(From The Nation magazine online)
By Dave Lindorff
Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight Center are up in arms over a new requirement by NASA that they submit to detailed FBI scrutiny of their backgrounds in order to obtain clearance to go to work. They are claiming that the agency may be trying to control or silence them about issues like global warming.
The new security clearance requirement, which involves interviews of neighbors and checks into the distant background activities of scientists, many of whom have worked at JPL and Goddard for as long as thirty years, is puzzling because both locations have little or no involvement in secret or national security research. Indeed, by law, NASA's activities and the research its scientists engage in are required to be publicly available.
"Almost nobody at NASA does classified work," says Robert Nelson, a veteran scientist at JPL who heads up the photo analysis unit on the Cassini-Huygens space probe project exploring Saturn and its moons. "I think this is really all about NASA director [Michael] Griffin putting a security wrap around us."
Nelson and 26 other JPL scientists and other employees have retained a Pasadena civil rights law firm to file suit in federal court in California to block the security program.
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