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NASA v. Nelson, No. 09-530

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By FindLaw Staff on January 20, 2011 4:13 PM

Challenge to NASA Background Check

In NASA v. Nelson, No. 09-530, an action claiming that NASA's National Agency Check with Inquiries background check process violated a constitutional right to informational privacy, the court reversed the Ninth Circuit's reversal of the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction where, assuming, without deciding, that the government's challenged inquiries implicated a privacy interest of constitutional significance, that interest, whatever its scope, did not prevent the government from asking reasonable questions of the sort included on the forms at issue in an employment background investigation that was subject to the Privacy Act's safeguards against public disclosure.


As the court wrote:  "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a workforce of both federal civil servants and Government contract employees. Respondents are contract employees at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is operated by the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech). Respondents were not subject to Government background checks at the time they were hired, but that changed when the President ordered the adoption of uniform identification standards for both federal civil servants and contractor employees."

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