“While I was home, I had a dream my girlfriend was f*****g an (African American racial slur). It literally made me want to kill every f*****g (African American racial slur) I saw all day,” a CIA security contractor said with a laugh as he watched a Denzel Washington movie with his fellow contractors. Another contractor, callsign Flanders, would use the word “Faggot” around Brett Jones, a former SEAL and the only openly gay contractor with the CIA’s Global Response Staff. This was a working environment that CIA officials allowed to persist on an American base located in Afghanistan, a culture which Jones eventually had to escape from for his own safety.
Brett served in SEAL Team 8 and 10 before being discharged in 2003, when his chain of command discovered that he was a homosexual—his orientation breaking military regulations in the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” For the last 13 years, he has served as a CIA contractor with the agency’s Global Response Staff (GRS), which is charged with running mobile security for CIA case officers who need to meet with intelligence assets in dangerous regions such as Afghanistan.
The CIA runs the GRS program, but the actual employees are hired through various private security companies. These contractors are former active-duty special operations soldiers who are put through a vetting process and then deployed overseas under the leadership of actual CIA employees from the chief of base, case officers, or Ground Branch paramilitary officers. Brett made it clear to us that the company he works for, “Does everything right,” and has very specific policies about discrimination of any kind.
In this specific case, however, those company policies were not followed by GRS employees. Furthermore, sexual and racial harassment was encouraged by the CIA officers in leadership positions. In a pre-mission PowerPoint presentation obtained by SOFREP, used to brief a low-visibility movement by GRS contractors and their CIA client, slide after slide displays racist and homophobic statements. This briefing was given to GRS and CIA officers who laughed throughout the presentation. Many of the jokes were specifically to single out Jones as the only homosexual on the detail.
One slide provides instructions for the CIA clients to go to the Neverland Ranch while GRS is to go to a gay bar. Another slide about rules of engagement for the mission in regards to the team’s sensitive items reads, “How sensitive is it? Low…Purple Drank…If they take it = they die! Same wit my chickin!” The briefing, and numerous racist pictures, were found on a CIA laptop and a second laptop belonging to the contracted company, both used for unclassified material.
The trouble began for Jones the moment he stepped off the helicopter at the CIA base on June 9th. First, it was unusual that there was no one there from GRS to pick him up. After walking a quarter mile, he arrived at their compound. “There is usually a little excitement when a new person arrives. When I walked into the team room, several of the guys walked out without even looking at me. I thought this was odd, but chalked it up as a rough day.” The cold shoulder continued as none of the GRS contractors would sit at the same table with Jones during meals. Initially, Jones did not want to believe that this behavior from his teammates was because he was gay.
The situation at the GRS compound was so uncomfortable for Jones that be began switching up his work schedule, doing his job of preparing their low-visibility vehicles for transit on the compound while the other contractors were still asleep. “I’m all about joking around,” Jones told SOFREP. “It comes with camaraderie.” But on this contract, there was a shift in attitude—a shift that made for very hostile working conditions.
The GRS contractor who went by the callsign “Flanders” was the ringleader of the discrimination and hostility on the base. One day, Jones heard Flanders say, “He is a faggot.” Not knowing if he was the one being referred too, Jones asked to talk to Flanders privately and address the issue.
“So, this is just going to be between you and me,” Jones said. “Calling somebody a faggot is incredibly insulting to gay people. I find it really offensive.”
“You don’t get to pick and choose what offends you.”
“Flanders, I am telling you now. It’s a word that literally makes me incredibly angry and offends every gay person.”
“Well, I wasn’t calling you a faggot.”
“It doesn’t matter, it is like using the N-word around black people.”
After the exchange, Flanders reluctantly apologized.
Friction continued to develop between Jones and some of the other GRS staff, but with Flanders in particular in regards to the communications configurations on the vehicles and Jones’ radio going missing. The situation escalated on the 29th, when Jones asked some of the other GRS men to help him take one of their vehicles for a test drive. He had just finished reconfiguring it and wanted to see how the truck would run fully loaded with personnel, as the armor package on those vehicles is already very heavy on the suspension system. With new radio jammers installed, it was important to see how the Toyota Hilux pickup would run when also loaded down with GRS contractors in full combat kit.
(A collection of images on the hard drive of a non-classified CIA laptop)
They drove up a nearby mountain nicknamed Commo Hill, but on the way back down, the truck began to slide a bit. The driver recommended that the other contractors dismount and walk for a while just in case the truck rolled over. Jones got off and walked behind the truck while the others remained inside or sitting on the bed of the pickup. Once they had negotiated the difficult section of the road, they slowed down for Jones to catch up. Just as he reached the truck, the driver sped up, leaving him behind. The truck stopped a little further away for a few seconds. Jones could hear them laughing inside and one say, “He can walk back.”
It was about 120 degrees that day and Jones was already dehydrated from working on the vehicles all morning. On the way back to the compound, Jones realized that he couldn’t stay there. “I can’t trust these guys with my life,” Jones told SOFREP. Back at the compound, two contractors, call signs Sniff and Machine, laughed about the incident and told Jones that they thought it was funny. Jones didn’t see it as some lighthearted prank and told them so.
Two days later, a GRS employee named Russ was tricked into giving a wildly unprofessional PowerPoint brief on their upcoming mission as someone had replaced his original slides with those that referred to Americans as “Americunts,” their commo plan as “LGBT,” and actions on contact with the enemy as “Reverse cowboy/girl, crossdresser, deploy genital warts, and coordinate with anus.” The GRS contractors laughed openly alongside their CIA employers as if they were all part of an inside joke and had seen the slides before the brief. Jones was in disbelief; on one slide his callsign had been changed to “gay gay.” The entire PowerPoint presentation can be viewed here.
Later, Jones noticed that a different unclassified laptop belonging to the CIA had a screen saver featuring his own image. The next two images were the White House lit up with rainbow colors when the Obama administration celebrated the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. The third image was an overweight man holding a gay pride flag. Jones knew immediately that he was meant to see the images and that the third picture was an attempt to mock his husband, who is overweight. Also on the computer were a number of racist images. Jones said there was no way that the CIA case officers and chief of base had failed to see those images in their operations center before.
Jones knew he needed to get out of there as quickly as possible and made some phone calls. He was flown out a few days later on a Mi-17 helicopter.
“That behavior is unbelievably unprofessional from an agency like that,” another gay contractor told SOFREP. “I would not stick around; at that point it is not safe for anyone.” As an intelligence contractor, “Tony” was candid on his lifestyle polygraph and openly stated that he was homosexual. When applying for a job in the intelligence community, he was initially turned down, suspecting that his sexuality did not sit well with the religious beliefs of some of the people he would be working for. “The team leader on that contract was not a real team leader,” Tony said, referencing Jones’ experience with GRS. “Tearing down one person to hold up the morale of the team is not the point.”
In the past, homosexuals have been described as a deviant sub-culture, but it’s interesting that special operations is actually a sub-culture of the military, and sometimes a deviant one. In the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines, these organizations are big enough that discrimination is more transparent and more easily addressed. In small groups of intelligence contractors or Special Operations troops, one or two toxic personalities can turn things upside down. Discrimination can sometimes fester in these units because it is not as readily apparent as it would be in other areas of the military or government agencies.
On the other hand, the quality and intelligence of the personnel is a bit higher than average. Most of these guys are pretty smart and have a healthy attitude toward dealing with issues of race, gender, or sexuality. Jones never ran into a situation this bad in his prior 13 years as a contractor. Tony never experienced this type of harassment throughout his years as an intelligence contractor. It is worth noting that after the Navy kicked Jones out for being gay, his contracting company and their client, the CIA, hired him without any problems. Yet there are still times when being openly gay in the alpha male community of military contractors can be perilous. “In small units, it is not safe for guys to come out,” Jones said.
Tony pointed out that gays in the contractor world just want an opportunity to prove themselves and integrate into the existing community. They are not interested in forcing their lifestyle on anyone or changing the culture of special operations. “When even a SEAL can’t get an opportunity to prove himself to be an asset to the team because he likes dudes, it just makes you think what the hell?”
“If I kept it internal, I imagine I would eventually walk away with some shut-up money,” Jones told SOFREP, “But small groups like GRS, Rangers, and SEALS would still be able to get away with similar behavior and countercultures. I know other closeted gay GRS officers will appreciate what I have done.” In the meantime, Jones’ career as a contractor is over. “As far as my career, I am finished,” Jones said. “I’ll be looking for a job.”