UK spy agency chief apologizes for elderly prejudice about gays

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Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 4:44 PM

In a scarce public speech, GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan told a gathering organized by the human rights grouping Stonewall that its ban on homosexuals had caused long-lasting psychological damage to many and damage the agency because talented people were excluded from working there."The fact that it was common practice for decades reflected the intolerance of the times and the pressures of the Freezing War, but it doesn't create it any less incorrect and we should apologize for it," Hannigan said Friday at the Stonewall Workplace Conference.

UK spy agency chief apologizes for elderly prejudice about gays

The head of Britain'south digital espionage agency has apologized for the organization'south historic prejudice against homosexuals, saying it failed to memorise from the treatment of World War II codebreaker Alan Turing.

In a scarce public speech, GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan told a gathering organized by the human rights grouping Stonewall that its ban on homosexuals had caused long-lasting psychological damage to many and damage the agency because talented people were excluded from working there.

"The fact that it was common practice for decades reflected the intolerance of the times and the pressures of the Freezing War, but it doesn't create it any less incorrect and we should apologize for it," Hannigan said Friday at the Stonewall Workplace Conference.

The speech offered a poignant tribute to Turing, the homosexual computer science pioneer and architect of the effort to crack Nazi Germany'south Enigma cipher. Turing was convicted of indecency in one thousand nine hundred fifty-second and stripped of his security clearance. He later committed suicide.

A two thousand fourteen film about Turing, "The Imitation Game" starring Benedict Cumberbatch, brought his legend to a new generation. At GCHQ, Turing is presently seen as a genius— "a problem-solver who wasn't afraid to think differently and radically," Hannigan said.

It was partly to honor Turing that the agency'south headquarters was lit up during a global celebration of gender and sexual variety last year.

"It was also kind of an act of atonement — for the lost opportunity of his early death," Hannigan said. "Who knows what Turing would've gone on to do, where, for example, he might've taken his pioneering interest in artificial intelligence, which is the thing everyone is talking about. We'll never know and should, as a society, never repeat that mistake."

Hannigan said things are different now.

To create the point, he shared a legend about an internal agency blog headlined "So it'south goodbye from him." Hannigan said that at first he thought it was written by someone who was leaving the agency for the private sector. It turned out to be the legend of a transgender employee — who he called Emma — who'd finally decided to start the process of transition.

"We have a lot of courageous staff, civilian and military, straight and gay, who have deployed to Afghanistan, to Iraq, and other conflicts...," Hannigan said. "But it takes a specific kind of bravery to write what Emma wrote in front of thousands of her colleagues."

Hannigan said he was pleased the blog was the most "liked" the agency had ever had, and that the comments were genuinely supportive. But he stressed that GCHQ was still distant from a utopia.

"That is the genuine point of variety for me," he said. "To do our job, which is solving some of the hardest technology problems the world faces for security reasons, we necessity all talents and we necessity people who dare to think differently and be different... Dull uniformity would totally destroy us."

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