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The Closet as
Security Risk

The Closet as
Security Risk


The National Security Agency courts openly gay employees.

Visitors to the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Md., have to pass through three security gates to enter the premises. Should they need to use the restroom inside, an escort must accompany them to the latrine.

Not only did Brian McNaught have to face this foreboding environment, he had to stand up in front of 600 employees of the NSA -- the country's cryptography and wiretapping agency -- and convince them that making gay jokes hurts their organization.

McNaught earns a living lecturing to companies on how to foster safe environments for LGBT employees. Over the past 34 years he's spoken to dozens of Fortune 500 companies, but when he visited the NSA in June, it was the first time he lectured to people in fatigues.

"The remarkable thing," McNaught says, "is you have the NSA bringing a gay speaker to an organization in which half of its employees are civilians and half operate under 'don't ask, don't tell.' "

When the NSA's director of diversity invited him to speak, McNaught said he would do so only if all top-level managers -- civilian and military -- were required to attend. He got his wish. All senior executives, including NSA deputy director John Inglis, were on hand.

Before the lecture, McNaught had lunch with Inglis, who made it clear the agency welcomes gay civilian employees -- but they must be out.

"Being closeted can turn someone into a blackmail target," McNaught says. "The NSA is worried whether someone with access to national secrets has anything an enemy of the United States could use against them." Knowing that, McNaught used his presentation to stress the importance of putting gay employees at ease -- no jokes, no gossip -- so that coming out isn't an issue.

How was he received? "After a three-hour presentation," McNaught says, "I got a standing ovation."

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