Status Report

Internal NASA JPL Memo Regarding Privacy Issues Associated with the Implementation of HSPD#12

By SpaceRef Editor
May 7, 2007
Filed under

6 April 2007

Dear Colleagues in Division 32:

Please circulate this to persons not in Division 32 who might be interested


Five points are noted in this communication relevant to HSPD-12.

1. A review of the material that we are required to supply to FBI via Caltech and NASA indicates that there are concerns in addition to fingerprinting regarding personal privacy associated with HSPD#12. We are being asked to sign blanket waivers that permit investigators to intrude into our personal financial and medical records. The information that we are being asked to supply is very similar to the information requested for a full security clearance. The support documents provided to us by NASA associated with the HSPD #12 implementation contain numerous errors or falsehoods. We are all aware that falsification of federal documents is a crime so one might charitably assume that these mistakes are due to incompetence rather than outright deceit. Nevertheless, it raises serious concern regarding the confidence that should be placed in the security of our personal information once it is placed in the hands of such incompetent individuals as those within NASA who are forcing these documents upon us.

2. JPL employees have been told that we are the only NASA center where employees are expressing concern about fingerprinting and other aspects of HSPD #12. The existence of the following website should address this myth because it demonstrates that colleagues at Goddard Space Flight Center are also concerned. Please see (

3.Two members of congress have written to President Bush asking for the resignation of the NASA Inspector General because of charges that he abused his position and created a hostile work environment. An appeal to the IG is one recourse that might be available to employees who have concerns regarding the handling of their private and personal information that NASA hopes to provide to the FBI about its workforce. However, it appears that the current head of the IG office is being accused of not being able to appear sufficiently detached from NASA managers both past and present. This creates the perception that he would not be able to objectively process complaints from employees against his high level cronies.

4. In the face of these intrusions we must keep morale at NASA at the highest levels of all government agencies, as it has always been, despite these negative pressures.

5. Several courses of action are suggested for colleagues who are concerned about the privacy of their personal information when in the hands of organizations like the FBI.


This is a brief update regarding new information pertaining to Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12 and its impact on our workforce at JPL and at NASA. For a full history of this discourse please notify me by email and I will provide the past communications.

Personal, Medical and Financial Information

We have finally been supplied with the formal questionnaires soliciting information to be used in connection with the issuance of new identification badges allegedly in response to Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12. The actual information (in addition to fingerprints) that is being demanded is found on the forms supplied by Jerry Suitor, JPL HSPD#12 supervisor, in an email sent to all employees on 28 March. There are two different types of questionnaires, one for “Non-sensitive” positions the other for “Public Trust” positions. The relevant questionnaires are called sf85 and sf85p. In addition, we have been supplied with a document that purports to provide guidance regarding which questionnaire applies to any particular type of work. It appears that most scientists and engineers at JPL would be required to respond to the questions for the “Public Trust” position (sf85p) due to our access to spacecraft operations and spacecraft data. We have also been provided with a document that purports to compare the requirements of the “Non-sensitive”, Public Trust”, and “Security Clearance” classifications. (The form for those seeking a security clearance is sf86). These four documents provided to us by NASA were sent out in Jerry Suitor’s emial. They are sf85, sf85b, a risk determination matrix and a comparison document. All are pdf format.

The comparison document:

1) Falsely claims that the sf85p form is distinguished from a sf86 in that the sf85p is does not request the identification of family members and their citizenship. The form sf85p clearly demands this information in item #15.

2) It furthermore falsely claims that the sf85b does not require information about the applicant”s military record. The sf85p form demands for this information immediately following question #16b.

3) It furthermore falsely claims that the sf85b form does not request information about financial delinquencies. This information is specifically demanded in question #22a,b on form sf85b. Since outright falsification of federal documents is a very serious crime it would appear that this is not an act of deliberate deceit. I suggest it mere indicates the low level of competence of those in the NASA security apparatus who provided these documents. Nevertheless, this reflects very poorly on NASA, an agency that is demanding deeply personal information about our medical, financial, and personal histories which it will pass along to the FBI which will then commingle our fingerprints with the FBI criminal database. Errors such as these indicate that those requesting our personal information are not sufficiently competent to be trusted with such material. Our personal information could easily be misused.

These errors also reflect poorly on the Office of General Council for our employer, CALTECH. The slightest prudence would suggest that this material should have been reviewed by our employer”s legal staff before it was passed on to the JPL HSPD#12 Supervisor for distribution to employees. It suggests a cavalier disregard by the OGC for the legal security of JPL employees and casts a dark cloud on any advise that OGC might pass on to us downstream in this matter.

The final two pages of the sf85p form deserve special attention. These are the general release form and the medical release form. These documents require us to permit the investigators to intrude into our personal information including our financial records, and our character references. In addition, these forms contain language that permits the investigators to pass our personal information on to private parties in the form of contractors who they might hire to support their investigations. These waivers permit these investigators to access our medical records including our mental health records. They also contain clauses that permit them to require us to sign an additional waiver downstream should anyone they interview decline to provide the investigators with information in the hope of protecting our privacy. In the event that we refuse to sign such waivers the questionnaire clearly states on the front that they may elect not to process our application, thus, depriving the applicant of an identification badge. Page one of the forms states:

Giving us the information we ask for is voluntary. However, we may not be able to complete your investigation, or complete it in a timely manner, if you don’t give us each item of information we request. This may affect your placement or employment prospects.

There remains a final insult to be added to the injury regarding the waivers being demanded. This is that those who submit these forms will be asked at the time of submittal to sign an additional waiver absolving CALTECH of any and all responsibility should any harm result from the misuse of the information that CALTECH is gathering for the purpose of turning over to NASA, the FBI or any private contractors those agencies should engage for support.

The problems identified above strongly suggest that we are being asked to provide very private information to individuals who do not demonstrate a proper professional attitude toward our welfare. It also suggests that there is no element within this process that is acting in our privacy interests except ourselves.

Employees at other NASA Centers are also concerned

Since the fingerprinting policy was first announced, many in management at JPL have been telling employees that we are the only NASA center where the professional staff is voicing concern and that employees at other centers have already complied or will comply without objection. This is not true. I have recently learned that employees at our sister laboratory, Goddard Spaceflight Center, are also expressing concern. They share many of our frustrations. One GSFC colleague has set up a public website to express concern. It may be located at:

I suggest that the reason JPL is out if front of the other NASA centers on this matter, and that ours were the first voices raised, is due simply to the fact that we were made aware of the problem before the other centers were. Thus, we have been discussing it for a longer period of time.

Trust in the NASA Inspector General”s office has been compromised

A possible recourse that employees might wish to explore should they have concerns about this process would seem to be the NASA Office of Inspector General. Congress established this office to protect government employees from harassment by supervisors as they report charges of waste, fraud, mismanagement, or abuse such as the falsehoods exposed above in connection with form sf85p. Those who complain to the IG are supposed to be protected from recrimination. Recent events indicate that this path may not be useful at the present time.

Two members of congress with oversight responsibility of NASA have written to President Bush asking for the resignation of Robert Cobb, the NASA Inspector General. See NASA watch ( . The request is based on a soon to be released report (that the legislators have seen) from the President”s Council on Integrity and Efficiency. The charges are that Mr. Cobb did not maintain and independence from NASA management and therefore had compromised his ability to investigate claims of mismanagement from employees in the ranks.

Those who have concern about how CALTECH, JPL, AND NASA are handling the voluminous personal medical and financial records that it is demanding from employees based on its interpretation of HSPD #12 might have held out the hope that an independent IG could be a recourse for redress of grievance. The content of the letter to Mr. Bush based on the legislator”s reading of the report suggests that any employee who desires to us the IG as a recourse in matters pertaining to HSPD #12 would risk having their complaint dismissed and might be subjected to further abuse rather than protection from abuse at the hands of the IG. The complete test of the letter to President Bush is appended to this communication


Since its inception NASA has had the distinction among all federal agencies as the one having the highest levels of morale. Our scientists and engineers deliver quality results to the taxpayers providing exciting findings about our solar system, our place in the galaxy, and our significance in the universe. We have done this even when administrations in Washington have changed or attempted to bend our directions and our results to suit narrow political expediency. Inflicting this security policy on our nation”s most dedicated servants is, of course, and insult. Our only recourse is to speak out against this unwarranted intrusion into our personal lives in the hope of convincing the NASA management to take an initiative on our behalf and on behalf of all federal employees who are impacted by HSPD #12.

Suggestions regarding what an employee might do.

1) Do not vent your anger on HSPD#12 supervisor Jerry Suitor. His is a competent JPL employee who has been poorly served by those in NASA who provided him with false information and insisted he distribute it to us. He has been furthermore undercut by the Caltech Office of General Council which failed in its responsibility to provide him with the slightest modicum of review of the materials that NASA decreed should be distributed to us.

2) Do not vent your anger on the CALTECH Office of General Council. They are representing CALTECH interests and, in particular they are ensuring that their client, CALTECH, has the greatest probability of receiving the highest annual monetary management award from NASA. Certainly, do not rely on OGC to provide you with advice that is in your interest. That is NOT their job.

3) If you have a personal lawyer please seek their advice. If you do not have one and would like to find one I can make several suggestions.

4) Do not blame your supervisor, your section manager, your division manager, Pete Theisinger, Dan McCleese, Gene Tatini or Charles Elachi. Please speak directly to your supervisor and express your concerns about this. If you have already done this, please reaffirm your concerns in the light of the new information supplied above. Ask them to assure you that they will pass this concern up the management chain. If they do not agree to do this then please contact the above parties and inform them of your concerns.

5) It is most important that those who have not contacted me about a further and most effective response should do so immediately.

Yours most sincerely,
[Name deleted]

SpaceRef staff editor.