AirTalk for March 15, 2010

Supreme Court will review background checks at JPL

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Scott Nelson/Getty Images

A reporter listens against a painted Martian backdrop at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The Supreme Court announced last week that it will review the handling of background checks for employees at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which could affect how checks are done for all federal government workers. Following a 2004 Homeland Security directive, more thorough background checks were ordered at the NASA-funded facility near Pasadena, allowing inquiries into an employee's finances, drug or alcohol use, and emotional stability. 28 CalTech employees under contract to JPL refused to take part in the process and were about to lose their jobs, until the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the firings, calling the checks too intrusive. How much can the government look into one's personal life, and should comprehensive checks be applied to all federal employees?


Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

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