MI6 chief apologises after LGBT people were barred from serving

MI6 chief Richard Moore apologises after LGBT people were barred from serving in the intelligence agencies until 1991 under ‘wrong, unjust and discriminatory’ ban

  • Richard Moore, known as C in Whitehall, apologised in a video posted to Twitter
  • He said the ban deprived the Secret Intelligence Service of the ‘best talent’ in UK
  • The ban was in place as they thought LGBT+ are ‘more susceptible’ to blackmail

The chief of MI6 has apologised for the agency’s past treatment of LGBT+ people, adding they had deprived themselves of the ‘best talent’ Britain can offer.

Richard Moore from the Secret Intelligence service said a security bar on some individuals, which remained in place until 1991, was ‘wrong, unjust and discriminatory’.

In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Moore, known in Whitehall as C, explained the ban was in place because of a misguided belief LGBT+ people were more susceptible to blackmail.

He said: ‘This was wrong, unjust and discriminatory.

MI6 chief Richard Moore said the ban on LGBT+ people was ‘wrong, unjust and discriminatory’

The ban was introduced under the wrong belief being LGBT+ was ‘incompatible’ with a life in the secret services

‘Committed, talented, public-spirited people had their careers and lives blighted because it was argued that being LGBT+ was incompatible with being an intelligence professional.

‘Because of this policy, other loyal and patriotic people had their dreams of serving their country in MI6 shattered.

‘Today, I apologise on behalf of MI6 for the way our LGBT+ colleagues and fellow citizens were treated and express my regret to those whose lives were affected.

‘Being LGBT+ did not make these people a national security threat – of course not.

‘But the ban did mean that we, in the intelligence and diplomatic services, deprived ourselves of some of the best talent Britain could offer.’

Guy Burgess was found to be a Soviet spy in the 1950s and later defected to the Soviet Union

Donald McLean, another member of the Cambridge Five, was a Russian agent from 1944 and fled to Russia in 1951 when he was suspected of treachery 

Harold “Kim” Philby was a British intelligence officer and a double agent for the Soviet Union and was  revealed to be a member of the Cambridge Five in 1963

Although same-sex relationships were decriminalised in 1967, the ban on LGBT+ people serving in the agencies and the diplomatic service stayed in place following a series of Cold War spy scandals.

Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, from the notorious Cambridge spy ring who defected to the Soviet Union in 1951, were gay while a third, Donald Maclean, may have been bisexual.

In the 1950s hero Second World War codebreaker and mathematician Alan Turing was forced out of GCHQ when he was found to be in a gay relationship before he was chemically castrated.

He later took his own life at the age of 41.

Hero codebreaker Alan Turing was forced out of GCHQ in the 1950s when he was found to be in a gay relationship 

In 2013 the Queen granted him a posthumous pardon, only the fourth to be granted under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy since World War Two.

Mr Moore added the effect of the ban has lingered in the agency ever since.

He said: ‘Some staff who chose to come out were treated badly for not having previously disclosed their sexuality during their security vetting.

‘Others who joined in the period post-1991 were made to feel unwelcome. That treatment fuelled a reluctance to be their true selves in the workplace.

‘This was also unacceptable.’

THE SOVIET DOUBLE AGENTS WHO ROCKED THE BRITISH ESTABLISHMENT

The ‘Cambridge Five’ spying scandal rocked the Establishment by revealing Soviet double agents at the heart of many of Britain’s most important institutions.

Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt all met at the University of Cambridge, where Blunt was an academic and the other three were undergraduates.

The older man recruited the students to the Soviet cause before the Second World War – and they remained devoted to the USSR even after the start of the Cold War.

Philby was head of counter-intelligence for MI6, while Maclean was a Foreign Office official and Burgess worked for the BBC. 

Blunt was the most eminent of all, as director of the Courtauld Institute and keeper of the royal family’s art collection.

In 1951, Burgess and Maclean were exposed as double agents – but after being tipped off by Philby they were able to escape to Moscow.

Despite the suspicion surrounding Philby, he avoided detection until 1963, when he too defected to the USSR.

Blunt escaped exposure for even longer – it was not until 1979, when Margaret Thatcher named him as a suspect in the House of Commons, that he confessed to his treachery and was stripped of his titles.

The ‘fifth man’ in the spy ring has never been definitively identified, but was named as John Cairncross by KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky.

The story of the unlikely traitors has been dramatised several times, including in John le Carré’s classic book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and a 2003 BBC series titled Cambridge Spies.

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