Civil Liberties

JPL Scientists Haven’t Landed a Lasting Victory


    Kozinski’s questions aren’t going away

The feds’, in their anti-terror fervor after 9/11, whipped up some prying questions for JPL scientists to answer if they wanted to keep their jobs. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is right in siding with the workers and their privacy, but it would be better if they hadn’t short-circuited debate.

Earlier this month, the appeal court’s 27 judges refused to take the issue out of the hands of three judges and grant the Department of Justice’s request for an 11-member panel to review the matter. Expect this case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the blessings of dissenting Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and three of his colleagues. They wanted the broader hearing by the Ninth Circuit.

Big cases with broad implications for the conduct of government should not be made a tiny group, without a full hearing and discussion.

Whatever your views, it’s refreshing to read Kozinski’s dissent. The case began In 2007, when senior scientist Robert W. Nelson and 27 others, including scientists, engineers and administrative support staff, objected to a highly intrusive background check imposed as a condition of their continued employment at JPL. Unless the Obama administration sides with privacy advocates, it’s likely the case will go to the Supremes.

Kozinski would like to see the high court address this question: “Is there a constitutional right to informational privacy?”

“Does being asked to disclose information one would prefer to keep private, in order to keep a government job to which one has no particular entitlement, amount to a constitutional violation? If the answer is yes, then the government commits all manner of constitutional violations on tax returns, government contract bids, loan qualification forms, and thousands of job applications that are routinely filled out every day.”

Kozinski seems unbothered by government investigators canvassing the neighborhood in pursuit of information about an employee’s relationships and sex life.

“Does one really have a free-standing constitutional right to withhold from the government information that others in the community are aware of? I don’t think so. How then can it be constitutionally impermissible for the government to ask a subject’s friends, family and neighbors what they know about him? Surely there’s no constitutional right to have the state be the last one to know?”

So long as the snooping isn’t high-tech, Kozinski doesn’t seem to have much trouble with it.

While I can think of many reasons to worry when the government seeks to uncover private information using the special powers that private entities lack, it’s far less obvious why it should be hamstrung in ensuring the security and integrity of its operations in ways that private employers are not. The delicate knowledge handled by thousands of federal employees seems as worthy of protection as the formula for Coca-Cola.”


  • If you want a correct decision, then it’s best to side-step or appeal rulings of the politically left-wing Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has issued a lot of crazy decisions that were overturnd by the Supreme Court. The (Supreme Court) this session has reversed all 11 cases reviewed from the 9th Circuit.

    No matter how much the liberals want it, there is no Constitutional right to privacy.

    I sympathize with the scientists and engineers at the JPL, but we do have to consider the many secrets all the way back from Los Alamos to our missile programs that have been leaked to enemies by people sympathetic to communism and by agents of China. It was bad enough when Clinton gave the Chinese our high-tech missile guidance systems in exchange for their political contributions. Now, those missiles are aimed at us.

    However, I doubt that Atty. Gen. Holder will appeal this to the Supreme Court, and Kozinski knows it.

    I bet that all the scientists were white, so could it be racial?

  • I wish the Feds would investigate Woody, he has been terrorizing this blog for years.

  • “I wish the Feds would investigate Woody, he has been terrorizing this blog for years.”

    Can’t do. He has a “Golden Key” with the Feds and here with Celeste. There are rumors about blackmail and Alien mind control. keep your nose clean around here and try not to get on Woody’s bad side if you catch my drift. Rumores he’s scientist who worked at Los Alamos, and area 51 as well. Woody’s ability to blog 24/7 still big mystery. Beware of black helicopters and Greys.

  • “Clinton gave the Chinese our high-tech missile guidance systems in exchange for their political contributions”

    Right Woody. This, all being done while, Bubba, had his missle aimed at Monica’s mouth! We should all be defenders of “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. My political prescription is to get informed, to expose yourself to ideas, to read, to be skeptical of the official line, to use good judgement in searching for the truth, to be active in making this country what you know it should be, and to hold to the ideals America represents.

  • Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them.

    NOVA – “Secrets, Lies, and Atomic Spies”

    You have to be realistic about sensitive research information entrusted to our scientists and engineers and how to avoid leaks of that to our enemies.

    And, for you, Fleno Bobo:

    US citizens were stunned to learn the depths of international espionage in which nuclear and missile technology has been stolen. The first expose came with the publication of Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration undermined National Security by Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz. In this book, Gertz, who used his extensive intelligence contacts, laid out how the Clinton administration gave away, sold, lost, and had stolen military secrets which have enabled the Chinese to acquire nuclear missile technology capable of striking the US mainland with nuclear warheads.

    And, just because some of you don’t put your real names on comments attacking me doesn’t mean that “our family” can’t tell me who you are.

  • A movie everyone should watch, including small children.
    The Red Menace (1949)
    It’s about a disillusioned, bitter ex-GI who gets involved with the Communist party (plied with liquor and women and a lot of elaborate promises), and winds up falling in love with one of his “instructors.” At first true believers, they realize their mistake when they witness Party leaders murder a member who questions the party’s principles. They try to leave the party, but are marked for murder and hunted by the party’s assassins! Like Woody said … Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  • Your Commie has no regard for human life, not even of his own. For this reason, I want to impress upon you the need for extreme watchfulness. The enemy may come individually, or in strength. He may even appear in the form of our own troops. But however we must stop him. We must not allow him to gain a foothold on American soil. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

  • “And, just because some of you don’t put your real names on comments attacking me doesn’t mean that “our family” can’t tell me who you are.”

    Our Family also has a womans auxillary, who supplies our men with cookies and kool-aide during their meetings.

  • Hey Alan — the tech gods are upto something fishy — can’t open the comments to the previous thread on the consent decree and Bratton, and ONLY comments on that thread are blocked by my Firefox. Pla. get your techies to check it out.

    (Ironic since those comments I actually wanted to reread — while the ones on this thread, having something to do with how the right to privacy is a communist plot having to do with Bill Clinton and the Chinese, and whether Woody is in fact an internet terrorist or just gives some the impression of one — have my poor head spinning in too many circles.)

  • I thought Woody was off limits because of his heroin distribution agreement with the CIA.

Leave a Comment