MI5 seeks gay spies in attempt to expand its recruiting base
M15, the British equivalent of the CIA, has instituted a new policy of actively seeking gay men and women as new recruits. The agency says its part of a wider mission to attract more diverse recruits from throughout society rather than just selecting people from Oxford or Cambridge.
MI5, the UK security service, is looking to recruit more gay staff - following many investment banks and private sector employers - in a move that reflects dramatic changes in the attitudes of the British establishment over the last decade.
Stonewall, the gay lobby group, has been hired to advise MI5, the domestic arm of the intelligence services, on how to encourage its spies to be more open about their sexuality and how to attract more gay applicants for posts.
The contract marks a significant change in stance by MI5. Gay men and women were barred from working in sensitive posts in the diplomatic or security services until the early 1990s, a quarter of a century after sexual acts between men were decriminalised in 1967. The ostensible rationale was concern that gay spies could be vulnerable to blackmail, while gay ambassadors could exacerbate tensions between the UK and countries that still criminalise homosexuality.
MI5 would have been highly unlikely to want to work closely with Stonewall in the decade to 2002, when the group was headed by Angela Mason. Ms Mason was tried and acquitted in the 1970s of planting bombs on the doorsteps of Conservative ministers.
Jonathan Evans, who became MI5 director-general last year, has now sanctioned a policy of targeting the gay community as potential recruits. Stonewall will include the security service in its guide of gay-friendly employers this year. The lobby group is also advising MI5 on how to create a supportive environment for its existing gay employees.