Vail Valley Voices: Blackmail waiting to happen
Vail, CO Colorado
The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell compromise was introduced by President Clinton in 1993. It allowed Reagan’s Defense Directive, that homosexuality is incompatible with military service and those engaging in homosexual or bisexual acts be discharged, to be kept in force but without actively seeking out gay/bisexual service members. This compromise was bound to be controversial as it neither ensures that the Armed Forces are gay-free, nor allows gays and bisexuals the right to openly represent their country while serving in the military.
It is irritating to the extreme right, to gay rights groups, and to those who believe in that strange idea that all men are born equal and deserve equal rights in our society.
So we end up with the ridiculous situation whereby homosexuality is banned in the Armed Forces but seemingly some 66,000 members of the Armed Forces are gay. It seems strange that gays undermine our military so dramatically when we know they are there and yet they don’t when we are unaware of their presence.
Sen. John McCain and others decry the acceptance of gays in the military, even with an estimated 66,000 currently serving, even with the results of a full study into the issue contradicting him and even with strong constitutional reasons existing to support the right of gays to serve openly. What they fail to discuss or consider is the consequence of 66,000-plus service men and women being forced to lie about a very personal and important aspect of their lives; a lie that, if exposed, would risk them losing career and livelihood.
In the modern high-tech military there are increasing numbers of jobs that require the holder to maintain security clearances. Lose your clearances, for whatever reason, and your career path is forever blocked. Part of the vetting process, to assess whether or not to clear someone for access to sensitive material, involves determining if the individual, through his or her behavior, is open to blackmail. There are some very obvious things that make someone a high security risk, and unlikely to be granted a high level of security clearance, including: alcoholism, drug use, extreme debt, gambling, philandering, associating with dubious characters and organizations, a criminal record, and anything that makes one into a blackmail target.
A lie to conceal a character trait is almost worse than the trait itself. Lying on vetting forms would automatically raise a red flag and disqualify a person from holding high level clearances, and yet that is precisely what Don’t Ask Don’t Tell forces gay service men and women to do. Lie and lose your clearances and job, or don’t lie and still lose your job for being gay – Hobson’s choice!
Many of those discharged from the military for being gay have been interpreters or working in intelligence or other sensitive appointments requiring high levels of clearances. With their access to highly sensitive information, these are just the sorts of individuals that our enemies would love to recruit as spies. What better recruiting mechanism than the threat to end their careers by exposing their sexual orientation? What better way to get good intelligence than from those with access to the most sensitive material and feeling marginalized?
This aspect of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell could lead to the deaths of many of our soldiers and possibly failure of our overall mission. So why is it not raised in the ongoing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell debate? Is it because ‘gays in the military’ is a very useful wedge issue for politicians more interested in exploiting the things that divide us than in our national security?
Now I read that Pvt. 1st Class Bradley Mann, who allegedly leaked classified documents to Wikileaks, was not only an intelligence analyst, with access to mountains of sensitive data, but also gay and frustrated in career and relationships. He will be put on trial but so should Congress for putting him in an invidious position.
Keeping Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in force will not keep gays and bisexuals out of the military; neither will reverting back to the Reagan Defense Directive. Thousands will still serve, often in sensitive areas, but with their little secret hidden from view, opening them up to blackmail and subversion by our enemies. I await Sen. McCain’s words of wisdom.
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