National Security

Trump administration considers cutting intel ties with countries that criminalize homosexuality

acting director of national intelligence richard grenell

The Trump administration is mulling cutting back on its intelligence ties with countries that criminalize homosexuality in an effort to press those nations to change their laws, according to acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.

“We can’t just simply make the moral argument and expect others to respond in kind because telling others that it’s the right thing to do doesn’t always work,” Grenell said in an interview with The New York Times published Wednesday. “To fight for decriminalization is to fight for basic human rights.”

Grenell, believed to be the first openly gay Cabinet member, has put an emphasis on promoting anti-discrimination efforts. Before he joined the intel community, he worked to assemble gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups from the U.S. and other countries in his role as ambassador to Germany.

Grenell told the Times he has the backing of the White House, saying, “We have the president’s total support.”

“This is an American value, and this is United States policy,” he said.

Nearly 70 countries criminalize homosexuality, including U.S. intelligence partners like Egypt, Kenya and Saudi Arabia.

Grenell did not clarify if the new policy would withhold additional cooperation or just curtail the information that is given to the countries.

“If a country that we worked in as the United States intelligence community was arresting women because of their gender, we would absolutely do something about it,” Grenell said. “Ultimately, the United States is safer when our partners respect basic human rights.” 

Grenell expressed confidence that he would be able to enact this and other widespread policies despite serving in his role in an acting capacity. He has already overhauled staffing, angering some Democrats who have voiced concerns that he is injecting partisanship into the historically nonpartisan intelligence community. 

“I am not a seat-warmer,” Grenell said. “The president asked me to do a job and I am going to the job to the best of my ability.”

Tags intelligence sharing LGBT
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