.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

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).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

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

  • Help end world hunger
  • Friday, November 06, 2009

    The Return of Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12

    Some time back I wrote in depth about the implementation of something called Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12 (HSPD#12)which threatened my wife's rights as well as the rights of every Federal employee and contractor. The directive per se isn't bad, merely requiring a uniform system of issuing IDs to all Federal employees and contractors across all agencies. But, under the Bush Administration, no good idea went unexploited for opportunities to deny people their basic civil liberties. The implementation of HSPD#12 became a wholesale attempt to get anyone with access to a Federal facility (including my wife who was a grad student in a NASA run building) to agree to allow the government to investigate every aspect of their lives from medical records, financial records and interviewing their neighbors. Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with top secret materials. EVERYONE from the Board of Ed to NASA etc. would have to comply.

    My original series of articles covered first the controversial implementation at NASA's JPL facilities with detailed email discussions by NASA scientists. I then tried to analyze in some detail the method of implementation, a widely used process in Federal employment decisions called the "Suitability Matrix" which included moral judgements and potential anti-gay judgements similar to the military's policy of excluding gays. Finally I presented a well written resignation letter from a long-time NASA empkoyee who refused to sign (something my wife may yet have to face some day).

    This whole thing has been implemented in a spotty fashion. NASA and the BLM were gung ho and some law suits resulted. One of those lawsuits, filed by JPL employees, went all the way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled in favor of the NASA employees. And I recently heard from a USDA employee hearing that the implementation there is also going forward with similar intrusiveness despite the law suits.

    There was an expectation that under Obama the intrusiveness of the implementation of HSPD#12 would be stopped. And at my wife's branch of NASA the information they are requiring is now much more reasonable and less intrusive. However, the USDA seems to be progressing with intrusive methods and it now turns out that the Obama Administration is appealing the Ninth Circuit Court's ruling to the Supreme Court. This comes from Robert M. Nelson, senior scientist at NASA's JPL and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that had blocked implementation of HSPD#12:

    For Immediate Release

    On Monday, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, filed for a writ of certiorari before the United States Supreme Court, requesting a review of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals injunction that protected employees at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory from intrusive, open ended, background investigations under of Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12 (NASA and Caltech vs. Nelson et al. No. 07-56424). If granted, the writ would permit the Supreme Court to hear arguments and rule on the legality of government investigations into the private lives of federal contractors who do non-classified work. Kagan’s requested that the Supreme Court overturn an en banc decision of the Ninth Circuit Court issued on June 4 of this year. The June 4 ruling had 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 lower court ruling was unanimous in favor of the JPL employees.

    The plaintiffs in the case have thirty days to respond to the Solicitor General’s petition

    Considerable interest in this case centers around 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.

    Robert M. Nelson, a JPL scientist and the lead plaintiff in the case said, ‘We are, of course quite disappointed. The Solicitor General has opened a Pandora’s Box, permitting the Supreme Court to possibly erase all protections that citizens might have against government snooping into the most intimate details of their private lives. The government could engage in a wholesale invasion of privacy.”

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

    Let's hope either the Obama Adminstration reverses this action in a moment of reason, or the Supreme Court makes the right decision. If the Supreme Court agrees with the Ninth Circuit Court, then the issue is dead. If they reverse the Ninth Circuit Court decision, then it is one more Bush-era attack on our civil liberties that the Obama Administration has failed to end.


    Post a Comment

    Links to this post:

    Create a Link

    << Home