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No Review For Ban On NASA Background Checks

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - NASA and the California Institute of Technology lost their bid to have the full 9th Circuit review an injunction blocking them from performing extensive background checks on low-risk employees at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

A three-judge panel enjoined the Bush-mandated background checks after determining that the invasive questionnaires "raise serious legal and constitutional questions."

The 28 engineers and scientists subjected to the background checks faced "a stark choice - either violation of their constitutional rights or loss of their jobs," the court ruled in January.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 requires JPL employees to sign a waiver releasing their answers to a detailed, five-page questionnaire that prods into their medical records, finances and sex lives, among other topics.

In August 2007, JPL employees filed a class action seeking to do away with the inquisition, as most employees have worked at the laboratory for more than 20 years, none has access to classified material and all have been declared low-risk employees. But they could be barred from the lab or fired for refusing to answer the questionnaires.

The full court declined to review its decision that the background checks were unnecessarily intrusive.

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