JPL Scientists Sue Federal Government and Caltech for NASA’s Background Checks

G O O D   F O R   T H E M ! ! !

I hate the “distrust before trust” mentality – especially when someone has already proven their trustworthiness!

Every employee I have ever had got a key to my business within their first week on the job (as quickly as I could make keys).  I trusted them until they gave me cause not to – and if I DIDN’T trust them, then why in the hell would I hire them?

We shouldn’t be expected to give a part of or body (blood, urine, hair, DNA, etc) just to get a job!


Over his four decades at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dennis Byrnes worked on the Apollo 7 spacecraft, set the Galileo probe on a course to Jupiter and received a NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Award.
But because Byrnes won’t let federal investigators snoop into intimate details of his personal life, he could lose his job.
Byrnes is one of 28 Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) senior scientists and engineers who today sued NASA, the Department of Commerce and CalTech over background checks required of all federal employees by the Department of Homeland Security.

“We’re talking about the best and brightest scientists in the world. We’re talking about jet propulsion, the Mars probe, the lunar landing, Galileo, the comet landing project,” said Dan Stormer of Hadsell & Stormer, the civil rights law firm representing the scientists. “And they’re being asked to give up their constitutional rights in order to keep their jobs.”

Wired Science – Wired Blogs


  1. 🙂 Paul you are a trip. Here’s the algorithm to figuring out “Rob”:

    1) If I am talking about how many beers/drinks I have had, multiply by three.

    2) If I am talking about how many packs of cigarettes I smoke in a day, double it.

    3) If I am talking about girlfriends, divide by at least three.

    4) If I am talking about customers, divide by two (there are generally a couple I can’t talk about).

    5) If I am talking about money, I won’t exaggerate at all.

    6) If I am talking about misc stuff like how many books I have, or how many DVDs I own, I’ll probably exaggerate (as is human nature). But not by much. Of course, how many DVDs I own is easy – they are all listed here:

    7) If I am talking about poker – well, you’ve played with me. I’m not very good at it. I just *win* at it. So trust the numbers I give you if I am talking about poker 😉

    (I tried to come up with ten, but I couldn’t)


  2. @Rob .. I love you man!

    I’d hoped that my reason for being here was, that you, when posting ‘numbers’, would think “Oh Shit, Paul could be reading this! Let’s tone it down a little”

    But you don’t.

    And here’s why I love you: If I DO take you to task for some outrageous number .. what do you do? “Wha? 12.000 is too much? HERE!” .. and you ADD another 3,000!

    Remind me to be VERY careful (AND suspicious) with you the next time we play no-limit poker!

    And always keep in mind: I MAY call you!

  3. @Deannie .. ‘anyone simply TELLING me what they believe and suggesting I should accept it as fact’ is something I don’t like either. In fact, it’s EXACTLY what I don’t like in religion: “This is what you must believe, don’t ask difficult questions .. OR ELSE!!!”.
    However, I don’t find it ‘offensive’ .. just terribly annoying.

    As for your (classic creationist) question “where are the transitional fossils’… If you’re really interested in an answer to that, I can explain it to you (would take some time), but I could also point you at some excellent books by experts who could do a much better job than me. There’s quite a bit to it, but let me give you just one very simple part of the MUCH longer answer: “We’re not done looking yet!” We JUST started digging for fossils!

    I must say, it surpises me that we simply see all these questions coming back… they have been answered and explained millions of times. Don’t creationists read books on both sides of the issue? I do! It’s like having to explain AGAIN ‘why’ the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth like it appears to do, but the other way around. Yes, it’s not apparent, and it takes some thinking and work… but once explained… Shouldn’t that be enough?

    Anyway, back to your first remark: Unlike religion, where they DO ram ‘the truth’ down your throat and expect you to simply take it, science (including biology books) do NOT! In science, you’re SUPPOSED to verify things, and correct the things that are wrong .. and some things ARE wrong. That’s the beauty of science: it’s self correcting. It’s not perfect, but when errors are made, they WILL, eventually, be corrected. (Try asking THAT from religion!)

    As for textbooks presenting a single facet in a complex discussion: If there are clear and scientifically recognized controversies about an issue, any textbook will mention them (they do!). But keeping the influence a rising Venus in Aquarius has on your selecting a partner is NOT something that belongs in an astronomy book, not even as a controversy. While astrologists may push for inclusion based on ‘equal time’… it’s easy to see the fallacy of their request.

    What the textbooks teach you is, in most cases, based on hard evidence and facts. If it is not, it will be corrected.

    Also, as for biology textbooks presenting only one facet of a complex discussion… where you like to weigh OTHER ‘fact’s to balance the theory of evolution: Which ‘facts’ are you thinking of?

    And yes, differing in views CAN be the basis for interesting conversations from which we can all learn… but not ALL are… Some views are NOT. Some views SHOULD be disparaged and ridiculed! For example, apply the last sentence of your comment to the view that all jews should be exterminated (as Nazi Germany thought), or all Muslims should (as I have heard MANY Americans say), or all Christians should (as Bin Laden thinks, although, he makes an exception for people who pay a certain amount of money for being spared .. gotta love religion!)

    Deannie .. biology text books are NOT telling you what to believe! They give an inventory of things that have been discovered so far, and explain them! You’re even encouraged to contradict it and/or provide an extention to the knowledge presented.
    It’s the holy books (like the bible) that TELL you what to believe… (and also tell you what extremly cruel and horrible things will happen to you when you even so much as QUESTION anything it orders you to believe).

    If you REALLY feel that “What I find offensive is anyone simply TELLING me what they believe and suggesting I should accept it as fact”, you would have turned your back on religion a long time ago.

    And rightly so!

  4. @Paul – I’ll leave it up to one of my brothers to confirm they read here, sometimes). I grew up in a reading family and my parents bought out used bookstores. I can probably even look it up on my records and tell you how many thousands of pounds of books I’ve moved across the country.

    I might not have 12,000 – but I could have 15,000. I know I have at least 10K and I have added a lot to that over the years. SO I feel pretty safe with the 12K figure.

  5. What I find offensive is anyone simply TELLING me what they believe and suggesting I should accept it as fact. We each have wonderful brains and I choose to believe things based on facts. For example, if evolution in fact really occurred, why do we not see evidence of these ‘in between species’ creatures in the earth’s crust like we see the remains of so many other long lost living creatures such as dinosaurs?

    I don’t use suggest that because you believe one thing or another you ARE intelligent or not; rather, we each have to determine if we have indeed taken all the facts into consideration. A textbook that only presents a single facet in a complex discussion denies a student the opportunity to weigh the facts in the balance as does a teacher who throws in personal opinion based on … well, we don’t know upon what she based her fantastic opinion. THAT is what I take issue with.

    Differing views are the basis for meaningful conversations and certainly can help each of us to more closely examine our precepts for imperfect reasonings or flaws and therefore should never be disparaged or ridiculed.

  6. “I have about 12,000 books”

    @Rob .. I would be EXTREMELY surprised if you even had 10% of that!

    The reason I say that, is that I have about 1,700 books myself… and they fill up the garage, my office (8 book cases!), the living, five book cases at work, HUGE piles in the bedroom and, quite frankly, books everywhere…

    I’m going to apply my ‘Rob-Normalization-function’ on that number of yours!

  7. @Deannie .. yeah, I somehow did get the impression you were pulling my leg.
    But anyway, I can’t imagine a biology book saying that evolution is the ‘way that life came to be’. Every scientist will tell you that we don’t KNOW how life came to be.
    The theory of evolution NEVER pretended to explain the origin of life! And I’m SURE no biology book ever pretended it did.
    The theory of evolution is MUCH more modest and only deals with the origin of species (not life).
    Now, it IS true that evolution IS ‘the way’ species came to be! It is not wrong, and while maybe offensive to more ignorant people, it’s an absolutely breathtaking and wonderful theory to me.
    To assume that the initial condition for life was created by God .. is, well, a matter of faith. I personally don’t buy it, but HOW can that notion be offensive to YOU, a Christian person? I don’t understand your remark ‘Also offensive’. Or, ARE you in fact a creationist (somehow that would surprise me)? In which case, btw, I’m STILL puzzled by the word ‘offensive’. Are you ‘offended’, simply by views that differ from yours?

  8. Well, were I to (for some odd reason) decide to start burning books I would start in the “self-help” section, then I would quickly move to the “Get Rich Quick” section.

    Of course, I would assume that all of the dieting books had already been burned by one of my friends – you know – people smart enough to realize that to lose weight you need to A) eat less and B) Burn more calories and less books! That’s my rallying cry!

    Oh – I would also burn about 95% of the management books I’ve read. Certainly they were written by people that have never managed people!

    But I have about 12,000 books. And I have never sold one, or thrown one away. So don’t worry. I won’t be burning any books either!

  9. My eighth grade Biology book presented Evolution as THE WAY that life came to be. It was wrong and offensive. My teacher also felt that was wrong and taught it this way: “I believe that God gave the murky soup on earth the ‘spark’ of life and then Evolution took it’s course from there”. Also offensive.

    And really Paul, I just like to mess with you. 😛 I know you would never actually suggest book burnings at all.

  10. @Deannie .. by ‘anything more than a theory’, do you mean those books that SAY that evolution is JUST a theory?

    AS for “Let’s start with..”
    Just to be clear: I wasn’t promoting book burnings. Only predicting them.
    A glimpse at my bookcases will probably reveal my attitude towards books and I can guarantee that I will inflict serious bodily harm on anyone who comes close to my books with a match!

  11. Let’s start with those books that suggest Evolution is anything more than a theory.

  12. Just two short comments (’cause I’m too angry to type):

    1. “the scientists say that the background checks will discourage researchers from working for NASA and are irrelevant their jobs”

    A company like CNN, reaching potentially a billion people, REALLY should spend a decent salary on a proof reader! Really! This is just unforgivable!

    2. “When asked for comment, NASA spokesman David Mould said, ‘We’ve been given a directive that applies to all employees, and we’re carrying it out.'”

    This is especially chilling! The old Nuerenberg excuse: “Befehl ist Befehl” … we were only following orders…. *shudders*

    This has nothing to do with security or terrorism… it’s a well calculated attack on science.

    What’s next? Book burnings! I’m serious! It will happen. Soon!