CIA Director Bemoans Growing Up 'A White Male from New Jersey'

Legacy is wearing a rainbow lanyard around Langley to show solidarity with LGBTQ

CIA Director John Brennan
CIA Director John Brennan / AP
January 17, 2017

Director John Brennan said growing up a "white male from New Jersey" led him to his strong promotion of gay rights in the Central Intelligence Agency, which included his wearing a rainbow lanyard around Langley to show he is an LGBTQ ally.

In his final interview as head of the CIA, Brennan told the Wall Street Journal that he hopes his legacy is the "way he fought to nurture a workforce that reflected America’s diversity."

During his tenure he has put particular emphasis on promoting the interests of gay, lesbian, and transgender officers. He was the first CIA director to attend an annual social gathering of LGBTQ employees and has been known to wear a rainbow lanyard around the office as a symbol of solidarity.

For Mr. Brennan, who said his perspective was informed by growing up "a white male from New Jersey," diversity of backgrounds leads to better analysis, which in his estimation can prevent intelligence disasters. "I just think that having those varied perspectives really adds great color and dimension and diversity to how we look at problems," he said. "It gets us away from groupthink."

Under Brennan, the CIA implemented a "diversity and inclusion strategy" that had a dedicated program to recruit transgender individuals.

The Intelligence Community under the Obama administration also held breakout sessions on "inclusivity" during LGBT Pride month for employees at the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence offices. Workshop topics included "Getting Inclusive," "LGBT Ally Training," "Building Trans Inclusivity," and "Boots to Rainbow Suits."

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) will replace Brennan, pending Senate confirmation.

Published under: CIA , John Brennan