President Clinton Friday approved a government-wide overhaul of security-clearance procedures that puts an end to the Cold War-era assumption that homosexuals cannot be trusted with the nation’s secrets.
The 13-page presidential executive order establishes the first uniform standards for U.S. agencies in granting security clearances to employees. The new rules on how the government decides who will have access to its most trusted secrets and how that access is monitored grew out of a review of the Aldrich Ames spy case.
Among the order’s elements are requirements for wider and more-frequently filed financial disclosures by those with top security clearances to monitor unusual accumulations of wealth.
But the issue of expanding the non-discrimination clause for granting clearances to homosexuals drew the most public attention Friday. Homosexual-rights groups praised the order for recognizing that homosexuality should not be a barrier to clearance for secure documents.
A senior administration official said applicants for security clearances routinely were denied such clearances by some agencies if they were homosexual, on grounds that their sexual orientation could be used for blackmail efforts. Under the change, the official said, applicants can be asked if there is anything in their conduct that, if revealed, might be used to compromise or coerce them to reveal secrets. But officials cannot assume homosexuality would cause such a problem.
The new standards also forbid the assumption that those who have undergone or are undergoing mental-health counseling should be considered unfit to have access to secrets.
Elizabeth Birch, director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, praised Clinton for correcting what she called decades of discrimination against gay and lesbian government employees.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. said it “completes the process of removing all vestiges of anti-gay and lesbian discrimination from the process of granting security clearances.”