The head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service has publicly apologised for its mistreatment of LGBT+ spies, despite a “security” ban being lifted in 1991.
MI6 chief Richard Moore today admitted anti-LGBT+ prejudice had “shattered” the dreams of would-be spies and “blighted” their lives because they were banned.
He admitted that even though same-sex relationships were decriminalised in 1967 there was still an MI6 “security bar” on LGBT+ would-be spies until 1991, amid blackmail fears.
Cold War paranoia among Britain’s spy chiefs meant they believed non-straight sexuality employees could be blackmailed by hostile states such as Russia.
It was feared Moscow’s KGB spies could use a British intelligence officer’s sexuality against him or her to apply leverage and leak secrets to the Kremlin.
Today Richard Moore, 57, – known as “C” within the UK’s foreign intelligence service – said on Twitter : “During times of war and peace, our work carries on in secret, keeping us safe at home and protecting British interests and values overseas.
“But secret does not mean unaccountable. And today I want to publicly address an issue from our past, and so important to our future, for the first time.
“Same-sex relationships were decriminalised in 1967.
“But until 1991 there was a security bar to LGBT+ individuals serving in our Intelligence Agencies, because of the misguided view that they would be more susceptible to blackmail than straight people.”
And following similar addressing of the issue in recent years by the UK’s listening station GCHQ and the UK’s domestic spy agency MI5, he added: “Committed, talented, public-spirited people had their careers and lives blighted because it was argued that being LGBT+ was incompatible with being an intelligence professional.
“Because of this policy, other loyal and patriotic people had their dreams of serving their country in MI6 shattered.
“This was wrong, unjust and discriminatory.
“Today, I apologise on behalf of MI6 for the way our LGBT+ colleagues and fellow citizens were treated and express my regret to those whose lives were affected.”
Whitehall sources say Moore, a father-of-two, who married in 1985, has been personally committed to a much more open and diverse MI6.
In his statement he even confessed that even once the LGBT+ ban was lifted by MI6 in 1991 employees who then came out were mistreated within the service.
And he said the prejudice against LGBT+ applicants to join MI6 had “deprived ourselves of some of the best talent Britain could offer” and they were “denied that opportunity.”
In a devastating admission he explained: “Even after the ban was lifted in 1991, its effects lingered.
“Some staff who chose to come out were treated badly for not having previously disclosed their sexuality during their security vetting.
“Others who joined in the period post-1991 were made to feel unwelcome.
“That treatment fuelled a reluctance to be their true selves in the workplace. This was also unacceptable.
“I pay tribute to the extraordinary resilience and loyalty to Service and country of LGBT+ colleagues past and present who slowly turned the tide by educating their workmates and fighting for change.
“As well as apologising, I am thanking current and former LGBT+ colleagues for the contribution they have made, and continue to make, to MI6 and to our country.”
Spy agency applicants in the UK go through intensive vetting and are encouraged to be honest about all of their behaviour, including their sexuality past and present.
They undergo intensive questioning to assess their personality but all of the UK’s three main agencies now have no prejudice towards LGBT+ applicants.
MI6, MI5 and GCHQ have been overhauled in recent years to become as diverse as the rest of society so its spies are able to operate with versatility.
It has led to a huge push to encourage ethnic minority applicants to try and join their ranks and show they will consider all applicants regardless of their sexuality.