The term ‘blacklisted’ is racist, US warns its spies

Headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia
Headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia - BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

US spies, including members of the CIA, have been told the term “blacklisted” is racist in an internal diversity newsletter which also offered advice from a crossdresser.

The guidance has been included in The Dive, a newsletter circulated by the intelligence community’s diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility office.

According to Fox News Digital, which has analysed the document, it is packed with diversity guidance aimed at improving the accuracy of language used by the intelligence community.

One of the articles, discussing linguistic diversity, has urged officials to refrain from using the term “blacklisted”.

This is because it implies “black is bad and white is good”. The term “sanity check” is discouraged because it is disparaging towards people with mental illness.

“Cakewalk” and “grandfathered” are also no longer regarded as acceptable because of their association with slavery.

In another article, an anonymous intelligence officer writes that his crossdressing habit has made him more effective in his role.

“I am an intelligence officer, and I am a man who likes to wear women’s clothes sometimes,” the author wrote. “I think my experiences as someone who crossdresses have sharpened the skills I use as an intelligence officer, particularly critical thinking and perspective-taking.

“It is challenging for some people to understand crossdressing, and non-binary or genderfluid people because gender is a part of overall identity,” he added. “Many of us think of our identities as fixed, and some find this approach to gender threatening to their own identity.”

Crossdressing also enabled him to better understand his female and LGBT colleagues, he said.

In another section of the newsletter, an intelligence officer warned that previous training had conflated Islam with terrorism and cautioned that the language alienated spies’ Muslim-American colleagues.

Hostile reception

The guidance received a hostile reception from Republicans and on social media, with one user dismissing the Biden administration as a “clown show” and another questioning how this helped intelligence gathering.

Jeremy Hunt, a former Army intel officer and the chairman of the national security-focused group Veterans On Duty, was scathing.

“Rather than our primary focus being on protecting the homeland, these absurd attempts to police the language of intelligence assessments to make them politically correct will undoubtedly result in lower quality, imprecise and confusing intelligence reports that leave lawmakers and decision makers less informed and unable to make reasoned judgments,” he told Fox News.

Arkansas Republican senator Tom Cotton, and a member of the Armed Services Committee, described the guidance as concerning.

“Intelligence officers should spend their time finding terrorists, not worrying about whether they will offend them,” he said in a statement.

However, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was unrepentant about the guidance, which was aimed at bolstering its efforts to  “build a diverse and inclusive workforce”.

Diversity and inclusion have been at the forefront of the culture wars sweeping the US.

A raft of Republican-led states have brought in laws to curb the initiatives including withholding grants from universities and colleges until they drop the initiatives from their curriculum and admissions policies.

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