There’s a man about Altadena who stands up and speaks out on all issues concerning not just this community, but life itself. Just yesterday my husband saw him picketing the war at Hill and Orange Grove. Sunday I was at his home (while the fire was going on but after I took pictures) discussing the charter schools operating at Edison Elementary. Who knows where he’ll be tomorrow. But earlier this month he was seen in the Star News, speaking up about an issue that is raising hell on the JPL campus, and I would assume at all NASA sites. Here’s a reprint of his letter. 

JPL’s background checks
Pasadena Star News 08/07/2007

Re the HSPD-12 and NASA Badging for JPL, “FBI clearance not enough for NASA’s new head”:

Ah, Oak Grove Park, and the calm greenery route to Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It lured me from Detroit to Altadena in 1967, when I joined the staff at JPL as an engineer. As I made my way through my 15 years to become a member of the technical staff, I increased my security clearance from “Secret” to “Top Secret Atomos,” or about as high a security clearance as you could get. My clearance was so high that, when JPL won a contract with the FBI to help automate their fingerprint process, I was given unescorted access to the entire building, including the highly secure computer center.

When we first received a grant from NATO to install videoconferencing, I was the only member of the JPL team given access to NATO’s base in Belgium for war games.

With that clearance on my badge, I proudly walked into JPL each morning, passing through the guards, wearing the badge next to my pocket protector and my Peace & Freedom political party pin. JPL and the FBI had checked me out, found that I was a member of a far-left-wing political party, attended meetings with the Black Panthers and Brown Berets, as well as meetings with the Altadena Sheriff’s Department and the Pasadena Police Department.

They knew that, in 1972, the Altadena Sheriff’s Department along with the American Legion named me “Altadena’s Man of the Year.” The sheriffs and American Legion did so knowing that I had a secret clearance and was a member of the Peace & Freedom Party, and had long hair. (I still had hair then.)

Not long after that, the Pasadena Police Department contracted with JPL to have me manage a study for them – P&F, hair, secret clearance and all. In 1981, I “retired” from JPL and founded my own company.

In getting my job at JPL, I went through the background checks, the clearance rituals, like virtually all of my colleagues who now have spent 25-35 years at JPL, taking us where “no man has gone” into outer space. Now, NASA men (and I am beginning to wonder if they’re from outer space) are asking my colleagues to go through background checks once again, and to provide personal information, which is frankly none of NASA’s business.

JPL has a brain trust that can never be replaced. The new head of NASA has neither brain nor trust.

Elliot M. Gold