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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Thursday, June 04, 2009

    Homeland Security Stopped by Ninth Circuit Court

    Many of you will remember by blogging about my wife's potential run in with Homeland Security. This took the form of a NASA-wide, potentially Federal government-wide, ID system that would have been unacceptably intrusive. I discussed this in a widely read, three part blog that covered Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12, the very intrusive and potentially anti-gay Suitability Matrix, and a Resignation Letter. I also did a few followups on the court challenges to Homeland Security. The whole series was a testament to just what was wrong with Republican Bush America and why we so desperately needed a change.

    Well, it seems the threat has been stopped in the Ninth Circuit Court. This comes from the plaintiffs in the case against Homeland Security's intrusive tactics:

    Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the federal government and in favor of employees at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the matter of Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12 (Nelson et al. vs NASA). Today’s ruling denied a motion from the Department of Justice for an en banc hearing (a hearing before a large panel of the Ninth Circuit) on the question of overturning an injunction issued last year against NASA and the California Institute of Technology by a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit. The earlier ruling was unanimous in favor of the JPL employees. Today’s vote of all the judges of the Ninth Circuit, in denying this appeal, was described as “not close”.

    Four judges of the Ninth Circuit minority who supported the government’s request filed written opinions. Seven judges, speaking for the majority of the judges on the full Ninth Circuit, issued a written response. All the judges of the Ninth Circuit had an option to voice their concern in this matter but these written opinions are all that ensue from this case.

    The federal government has sixty days to appeal this matter to the United States Supreme Court. This decision to appeal will be made by the Attorney General, Eric Holder.

    One of the matters of considerable interest to the judges in this case pertained to the demand by Caltech that every JPL employee ‘voluntarily’ agree to submit to an open ended background investigation, conducted by unknown investigators, in order to receive an identification badge that was compliant with HSPD#12. The government argued that there were no limits to the extent of the investigation. If an employee refused to ‘volunteer’, Caltech would terminate the employee. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    All documents relevant to this case are posted at HSPD12JPL.org


    The implementation of this process never quite reached my wife's place of work, though they were threatened with it repeatedly. I think they ultimately were waiting to see what happened in the court case. My wife was hoping she'd have her Ph.D. before she had to face the choice between signing away her rights or abandoning her work. Hopefully with the passing of the Bush era and this court decision, this particular threat to our civil liberties is gone.

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