This is taken (with links to the full thing) from a series on Culture Kitchen and Daily Gotham describing my own family's ongoing experience with Bush's paranoid America. The original story is a three-part (to date) story which has been picked up outside the blogsphere, but not so much within the blogshere. I made some references to it on dKos and people suggested I post here as well. I know a few diaries have already been written about it...but this is personal and contains new info.
Since parts are a Culture Kitchen exclusive, I will mainly excerpt here with links the original diaries. The basic jist of the series is this: every single Federal employee is now to be treated as if they work on sensitive projects requiring extensive background checks. All Federal employees are being asked to sign blanket waivers giving up their basic rights so that the government can investigate every aspect of their personal life should they deem it necessary for any reason. Keep reading...
Have you been PERSONALLY affected by the Bush Administration’s erosion of our Constitutional Rights? Well, now my family is coming face to face with a direct assault on the Bill of Rights, an assault on my wife’s rights. This assault comes directly from Bush with no input from Congress whatsoever.
The truth is that this directive is not, in itself, that bad. Its intention is to, WITHIN THE LIMITS OF THE CONSTITUTION AND EXISTING LAW, create a consistent policy within the Federal government for ID badges to get into Federal facilities. But the implementation of it is a nightmare largely because Federal employees are being asked to sign a blanket waiver that gives the government permission to investigate a person by any means they want, including talking with neighbors, doing credit checks, looking at medical records, etc. Part of the process, based on the analysis my wife and I have done (and few others seem aware of this) could be interpreted as barring homosexuals from government employment. Scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion lab are among the first to speak out against this. Some are resigning in protest and others filing a lawsuit.
My wife is a graduate student at a joint program between NASA and Columbia University called the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). Her department uses satellite data and computer modeling to study the atmosphere, climate and climate change. NASA, of course, has many top secret projects, projects which require high security. No one questions the need for high security and detailed background checks for specific, highly sensitive projects. This is perfectly reasonable.
But the Federal Government under Bush is now insisting that ALL employees, contractors, students, etc. associated with NASA agree to allow an investigation into their lives should the Federal Government deem it necessary for any reason. In short, Homeland Security is demanding that all NASA employees, contractors, etc. right down to students like my wife, agree to undergo the same kind of scrutiny as if they ALL worked in a top secret program. They are treating ALL of NASA as if it was one big secret program. This strikes me as insanely inefficient in addition to highly intrusive.
My wife shared with me internal emails that went back and forth within NASA and I received permission to use this material as part of my reporting on this issue. So some of what I use amounts to a Culture Kitchen exclusive. Additionally, my wife is responsible for discovering one aspect of implementation of HSPD#12, called the "Suitability Matrix" that most people either have not noticed or have simply dismissed as "bizarre" and not looked closely at. Yet we find it possibly one of the most disturbing aspects.
My wife is not sure what she will do when she gets her email that she has 10 days to sign her rights away. Will she risk her job or will she sign away her rights? This is a decision she has to make and I really can't advise her.
Please join us over at Culture Kitchen to explore what is happening to government employees.
In Part I of this series, I describe the way that government employees are being asked, in the name of Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12, to sign away their rights in order to keep their jobs (in essence, though that is not in the original wording of the directive). I should note that not all the blame for the problems are due to Homeland Security. Some are due to the way individual agencies are implementing the procedure. I should also note that the precise wording of the directive is not necessarily objectionable. Nevertheless, the requirement to sign a blanket waiver allowing an intrusive government investigation applies across the board and is the way in which the directive is being implemented.
Part I can be summarized by the words of Dr. Robert Nelson, Senior Scientist at JPL: (taken from internal emails, posted with permission)
Apparently the forms we are being required to fill out (sf85 and sf85p) are voluntary. We are being asked to voluntarily waive our constitutional rights. We are not being required to do it. HOWEVER IF WE DECLINE TO PROVIDE THIS INFORMATION WE WILL NOT BE FIRED. BUT WE WILL NOT BE GIVEN A BADGE. Hence we will not have access to our offices or our computers...Thus we will be derelict in our duties. For further information of this novel management approach please see (Kafka, Franz, The Trial, ISBN 0805209999...)...
On 9/12, Osama bin Laden, son of one of Saudi Arabia’s most wealthy families, became a fugitive...The ensuing war on terror has cost 3500 US lives and the lives of orders of magnitude more Iraqi civilians. Despite this, bin Laden remains on the loose. There remains a question of relevance, "How do personal background intrusions and fingerprinting of 5000 JPL colleagues help apprehend bin Laden?"
In Part II I describe an aspect of the procedure by which government employees are investigated as part of the imlpementation of Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12. This part of the procedure is called the "Suitability Matrix" and is not in itself a part of the directive. From what I can tell, it is an existing procedure, used to determine if someone should be debarred from government work, that has been appropraited by the US Office of Personnel Management in order to implement the directive. The Suitability Matrix is objectionable because a.) it does not give the procedure by which it is used, b.) it seems to require an intrusive investigation into an employees personal life way beyond anything Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12 requires, and c.) it includes as "offenses" things that could easily be misused, such as a reference to "sodomy" that, in context, sounds suspiciously like it could be used to debar gays from government work.
My wife is the one who called my attention to this and she helped do the initial research on how the "Suitability Matrix" is being used by the Office of Personnel Management as part of the procedure to implement HSPD#12. I did the specific research into the legal definitions of some of the listed "offenses" like "carnal knowledge" and "sodomy." I would be interested in other people's take on this bizarre "matrix."
Part III of the series quotes verbatum a brilliantly worded, intelligent resignation letter written by a woman who worked for NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab for nearly 40 years. Yet she has chosen to resign from JPL rather than sign the blanket waiver. Let me give a brief quote: (again, from emails my wife passed on)
The process is, in my opinion, excessive for the purposes of implementing HSPD-12, which is designed to create a "Government wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification issued by the Federal Government to its employees and contractors (including contractor employees)." I tremble to think what it is costing the American taxpayers to do these investigative checks on long-time, valued, trusted employees who do not work on classified projects and who have not given anyone any reason to suspect they would undermine the security of the United States. That money could be better spent truly enhancing our country's security at federal facilities, airports, and ports. In fact, the 9/11 Commission report addresses this very issue:
Recommendation: Hard choices must be made in allocating limited resources. The U.S. government should identify and evaluate the transportation assets that need to be protected, set risk-based priorities for defending them, select the most practical and cost-effective ways of doing so, and then develop a plan, budget and funding to the implement the effort..."
Please help. Read the full diaries at Culture Kitchen (there is lots more info to absorb) and pass it along. The Washington Monthly already picked it up, but we need as much exposure as we can. The NASA scientists have already told me that the publicity I have gotten them has raised their morale. But they also want us to help by contacting our Congressional Reps and get them looking into this. Some Congressional Reps from both parties have taken an interest. Please ask yours to help. Senators and Presidential Candidates, too.