Supreme Court to hear case involving background checks for JPL employees

Mercer 3085

NASA

An aerial view of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California and the surrounding San Gabriel Mountains.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments about post-9/11 security checks at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The case involves JPL employees who passed routine background checks when they were hired – some more than two decades ago.

After 9/11, a Homeland Security directive ordered them to undergo a more thorough check, even though they had no access to classified material. The new checks began in 2007 – and allowed the government to talk to anyone about the employee's finances, drug or alcohol use, and emotional stability.

Twenty-eight JPL scientists and engineers refused to cooperate – and were about to be fired. But the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals intervened and halted the checks, labeling the new checks a "broad inquisition."

Justice Department lawyers asked the Supreme Court to review the case, saying the Ninth Circuit's decision cast a constitutional cloud over background checks for all federal employees.

The high court will hear the case in its next term, with a decision expected by next summer.

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