Take, for example, the U.S. Admiral in Japan who spent an entire meeting assuming I was a translator, not realizing I was actually the staffer for the Military Personnel Subcommittee that he wanted to be talking to about his pilot retention issues until it was too late and our delegation had to leave. His assumptions about what a congressional staffer should look like got in the way of effectively communicating his needs to the legislative branch.

Or consider another instance, when folks in charge of personnel at an intelligence agency responded to my questions about lack of diversity hiring with the response, “The people we work with would prefer to work with someone who looks like an American.” Yeah. That actually happened.

The intelligence community lags behind the rest of the federal government in diversity. But their response shows why. It also shows they don’t understand the advantages an intelligence officer might have when they blend in with the target population, or has the ability to disarm their target because they aren’t what’s expected.