Apr 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

U.S. may cut intelligence sharing with countries that ban homosexuality

Richard Grenell. Photo: Milos Miskov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell is pushing to cut U.S. intelligence sharing with countries that criminalize homosexuality, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: About 69 countries still criminalize homosexuality — including key U.S. intelligence partners like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kenya, per the Times. Grenell is the first openly gay Cabinet member and has prioritized anti-discrimination policies.

  • "We can’t just simply make the moral argument and expect others to respond in kind because telling others that it’s the right thing to do doesn’t always work. ... [T]o fight for decriminalization is to fight for basic human rights," Grenell told the Times in an interview.

The state of play: Grenell told the Times he has "the president’s total support" and that anti-discrimination "is an American value, and this is United States policy." But Grenell has not made clear if the plan is to withhold additional cooperation or instead draw back on current intelligence sharing levels.

  • Grenell has also suggested that foreign aid could be effective leverage to push countries toward decriminalizing homosexuality, according to Hadi Damien, founder of Lebanon’s Beirut Pride group, who participated in discussions with Grenell when he served as ambassador to Germany.

Between the lines: Since he only serves in an acting capacity, Grenell's appointment is set to end in September. But he says he intends to make the most of his time, telling the Times: "The president asked me to do a job and I am going to do the job to the best of my ability."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to attribute Grenell's suggestion about foreign aid to Hadi Damien.

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