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Clarke's tales of terror: former terrorism czar Richard Clarke was slapped by the White House and gay-baited by bloggers after he spoke out against Bush's rush to war. Now Clarke tells why hounding gays in government is passe.

Former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke has spent much of his life talking about real-life terror. Now he is talking about it through fiction. Breakpoint, his second novel in two years, is a cyberterrorism thriller set in 2012.

An adviser to four presidents, Clarke left the White House in 2003, a year before he made news by charging that President Bush had demanded he find a way to link Iraqi president Saddam Hussein with the al Qaeda attacks. His nonfiction best seller Against All Enemies also blasted the Clinton and Bush administrations for lax security policies, and the White House fought back with all manner of personal smears. Washington insider Wonkette blogged that the Administration's next tactic would be to brand Clarke as gay. Then the online rumor mill exploded. "Of course Richard Clarke is a big old gay," one chat roomer insisted.

Clarke says he never heard the rumors. But as a lifelong bachelor with no children, he isn't surprised. He spoke to The Advocate from his home in Arlington, Va., about problems for gays and lesbians in the intelligence service, his pick for president in 2008, and how his new novel may not be so sci-fi.

Is it still hard for gays and lesbians to get government clearances in this post 9/11 security regime?

It's always been hard for gays and lesbians to get jobs in the CIA and other intelligence agencies because of what they call the "lifestyle polygraph," which deters a lot of good people from even applying for these jobs. You end up with a very homogenous kind of intelligence officer. A very disproportionate number of CIA employees are from Utah. They tend to be the kinds of people who can get security clearances because the questions they're asked are, Do you drink? Do you smoke? Who do you sleep with? But that has nothing to do with their ability. There is no reason to believe somebody would give secrets away because they are gay. And if you look at those who did give away secrets, they tended to be those who fit the mainstream churchgoing types.

Do you think it would have undermined your credibility if the White House had outed you as Wonkette suggested?

I don't think it would have been effective at all. People respect people's right to privacy, and they also recognize that the Bush people tend to exaggerate and lie. I think that for the most part people don't care if you're gay, straight, single, or married. And no one really cares in Washington; it's on the basis of performance. I think it's also beginning to be acceptable for people to decide to be single. Senator [Barbara] Boxer recently seemed to imply to [Secretary of State] Condi Rice that "if you're single, you can't appreciate the war." And there was a very quick reaction to that across party lines.

You've worked for both Democratic and Republican administrations. So whom do you vote for?

I've voted for both Republicans and Democrats, [but] I registered as a Democrat when I left the government in 2003.

And whom do you support for the 2008 presidential election?

[Republican U.S. senator] Chuck Hagel. I'd like to see him run. He's very antiwar, very outspoken.

Do you feel your whistle-blowing on the Bush-Iraq connection was a success?

It didn't have as much impact as I had hoped. It didn't stop people from reelecting Bush, and it didn't change attitudes on Iraq. I was trying to tell people that Iraq didn't have anything to do with 9/11, and it took about two years for that to happen and by then it was too late.

Would you be interested in taking another government job?

Decidedly not. I've worked on national security issues for 30 years, and I think 30 years is about as long as anybody should do any one thing. The years that you can work are about 50; hopefully, by being a novelist I can extend that a little bit.

Why were you compelled to deliver this warning about cyberterror in Breakpoint?

When we changed from analog to cyber systems our lives changed, but nobody really thought about it. And now we're dependent on cyber systems, and--guess what--they're not secure. A hacker or group or a nation state could gain control of our critical infrastructure.

Breakpoint is also about creating physically and intellectually superior human beings. Is that a real possibility in the next five years?

Yes. With the combination of genetic work and work in computers that's going on, we're really going to have a much more profound understanding about the human brain that will allow us to link things directly to it and will allow us to perhaps create implants to augment it or fix parts when they go wrong.

So that's a good thing, right?

We're about to enter a period of dramatic change ... that is going to raise profound issues about what it means to be human. The people who object today to stem cell research are really going to go nuts five years from now when some of these things start to change the nature of our society.
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Title Annotation:POLITICS
Author:Cook, Gretchen
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Mar 13, 2007
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