Monday, March 15, 2010

Supreme Court to review "Informational Privacy"

Last week David Kravets of the Threatlevel blog on Wired.com reported that the Supreme Court is going to review a decision by the 9th Circuit. The 9th Circuit says  the government does have limits on the information they can seek on potential employees. The case arose because a bunch of NASA contractors objected to background checks that included queries into their sex lives, finances, and drug use.

I do believe it's important to protect our national secrets, and NASA is certain to have a few. But I believe the 9th Circuit had this one right, and I hope the Justices feel the same. Now, I don't have a problem with drug tests. Most jobs should be done by someone who's not stoned. And it's pretty normal to check sexual habits and finances of persons getting security clearances, although the reasons for that probably need to be revisited.

These contractors were not getting security clearances. Their jobs didn't require them. The intense and extensive checks were initiated in 2004 by the Bush administration. The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to review the case because the checks are done on all federal employees, and the administration wants the checks to continue. But those checks seem a bit a bit excessive. Whether they are gay, straight, have a excessive debt, or is obsessed with collecting every beanie baby ever made has nothing to do with their ability to do a job. Men with security clearances need to be as squeaky clean as possible so there are as few handles for bad guys to use. Persons with no access to secret information don't need to be as squeaky clean. And just because a person works for the government does not mean the government needs to know everything about him.