Richard Grenell, the acting Director of National Intelligence, has suggested the US may stop sharing intelligence information with countries where it is illegal to be gay.
His comments were reported yesterday by the New York Times. He said the intelligence community can do more to push American values abroad.
“We can’t just simply make the moral argument and expect others to respond in kind because telling others that it’s the right thing to do doesn’t always work,” he said. “To fight for decriminalization is to fight for basic human rights.
“If a country that we worked in as the United States intelligence community was arresting women because of their gender, we would absolutely do something about it. Ultimately, the United States is safer when our partners respect basic human rights.”
Grenell, who is gay himself, was appointed to his current role by President Donald Trump in February. He has also been the US ambassador to Germany since May 2018. He is believed to be the first openly-gay cabinet member.
Grenell said he has the President’s backing to withhold intelligence: “We have the president’s total support. This is an American value, and this is United States policy.”
Grenell posted a photo of the New York Times article on his Instagram, with a comment stating: “I am forming a working group across the intelligence community to look at how we can help combat the criminalization of homosexuality. 69 countries currently will arrest someone for being gay (10 of these countries can kill you as a punishment).”
Among the countries in the world that criminalize same-sex sexual behavior are key US intelligence partners like Saudi Arabia and Kenya.
Grenell’s comments come a week after he sent a letter out to the agencies he oversees.
“Last year, the President charged me with leading the U.S. government’ s efforts to help decriminalize homosexuality in the 69 countries that currently make being gay a crime. In line with this, I have directed our team to establish an interagency working group to fully leverage the expertise of the IC [Intelligence Community] and will further advance these efforts through membership on the National Security Council.”
Whether Grenell’s suggestions are implemented remains to be seen. As ‘acting’ Director of National Intelligence, the Senate will vote on a full-time replacement in September – a point Grenell referenced in his letter last week while pledging to do more to end discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ people in the intelligence community.
“While I will likely not be in this role for long,” he said, “I plan to use this opportunity to drive lasting impact for the IC Pride community … I am committed to doing more to detect and respond to all discrimination and harassment within the workforce. I expect every IC agency to ensure policies are specific and deliberate in protecting the LGBT workforce.”
The Trump administration’s apparent push to end anti-gay laws abroad has raised eyebrows among some LGBTQ advocates in the US. Advocacy group GLAAD is keeping a running count of attacks the Trump administration has made on LGBTQ people since taking office. It currently stands at 136 anti-LGBTQ statements or measures over the 1,189 days of his Presidency so far.