Last week, Brian noted how Religious Right leaders have seized upon reports that Wikileaks-leaker Bradly Manning is gay in order to argue for the continuing need to enforce Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
The topic came up in the Liberty Counsel’s “Faith and Freedom Radio” program today as Mat Staver and Matt Barber discussed the issue and cited a report from the 1950s claiming that gays were “moral perverts” and therefore a national security risk:
Staver: According to news reports, Manning decided to turn traitor after a fight with his boyfriend, which somehow motivated him to send hundreds of thousands of confidential documents to WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange, who’s alleged also by some to be gay.
But at any rate, if you go back and look at this, go back to the reports of the 1950s when a series of Senate committee reports concluded that “moral perverts are bad national security risks because of the susceptibility to blackmail” and that homosexuals are “vulnerable to interrogation by a skilled questioner” due to emotional instability or moral weakness.
And that comes from The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, October 1, 2001. So this is not some ancient document, but it looks back at what happened in the 1950s with regards to why homosexuality was automatic excluder for someone in a national security position.
Barber: This shows specifically why, this highlights why we have the policy in place that seeks to keep sexual deviancy out of the ranks of the armed services.
I guess it is worth pointing out that Staver is completely misrepresenting the 2001 “The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory” by suggesting that it supported the findings of the reports from the 1950s when it did the exact opposite:
Barriers to security clearances for gay men and lesbians: fear of blackmail or fear of homosexuals?
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory – October 1, 2001
Gregory B. Lewis
Historically, the federal government has been a far-from-model employer of lesbians and gay men. It officially prohibited their employment in the 1950s, did not remove homosexuality as grounds for dismissal until the mid-1970s, did not pledge equal treatment in the granting of security clearances until the mid-1990s, and continues to deny equal pay for equal work by denying the same benefits to domestic partners of gay employees that it grants to spouses of heterosexual employees. (1) This article focuses on federal policies that denied security clearances to homosexuals until the 1980s and subjected gay applicants for clearances to intrusive questioning about their sex lives until the 1990s. Because approximately two hundred thousand federal employees and federal contractors require clearances to do their jobs (GAO 1995), and because clearances are essential for advancement toward the top of several federal agencies, these policies created a so-called lavender ceiling for gay employees in some agencies and firms. A concern that closeted homosexuals could be blackmailed into revealing the nation’s secrets justified the policy, but both administrative documents and survey data indicate that distaste for homosexuals undergirded it.
I begin this article with a brief history of federal policy, showing that although explicit bans on both security clearances and federal employment emerged at the same time from the same roots, court actions led the policies along different trajectories. I will then look at the weak evidence that gay people were at increased risk of betraying the nation’s secrets and the reasons that evidence was sufficient to uphold the policy. Although the courts rejected immorality as grounds for dismissing gay employees, their deference to administrative expertise and administrators’ reliance on a common sense standard meant that distaste for homosexuals bolstered national security concerns. In the third section I will use survey data from the 1990s to show that those who disapprove of homosexuality and gay rights are more likely than others to support intense questioning about sexual orientation before granting security clearances.