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Spies not like us: US intelligence agencies address lack of diversity

Washington

The peril National Security Agency staff wanted to discuss with their director didn’t involve terrorists or enemy nations. It was something closer to home: the racism and cultural misunderstandings inside America’s largest intelligence service.

The NSA and other intelligence agencies held calls for their staff shortly after the death of George Floyd. As Gen. Paul Nakasone listened, one person described how they would try to speak up in meetings only to have the rest of the group keep talking over them. Another person, a Black man, spoke about how he had been counseled that his voice was too loud and intimidated co-workers. A third described how a co-worker addressed them with a racist slur.

The national reckoning over racial inequality sparked by Mr. Floyd’s murder two years ago has gone on behind closed doors inside America’s intelligence agencies. Publicly available data, published studies of its diversity programs, and interviews with retired officers indicate spy agencies have not lived up to years of commitments made by their top leaders, who often say diversity is a national security imperative.

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