Monday, February 25, 2008

Security clearances for gays: Clinton and Bush; still some disturbing questions


In researching matters for a new Wordpress blog on law and technology, I reviewed all the major bills and court opinions regarding the "don't ask don't tell" policy, security clearances, and ENDA.

I recall that President Clinton claimed to have ended the practice of discriminating against gays in the granting of security clearances with his Executive Order in August, 1995. I could not find the order online, but found numerous articles about it. The main article ("Clinton Ends Ban on Security Clearance for Gay Workers") seems to be by Todd S. Purdum in The New York Times, link here (may require registration or purchase). Apparently the Executive Order was a complete overhall of security procedures. Frank Kameny had said on a radio show hosted by Scott Peck in 1993 that the security clearance situation for civilian gays had improved considerably during the "first Bush administration" especially once the Persian Gulf War was underway in 1990.

On March 16, 2006 the AP published a story "Dems criticize Bush’s security policy for gays; White House revises sexual orientation language on granting clearance," link here. Barney Frank was involved in the criticism, but the (current) Bush administration denied that there was any significant change.

On March 17, 2006, The Washington Blade ran a story "Security clearance rule change may impede gays; Gay Activists slam Bush administration over ‘stealth’ move," link here. To quote, "The new rules also say behavior that is "strictly private, consensual and discreet" could "mitigate security concerns."

Federal GLOBE ("FEDERAL GLOBE GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL EMPLOYEES OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, PO Box 45237, Washington DC 20026-5237") had an article March 17, 2006, "Didn't Ask Us, Didn't Tell Us," link here. GLOBE asks the existential question, if there is no change, then why the announcement?

I came of age when security clearances were a big deal. After my William and Mary disaster in 1961, I was never able to get a top secret security clearance, although I was processed twice, once while in the Army, and once while employed by the Navy Department in 1971-1972. In 1972, an investigator asked me if anyone had ever tried to blackmail me. The ambiguity of my security clearance "eligibility" contributed to my decision to leave that Navy department (NAVCOSSACT) job in 1972 and enter private industry (I went to work for Sperry Univac, a computer vendor, which at the time was, by happenstance, one of the most progressive companies in promoting women).

In recent years, we have come to think of the security clearance problem as one of Dick Cheney 's "old chestnuts", but now I wonder. As I indicated in previous posts, I think there are ways where the military DADT policy can indirectly affect civilians. Personally, I would not want to deal with a security clearance application unless there was a specific job need that applied to me (and I can actually imagine how this might happen).

Update: May 1, 2008

Although this story is not specifically about gay issues, it is interesting: "Pentagon Changes Policy for Security Clearance Applicants: Change Is Aimed at Removing Stigma Surrounding Mental Health Care," by Anne Scott Tyson, link here. My own "psychiatric" history was a factory in my applications for TS clearances in 1968 and again in 1971, first when in the Army, and then when employed by the Navy Dept.

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