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Reading NASA Case Tea Leaves


By Allan Holmes October 6, 2010

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A follow up to Nextgov's Tuesday article on the Supreme Court hearing arguments from NASA employees that background checks for new ID cards violated their privacy, the Denver Post reported early on Wednesday that it looked like almost all the justices weren't buying the workers' argument.

[Justice Elena] Kagan did not participate in Tuesday's argument, but all of her new colleagues -- with the exception of Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- sounded as though they would take her advice and uphold the use of background checks.

The Post pointed out that when Kagan was solicitor general in 2009 she urged the high court to reverse the ruling of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the open-ended questions in the background check violated their right to privacy, stressing the employees, who worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, held "low-risk" jobs.

The background checks are part of the federal government's billion-dollar-plus program to issue new high-tech standard ID cards to all government employees. The program was launched under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12. The case has implications for all government workers and their claims to privacy.


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