...
      ... you take the man's shit. Or work someplace else.

      Why? The man's an employee of the people. He should take the people's shit, since he's already taking their money.

    • Sure, they could work in China, for example.

    • ... you take the man's shit. Or work someplace else.

      That's fine, but if Mathematicians (who have no access to classified data or classified equipment to begin with) and who's work is designed to go directly into the public domain are really forced to take this idiotic nonsensical background check (after nearly 20 years of service), then that means our NASA program has already gone down the shitter...

      These guys have options, and they're already getting paid peanuts compared to what they could be making in the private sector. So if anybody should be taking t

  • by Kenja (541830) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @12:15AM (#31461700)
    At least background checks are less likely to falsely implicate someone of being a spy.
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @12:19AM (#31461712)
    I don't know about you, but i'd certainly like to know my employer has looked into the mental health of the people i work with at a JET PROPULSION LAB.

    sexual preferences shouldn't come into it though, unless they are concerned one of them is the goat.cx man, and they might smuggle out a rocket in their anus.

    • The issue of sexual preference is not related to morality, but to blackmail. If someone is openly gay, that shouldn't be an issue. If someone is secretly gay, bi, cross dresser, etc, then that employee might be subject to blackmail attempts. Other secrets apply, affairs, fake degrees (or cheating to get a degree), etc.

      There is actually a reason for this, people who can be pressured are additional risks. It is an unpleasant part of having clearance, having been through DOD and DOE I have seen the first few r

  • mental health? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dAzED1 (33635) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @12:24AM (#31461750) Homepage Journal

    so...someone's mental health is not relevant to whether or not they can work on top secret projects?

    • Re:mental health? (Score:5, Informative)

      by stephanruby (542433) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @03:19AM (#31462492)

      That's the thing!! The work they're doing is not top secret. In fact, it's quite far from it. The research those 28 people are doing at Cal Tech goes directly into the public domain.

      And of course, they have no issue with background checks for Professors that want to do classified work, or have access to classified work, or even access to classified equipment, but those researchers complaining are not doing any of that, they're just mathematicians, and if need access to something proprietary or classified, they just need to apply for it separately (which is fine with them).

      • I was essentially writing this.

        99% of what goes on at JPL is public domain. You're more likely to get a straight scientist blabbering on and on about why they chose a certain material for the fuselage of a rocket and how they designed the propulsion system at a bus-stop because he's bored and talking to a hobo than anything.

        The only things we don't have access to as a citizen are the defense contracted projects.

        Anyone can go to JPL and go on the tour and see all the stuff they're building and work
  • by wisebabo (638845) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @12:25AM (#31461752) Journal

    Just for your reading enjoyment, here's my submission MONDAY MARCH 08, @11:44AM (http://slashdot.org/submission/1188548/Bureaucracy-at-NASA-gone-mad?art_pos=7).

    Guess the slashdot editors don't like my writing style. ;)

    Okay, if there was ever a reason to shut down, dismantle and start NASA over it is this. The Supreme Court is deciding whether invasive (to me at least) personal background checks (sex lives, medical records) will be required of all JPL employees/independent contractors. No top secret work is done there and (I suppose) nothing military or even directly industry related. (In fact I thought the work of NASA was "For All Mankind".) Anyway, 28 scientists and engineers have so far refused to comply and if they lose this case will be fired.

    While NASA claims that all Federal employees must go through this kind of check, I don't think these guys fit into the "all" category. It IS rocket science and I'm sure most of them have an IQ/educational background/creativity quotient that is extremely rare. I guess there could be a reason to do this if you were afraid that some personal information could be used to blackmail someone but as I mentioned before, what they are creating is destined to be public anyway.

    So what if one guy has a fetish for SCUBA gear and chicken feathers? More seriously, look what happened to Alan Turing (father of the computer); if the Brits had had this policy in place and denied him any serious work in the war effort, computer technology would have set way back (and perhaps the decoding of Enigma and the winning of the war). As it is, they only managed to get him to commit suicide AFTER he had done some incredibly important work.

    Look, if one of them is committing a crime/becoming a public menace, let the police deal with it. Otherwise keep the Republican religious police out of our bedrooms! (drug dens?).

    • by timmarhy (659436)
      I hate to break it to you, but this court action is by the democrates and your much loved Obama administration. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6273VW20100308 [reuters.com]
      • by hedwards (940851)
        Attorneys are only obligated to put up a vigorous defense, not to win. An important distinction since strategically it would be better for Obama's supporters for them to lose. A loss at the Supreme court would be a real pain in the ass for conservatives in the future trying to engage in that sort of smear campaign. These jobs do not require a security clearance nor does NASA request that they have it.
        • by wisebabo (638845)

          As the poster of the parent I must ask: What happens if they win? Are they sure they will lose? (It is obvious IANAL). Can attorneys put up a vigorous defense but still count on losing?

          The previous poster has a point that need responding to: I am (very) surprised that my (beloved) Obama administration would pursue this and don't understand the doublethink behind this strategy. Or is there some sort of compelling reason (for national security?). But I don't think that doing this for say bureaucratic effi

          • by timmarhy (659436)
            the reasons are very simple - chop off the snakes head, it grows a new one. the way american's seem to blinding side with one party or the other never fails to astonish me. republican or democrate, they are just different flavoured assholes but both taste like shit.
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Attorneys are only obligated to put up a vigorous defense, not to win.

          The attorneys are required to defend the case. The policy makers aren't required to defend the issue. The Obama administration can lift a phone and END THIS in minutes. BHO need only call up the head of NASA/JPL and tell them to settle/acquiese and the case is over.

      • by rahvin112 (446269)

        Isn't it great when you distort facts for political reasons? This suit was started during the Bush administration. The current administration is obligated to carry forward policies as otherwise they would have to start from scratch every 4-8 years. And frankly blaming the president for something I doubt he's even aware of is just downright stupid.

        • by timmarhy (659436)
          haha suck it up big guy you know i'm right. there's nothing preventing the Obama administration from simply dropping the action, they don't need to carry on jack shit.

          and in the first line you refer to it as the bush administrations suit, but i'm not allowed to call it the Obama administrations suit now because Obama doesn't personally know about it?! what makes you think Bush was anymore involved?!

    • by t0p (1154575)

      More seriously, look what happened to Alan Turing (father of the computer); if the Brits had had this policy in place and denied him any serious work in the war effort, computer technology would have set way back (and perhaps the decoding of Enigma and the winning of the war). As it is, they only managed to get him to commit suicide AFTER he had done some incredibly important work.

      Turing lost his security clearance because he got a criminal conviction. Homosexuality was illegal in Britain back then. If the authorities had known of Turing's homosexuality during the war, they would have refused him clearance because of the blackmail risk. But that was at a time of war, and when homosexuality was a crime. I think the JPL case is a little different.

  • The gubbamint has a legitimate concern to ensure that they don't get any more damn satanists blowing the place up while practising dianetics(tm) without a license [wikipedia.org].

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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