Scientists Case on Background Check Reaches High Court

A long-running legal battle between the United States government and a group of 29 scientists and engineers of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has now reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2007, the employees filed suit against NASA, which owns JPL's infrastructure; California Institute of Technology, which manages the lab; and the Department of Commerce over a government rule requiring all workers at federal facilities to obtain a new mandatory I.D. for which they needed to subject themselves to a background check. The employees argued that the requirement, which stemmed from a 2004 Homeland Security Presidential Directive issued by George W. Bush, was a violation of privacy and would constrict the open and free environment that had drawn them to work at JPL.

They were able to obtain a court injunction against the rule. But the federal government has now appealed to the Supreme Court to have the injunction overturned, which would force the employees to comply with the requirement. The Supreme Court is likely to hear the case this fall.