Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Spies in the Closet

From the Gay News Blog comes news of yet another troubling development. Gay activists have come upon a quiet change made by the Bush administration in providing security clearance to GLBT Americans.

In 1995, President Clinton issued an executive order saying that sexual orientation "may not be used as a basis for or a disqualifying factor in determining a person's eligibility for a security clearance."

This past December, however, President Bush approved a rule change that removed this wording. The new rule substituted language saying that security clearance cannot be denied
"solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual."

National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones says the new wording was not designed to change the meaning; rather, it was intended to clarify the 1995 executive order.

If no change in meaning was intended, those smart lawyers in Washington must have come up with new language that means the same thing but is clearer. Right?

Well, let's compare the language.

Here's the 1995 wording again: Sexual orientation "may not be used as a basis for or a disqualifying factor in determining a person's eligibility for a security clearance." Note the phrase "disqualifying factor."

Well, I hate to admit it, but that phrase isambiguous. Does it mean that you can't disqualify someone just because of their sexual orientation, although you can use it as one factor among many? Or, does it mean that sexual orientation can't even be used as a factor in disqualifying someone?

In changing the wording, the Bush administration has capitalized on this ambiguity to roll back GLBT rights. It has chosen the first of the two possible meanings:
Security clearance cannot be denied "solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual."

Now, think about what that means: It's ok for someone to be denied security clearance for being lesbian, as long as it's only 99% of the reason and not 100%.

Should sexual orientation never be an issue? What about the married man having a clandestine affair with another man (or the man in a committed same-sex relationship who's having an affair with a woman)?

That's the only situation I can think of where it should be an issue, and even there, it's not the sexual orientation that's the problem. It's the secret affair. Which is why Clinton wisely said, according to the Gay News Blog, that "
sexual behavior may be a security concern if it involves a criminal offense, suggests an emotional disorder, could subject someone to coercion or shows a lack of judgment."

Bush had two options if he wanted to clear up the ambiguity. He could have said sexual orientation should never be an issue, but he didn't do that. Instead, he specifically chose the more discriminatory meaning. And ironically, in doing so, he created a security concern where there would have been none otherwise. You see, sexual orientation may now subject an agent to coercion where it didn't before -- because it can now be cited as one reason for removing that agent's security clearance.

I suspect this is just how the radical right likes it.


2 comments:

  1. Thank you. I read this on one of the publications yesterday and I must have been tired because I couldn't focus on the differences.

    I did know that if the change was made by this administration it did not bode well.

    You made them very clear.

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