CIA director John Brennan has promised that the agency will take swift action regarding a gay CIA contractor's allegations the he faced homophobic, racist, and sexist harassment while deployed in a war zone in Afghanistan.
"We have a zero-tolerance policy, and whenever there is a situation where there is an allegation and that allegation is found to be well-founded, we take action immediately," Brennan told reporters today at a meeting in New York regarding CIA diversity, ABC News reports. "I think you can understand I can't obviously address any particular case or allegations that may be working their way through a system."
The case he was asked about was that of Brett Jones, a former Navy SEAL and current CIA contractor who came out as gay last year. When he was deployed to Afghanistan as part of the agency's Global Response Staff this summer, he encountered constant harassment, he said in recent interviews with ABC News and the special-operations news website SOFREP.com.
For instance, his colleagues at one point refused to let him ride in a truck with them during a vehicle test, forcing him to walk in 120-degree heat. Then, as a prank, his encrypted radio was stolen, something that could have compromised the security of military communications. After he frantically searched for it, it was surreptitiously returned.
In late June he attended a pre-mission PowerPoint presentation in which the usual slides had been replaced with slides bearing homophobic, racist, and sexist remarks. (Jones is a white male who does not tolerate racist or sexist language.) The slides "referred to Americans as 'Americunts,' their commo plan as 'LGBT,' and actions on contact with the enemy as 'Reverse cowboy/girl, crossdresser, deploy genital warts, and coordinate with anus,'" SOFREP.com reported.
Further, ABC reported, two slides "were directly aimed at him. His radio call sign had been changed to 'Gay Gay' and in a slide meant to discuss medical emergencies, it said, 'Escorts go to NEVERLAND RANCH and GRS goes to GAYBAR medic.'"
Jones eventually realized he had to leave Afghanistan, as he said he felt he couldn't trust his fellow contractors to back him up in dangerous situations, and he thought he might face as much danger from his colleagues as from Afghan rebels. He said he is cooperating with the CIA in its investigation of the situation.
Brennan today declined to tell ABC News just what the CIA is doing to address Jones's allegations, but he said the agency has come far regarding LGBT issues. "As someone who came in at a time when individuals were prevented from joining the agency for sexual preference, we, I think, have been leading in some respects of the last two decades," he said, praising the work of the CIA's LGBT employee group. "That's not saying that as a large organization that's a microcosm of U.S. society that there's still not places where we need to work on it. But the track record is strong there."