Supreme Court set to hear privacy case on NASA's background checks

How much information is too much when it comes to security at a government installation in a post-9/11 world?

The Supreme Court will tackle that question Tuesday when it hears arguments over whether the government went too far in investigating workers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

At issue is whether the government has the right to probe the personal lives of low-risk contractors with access to federal facilities.

"The case was originally filed by federal contract employees working at CalTech's Jet Propulsion Lab, which houses NASA's robotic spacecraft laboratory," according to a press release by the digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "The workers were low-risk, by NASA's own admission, and did not work on classified projects. Yet the government instituted sweeping background checks, including a requirement to list three references who were then questioned about the employees' general behavior. NASA said it needed the information to assess 'suitability' for government employment, and would check factors like 'carnal knowledge,' 'homosexuality,' 'cohabitation,' and 'illegitimate children.'"

The workers say requiring background checks on them, which includes probes into medical records, finances and drug history, is an invasion of privacy. The government says their probes are "minimally intrusive" and necessary.

Source: AP News

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