Thursday, December 20, 2007

NASA Security resorts to threats

From the "Ask the Administrator" section of a NASA website:

From: Anonymous (Johnson Space Center)
Date: 18-Dec-2007

Reports are coming in from JSC that people who are waiting to sign the newly required HSPD-12 release of information forms are being brought into rooms where security agents make threats to get them to sign forms immediately.

These threats are reported to include the immediate removal of all access if forms or letters of intent are not signed on the spot. Also reported is the threat of a permanent ban to all NASA facilities and statements saying that the employees immediate actions will be irreversible, even if they change their mind later!!

These threats are also reported to be infused with constant statements saying "Just sign the forms and this will all go away and be much easier". All of this is being done without any involvement of NASA or contractor management, claiming confidentiality concerns, leaving these "uncooperative individuals" scared and fearful that their immediate actions might affect their livelihood for the rest of their lives.

This is insane! This gustapo-like behavior must stop! NASA management must take an immediate stand to start protecting their employees and contractor personnel! I wish I could tell these employees to report this up the chain, but they all fear retaliation.

Please respond to this outrageous behavior.


As I have written in previous responses to similar questions, there is no Constitutional "right" to a security clearance or to federal employment. A requirement of NASA employment is that we voluntarily submit to background checks through the HSPD-12 process. That being said, allegations of threatening behavior in this process are serious, and such conduct would not be acceptable. Any employee who has such concerns should report them through their management chain or to their local IG's office.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

One person's advice

I received information from an individual who will be terminated for his refusal to submit to the background investigations required by JSC. I am very saddened that people's livelihoods will be threatened by this.

His advice:
May I suggest that you (and the others in your group) make Privacy Act requests for the security information NASA already has in your files, and that you also make Privacy Act requests for the information in the files resulting from the HSPD investigation [if you consent to it]. The HSPD request will have to be directed to the OPM but the requests for the existing records can be started at your local security office.

If you don't know, the relevant legal reference is Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. § 552a), paragraph (d) Access to record, which states: Each agency that maintains a system of records shall-- (1) upon request by any individual to gain access to his record or to any information pertaining to him which is contained in the system, permit him and upon his request, a person of his own choosing to accompany him, to review the record and have a copy made of all or any portion thereof in a form comprehensible to him, except that the agency may require the individual to furnish a
written statement authorizing discussion of that individual's record in the accompanying person's presence.

When you make the request, be sure to make it very clear that it is a Privacy Act request (and you can cite the specifics as above), not a Freedom of Information Act request.
Thanks for the advice.

Also, I want to point out another link with more details about the proceedings with the JPL court case here.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Federal Judges hear arguments from JPL

I thought this news posting concerning the court proceedings yesterday was a good read. Good luck to all of the JPL employees fighting unnecessary invasion of privacy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

GRC employees facing denial of access

Well, it looks crunch time is coming. Announcements to GRC supervisor's have went out to tell them of employee's who have failed to comply with the new HSPD-12 requirements.

Apparently, NASA wants to have at least one chance to scare employees who are not complying with the new "voluntary" policy by assigning them with a temporary badge before removing their access permanently.

All I can say to the GRC employees who are holding their ground is hang in there. You guys are setting the tone and the line in the sand for many other employees and NASA centers and we appreciate it. Hopefully, once supervisor's realize that they can no longer perform their tasks without key personnel, complaints will start to flow up to NASA management to reassess and evaluate the issue to see if concessions can be made. All we are fighting for is common sense policy and the respect of the employees.

See the full memo here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Majority of those polled unhappy

The internet poll on the left suggests that over 70% of the people are not happy with the way NASA is implementing HSPD-12.

All I can say is, if you are unhappy, please, PLEASE, express your concerns! NASA workers consistently give 110% in the name of protecting the NASA family and ensuring that things are done right. Let's make sure that the NASA management is doing the same for us!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Did you know?

  1. Did you know that none of this craziness is required by HSPD-12? As spelled out in a letter from Dennis V. Byrnes,
    None of this is required by HSPD-12. Only a “Government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification”. In the Presidential directive there is no mention of criminal or security background checks, no mention of fingerprinting, no mention of providing private information to unknown parties. No mention that fingerprints of all government employees and contractors will be added to the FBI database.
    See the full letter from Dennis here.
  2. Did you know that HSPD-12 states in item 3 "The Standard will include graduated criteria, from least secure to most secure, to ensure flexibility in selecting the appropriate level of security for each application."? NASA has _NO_ such graduated criteria as far as anyone can tell. All workers are forced to comply to a invasive background investigation and release of financial and medical history, regardless of position, or face losing their job (of course they will claim they aren't taking away jobs, just access to NASA facilities!!!). Review the text of HSPD-12 yourself.
  3. Did you know that NASA actually claims that one of the goals of HSPD-12 is to "protect personal privacy"? Someone actually typed that!! See NASA's page on HSPD-12 and read it for yourself.

User Comments

I have received some interesting comments via email and the blog. One commenter pointed out:
The investigations apparently stem from the suggested OPM implementation of HSPD-12. This can be found here.

The document, in fact, proposes implementing things that are not included in HSPD-12-- the NACI requirement was already an existing requirement for new employees; the OMB is apparently aggomerating that onto the HSPD-12 procedure.

It doesn't fully answer the questions about the NASA implementation, though. It requires a National Agency Check with Written Inquires (NACI) for everybody. However, although NACI itself is a pretty egregious invasion of privacy, nevertheless it doesn't require permission to access credit records or medical records. NACI and Credit check is a different investigation, NACIC, which is NOT what the OMP site says is required. And health records are yet a different check, not included in either NACI or NACIC. (see )

So, apparently, the NASA implementation of HSPD-12 requires things that are not included either in HSPD-12 or in the OPM guidelines.
A JPL employee writes:
We at JPL are thrilled to know that we are not alone. We can only win this by speaking out! Good luck to your efforts.
-- a JPL employee of 20+ years
Another user commented:
The directive requires a single Federal standard for "Secure and reliable forms of identification." ... I maintain that it is not necessary to run a background check to verify identity. Fingerprints, maybe, or checking picture ID's. In particular, you don't have to like someone or vouch for his loyalty to his country or reliability as an employee in order to identify that person. ... This is why I believe that NASA's implementation is at the very least a waste of tax money, because it goes beyond the requirements of the law.
Someone else pointed out NASA's current status check on HSPD-12 compliance as of June.

Thanks for the comments. Do you have a comment? Send it to or leave a comment on one of the blog posts.

Interesting precedents

Searching around the web, I have found some very interesting information and precedents that suggest that the NASA implementation of HSPD-12 is misguided and being implemented without any common sense questions being asked.

For example, I found this site - - which talks about the failings of the HSPD-12 implementation in the Department of Education. The pages on that site are very interesting and informative. I found this tidbit in the discussion area from a person who worked in the Bureau of Land Management particularly interesting:
I tried for two weeks to find a way to stay employed without having to turn over such invasive information because I believed that my right to privacy was being invaded. I asked for an appeal process, for a job that didn't require an NAC. I was fired in early November as a security threat.

I was also denied my unemployment benefits with the reasoning that I was "wantonly negligent of the employer's interests" and therefore my actions equaled "misconduct" on the job. This even though that within the past year I had been promoted and had an excellent work history.

I appealed the decision and finally 2 months after I was fired, I won the appeal. It was a very strong decision by the Administrative Law Judge who said he could find nothing in Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 that actually specified the turning over of the information requested of me.
I'm not sure if her victory meant she got her job back, or if she got her unemployment benefits. But, the fact of the matter is that if a lawsuit brought against the government for losing your job would be helped by such a court precedent.

Also, I found this really good website from a Goddard Space Flight Center contractor employee which outlines his concerns of HSPD-12 and the implementation at GSFC. His biggest conern, as is mine is listed as "The requirement to sign "voluntary" release forms to allow the government access to financial and medical records;". In terms of precedent, I thought this was interesting:
Upper management told us on April 3rd and 4th that individuals going through the re-badging process do not need to sign two of the four forms—the Medical and Credit History release forms—during the visit to Security for rebadging. If one chooses not to sign those two release forms, the badge will still be issued and a background investigation will still be conducted. If, as a result of the investigation, further information is deemed necessary GSFC Security will come back to the individual and request that these forms be signed. Even if the individual signs the releases at that time, it is possible that issuance of the SmartCard will be delayed since there was a delay in the investigation process.
If this is true, how is it that GSFC is finally starting to realize that "voluntary" forms can not be used as a condition of employment but JSC continues down the path? The answer is simple: we let them.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A little background

HSPD-12 is "Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12". It is a directive by the president for a government wide standard for identification of federal employees and contractors. You can find information on it here.

NASA falls within this realm and is required to implement the standards required by HSPD-12.

So why this site? Well, for a couple of reasons. Many people are upset at the amount of privacy invasion that will occur as part of NASA's HSPD-12 process. Background investigations include the interrogation of friends and relatives, insight into marital status and history, financial and bankruptcy history, etc. In addition, waivers must be signed releasing financial and medical history information. All of this, even for contractors that don't work with any sensitive information. Even for people in non-sensitive positions such as cleaning staff.

As you can see, this can rub people the wrong way. In fact, 27 scientists at the NASA JPL center are suing to protect their privacy. On October 11th, an appeals court granted them an injunction and agreed that the case raises serious provacy concerns.

NASA has aggravated the problem further with incompetence. For example, the SF85P form for the complete background investigation includes specific signature forms to release credit histories and medical information. These releases are well worded and state exactly how the information will be used. They even spell out the exact questions that may be asked to a practitioner about mental health. But above and beyond that, NASA has decided to tack on it's own release form, such as form NF1684. This form is titled as a release of credit history, but has text in the middle about the release of medical information. It does not state how or when the information will be gathered except that it will be in accordance with the FCRA. The real incompetence is that the form specifically states that the employee understands that this release is voluntary. But when NASA officials are asked about the "voluntary" release of information, they claim it is voluntary: you can either keep your job or not. They use this separate form as a way to keep your background investigation from being submitted for completion. If you don't sign their "voluntary" release form, they hold your investigation paperwork back, and you lose your badge.

This site was set up as a place for people to voice their opinions. Our voices should be heard. If you work at NASA and don't agree with processes that require horrible doublespeak about what the word "voluntary" means, then don't sign the 1684 form! Demand answers as to how your information will be used, and why you MUST sign a form that makes you admit that the release is voluntary. Use the comment sections or send them to to voice your opinions here and demand answers from the security and badging personnel.