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SFGN interviews four openly LGBT officers for four-part series

In the culture wars griping America, it is the Central Intelligence Agency leading the way for positive change within the intelligence community.

“CIA is definitely the leader on LGBT issues,” said one of the agency’s officers, who for security purposes gave just his first name – Charles.

SFGN spent time with four CIA officers during a recent weekend in Miami Beach, learning more about life as gay men and transgender individuals at the independent civilian agency. All of the officers interviewed for this series agreed to speak on the record about CIA work on the condition only their first name is printed. The CIA is responsible for providing intelligence in a wide range of national security issues to senior U.S. policymakers. Charles, 36, is a senior analyst in the Directorate of Intelligence, originally from New York.

“I was open before I came to the agency,” said Charles, who identifies as a gay man.

That was ten years ago when the climate inside CIA was much different. Charles tested the waters during his first few weeks inside CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia.

“My antenna was up,” he said. “(I was) looking for feelers to see if it was going to be a welcoming place.”

The comments he was hearing did not indicate a measure of respect and understanding for LGBT people, Charles said, so he decided to keep his sexual orientation to himself.

“I pushed myself back into the closet,” he said. “I was masking who I was.”

Lyssa Asbill, CIA Media Spokesperson, said the agency is making tremendous strides to ensure employees feel comfortable being authentic at work and has created an employee resource group to aid those efforts. The group is called "ANGLE (Agency Network for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Employees and Allies)” and it is bringing like-minded individuals together to form an important support network.

At ANGLE meetings, LGBT employees and allies gather to exchange ideas on how to improve the quality of life for colleagues. Chris, 40, a program manager, is an example of ANGLE in action.  Chris travels the country in search of talented lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people to recruit to CIA.

“It’s the focus of my work,” he said, “reaching out to the LGBT community to get the message out about misconceptions.”

Chris identifies as a gay man and has been employed at the CIA for a decade. His father worked at the CIA and Chris says the agency “feels like a second home.” Born and raised in Maryland, Chris began working at the CIA in a summer program granted to legacy families. He worked hard and diligently and the agency took notice by helping him go through college at the University of Maryland in College Park.

In his current role at CIA’s Center for Mission Diversity and Inclusion, Chris meets with professional LGBT groups and organizations across America.

“I want them to know that diversity is valued at the agency,” he said.

And when he spots talent, Chris is a recruiter, who emphasizes the workplace freedom CIA offers.

“They can have happy careers at the agency and be out and who they are and that’s what makes diversity a great thing,” he said. “They can be out and who they are and they don’t have to hide who they are.”

The CIA is separated into four basic components: the National Clandestine Service, the Directorate of Intelligence, the Directorate of Science & Technology and the Directorate of Support. Together, the four components carry out a cycle of intelligence, which is described as a process of collecting, analyzing and disseminating information to top U.S. government officials.

Dan, 28, is a CIA cyber security officer in the Directorate of Science & Technology. A handsome, well built young man from Philadelphia, at first glance Dan blends in well with the muscular bodied scene in South Beach. He came to CIA from the Department of Defense, attracted to intelligence work out of a “sense of mission.”

“Your integrity is everything you do … through actions not just words,” Dan said. “(CIA) is a great environment. I was almost a little bit floored when I stepped through the door.”

All of the officers interviewed for this series said their deep love of country is the underlining reason for their work. Keeping the nation safe and secure is no small task and it can be dangerous.

In next week’s story, SFGN goes deeper into the mysterious history of this U.S. agency.