TIME intelligence

The CIA’s Latest Mission: Improving Diversity

CIA Headquarters
David Burnett—Pool/Getty Images

A weapons analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, Lisa was sorting resumes with a colleague when something shocking happened.

Lisa, who is black, was helping her white coworker find the best applicants for overseas posts, which are considered prestigious within the agency and can lead to more important jobs down the line. Lisa was midway through her own overseas posting and had already seen how it helped her career.

But looking at the resumes, her coworker casually said that she would not hire a black man.

“She told me that if there is a white man — doesn’t matter how capable the black man is — I’m picking the white man,” recalled Lisa. (At the request of the CIA, TIME agreed to withhold last names of agency employees, many of whom work undercover.) “As a minority, you know that, but to have someone tell you that? It’s telling.”

Like workplaces across the country, the CIA is striving to improve the diversity of its staff. And just like other companies, the agency nicknamed The Company has found that progress comes in fits and starts.

In interviews with more than a dozen black officers, TIME found that while the CIA has made diversity a top priority, it still struggles to recruit African-Americans and promote them to higher positions.

Diversity is not just important for its own sake. As an intelligence agency, the CIA lives and dies on its ability to interpret complex data about foreign countries. Black agents noted multiple times when their unique perspective as a minority within the United States led them to a breakthrough in understanding a foreign conflict.

The agency’s top leaders agree.

“Diversity is critical to the success of CIA’s mission. We need a workforce as diverse as the world we cover,” CIA Director John Brennan said in a statement to TIME. “CIA has come a long way in broadening the demographic of its senior ranks, but we still have significant work to do.”

To that end, Brennan launched the Diversity in Leadership Study to examine the current demographics of the agency’s senior ranks. A similar study on women, who make up 46% of the CIA workforce, was released in 2013.

A key part of the study, which is being directed by famed lawyer and civil rights activist Vernon Jordan, will be recommendations on how to better foster an environment where people from all backgrounds can rise to the top.

That was not always a priority. According to Milo Jones and Philippe Silberzahn’s book Constructing Cassandra, in 1967 “there were fewer than 20 African Americans among the approximately 12,000 non-clerical CIA employees.”

Spenser, a black officer who oversees the Africa division, said that when he started in the 1990s, there was “not a single non-white division chief,” one of the highest-ranking positions in the agency.

The CIA would not disclose the size of its workforce nor its demographic makeup to TIME. But Spenser said that times have changed.

“We now have division chiefs that are Hispanic, that are Asian. That are black, women,” he said. “It’s completely different.”

As with other companies, a central part of the CIA’s efforts is recruiting. Intelligence experts say that the agency still has ground to make up on its reputation in the African-American community.

“The negative reputation has lingered on despite everyone’s best efforts,” says Mark Lowenthal, a former CIA officer and intelligence expert.

As the African-American community outreach manager for the CIA, Tiffany spends most of her time talking with black professional organizations about the agency. She said that she’s heard all kinds of misconceptions about the agency’s past and present, some of which she even believed herself in the past.

“When I was offered an opportunity to work for the agency, my initial response was, ‘oh hell no,’” Tiffany says. Now, she uses her story to get audiences comfortable with the idea of letting their friends and family members join the CIA.

Lowenthal remembers asking some young recruits — three black men — at their training graduation ceremony to get involved in recruiting as soon as possible.

“I said, go back to your schools and become mentors and recruiters,” Lowenthall recalls. “You’ll be much more effective than I can ever be.”

While not all officers participate in recruitment efforts, many black officers see it as part of their job. Reginald, a deputy chief of European analysis and a graduate of two historically black colleges — Howard University in Washington and Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. — makes it a point to recruit as often as possible, particularly at black schools.

Kim, who at 35 is already the chief of Africa analysis, recognizes the importance of recruiting.

“I actually went to a school not too long ago,” she says. “I saw their eyes get big when they noticed I was a young, African-American woman doing well at CIA. And I told them, you can come here and do this, too. I’m not that special.”

But recruiting is not enough. Within the agency, there are well-traveled paths to upper management that recruits need to navigate.

Lisa says she feels part of the problem is that white agents have done a better job of networking with higher ups that can recommend or “sponsor” junior officers for better positions. “They go to a different length to get positions than we do,” she said. “Often, they have an inside scoop, someone on the inside who can vouch for them.”

Michael, a 40-year veteran of the agency’s clandestine service, says a lot of black officers have felt that they have to prove they can do the work on their own. “We didn’t network,” he says.

He worked to change that, meeting with a handful of other black officers in the CIA cafeteria regularly to decompress and share advice.

“Even if we did a tour and came back three years or five years later, that roundtable was still there,” Michael says. It was important for black officers to have that space, and it’s something they continue today, gathering outside of Langley for social events and one-on-one chats.

“We made that a point of pride,” he says. “It was a thing of, ‘I may not get there, but we want to position you to get to the top.’”

TIME White House

President Obama on Loretta Lynch Delay: ‘This is Embarrassing’

Barack Obama, Loretta Lynch, Eric Holder
Susan Walsh—AP The top U.S. prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York, in Brooklyn, Lynch was one of the few names on President Obama’s short list without close ties to the White House. If confirmed, she would be the first ­female African-American Attorney General.

"It's gone too far," Obama said Friday. "Enough."

President Obama got impatient as he expressed his disappointment with Senate Republicans’ delay of Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch’s confirmation.

“It’s gone too far,” Obama said during a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. “Enough. Enough.”

Obama blasted the Senate’s “dysfunction” in failing to confirm Lynch, who is set to become the first black female Attorney General in the nation’s history. A career prosecutor from New York, Lynch has now waited twice as long for her confirmation as the last seven attorney general nominees combined.

Though Lynch received bipartisan support following her confirmation hearings earlier this year, the Senate has failed to bring a vote on her new position. In recent weeks, Senate Republicans have delayed a vote over an unrelated fight on abortion provisions in a bill aimed at providing aid to survivors of human trafficking.

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid threatened to force a vote on the Lynch nomination.

On Friday, the President said he was outraged. “Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Let her do her job,” Obama said. “This is embarrassing, a process like this.”

TIME poverty

Homelessness Costs Los Angeles $100 Million a Year, Report Finds

Report finds there is a lack of coordination and guidelines among city departments

Los Angeles spends at least $100 million every year to manage the city’s homeless population, according to a new report, which finds that departments diverting a large portion of their resources to related issues may not be using the best approaches.

The 21-page report, dated April 16, takes a deep look at how much the thousands of homeless people and the services to provide for them—from librarians to paramedics to park rangers—cost the city. Many city departments don’t respond to issues with the broad intention of ending the city’s homelessness problem, but instead focus on a certain dilemma.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana recommended changes including more collaboration between city departments, better use of tools to track and manage data related to homelessness and an increase in funding for homelessness response and case management.

Read the full report at the Los Angeles Times.

TIME White House

White House Calls Delay of Attorney General Confirmation ‘Unconscionable’

Josh Earnest focused his strong words against Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest spent several minutes of Thursday’s news briefing lamenting the delayed confirmation of Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, via a scathing critique of an Iowa Senator.

Earnest called out veteran Republican Senator Chuck Grassley as “exhibit A in why it is very challenging to work with Congressional Republicans,” citing Grassley’s reversal on when Lynch’s nomination should have been pushed through the Senate. Earnest said the previous seven nominees for the post waited a total 24 days between them to move from the committee to a vote on the Senate floor, and that as of Thursday, she had waited 49 days. He called it an “unconscionable delay.”

In September, the Iowan said the Attorney General vote shouldn’t be rushed through a lame duck Congress. On Thursday, however, Grassley criticized Democrats for not pushing the vote through when they still maintained control of the Senate.

“That in my mind is an astounding display of duplicity,” Earnest said. “The sad part I think, is that Senator Grassley, particularly in his home state of Iowa, has cultivated a reputation as somebody who is true to his word. And I think the only conclusion I can draw from this astounding exchange is that it’s possible that Senator Grassley has been in Washington for too long.”

TIME White House

Meet the White House’s New Social Secretary

Deesha Dyer
Carolyn Kaster—AP In this photo taken April 15, 2015, Deesha Dyer walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington to attend the seventh annual White House Kitchen Garden Planting with first lady Michelle Obama.

She worked her way up from a White House internship

The White House has a new social secretary, or the person whose job it is to make sure events at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue go off without a hitch. Deesha Dyer, 37, was named the new head of the East Wing office on Thursday, and becomes the second black woman to hold the position. She takes the reins from Jeremy Bernard, the office’s first male and openly gay social secretary, who announced he would step down at the end of the month.

Dyer currently serves as the second-in-command in the Social Office, having worked her way up from an internship when she joined the White House staff in 2009. In a statement, First Lady Michelle Obama said she’s been impressed by Dyer’s “passion, creativity, public-mindedness, and relentless competence.”

“Whether helping flawlessly execute state dinners, or going the extra mile to open the White House to people who never dreamed they would walk through these doors, Deesha has worked tirelessly to truly make the White House the ‘People’s House,’” Obama said. “I am thrilled that she has agreed to continue her service as our Social Secretary.”

Dyer’s path to the White House is a bit atypical. According to the statement, she didn’t go to college immediately after high school, opting instead to work as a freelance hip-hop writer and at several companies in her hometown, Philadelphia. At 29, Dyer went back to school to obtain an associates degree from the Community College of Philadelphia, around the same time Barack Obama, then an Illinois Senator, announced he was running for President. In an interview with Refinery 29, Dyer said she hung a picture of Obama on her desk, telling herself that one day she would end up working for him, even though she didn’t quite know how she’d make it work.

But at 31, she did. She applied for an internship at the White House and was hired to work in the Office of Scheduling and Advance. In 2010, she was brought onboard for a full-time position in the scheduling office and later became the Deputy Director and Hotel Program Director. Two years ago, she was promoted again to become the Social Office’s deputy director.

Dyer said in a statement that she is “honored” to serve in the new role.

“I am constantly inspired by the openness, diversity, and traditions of this Administration,” she said, “and I look forward to leading the talented Social Office team as we further the goals and priorities of the President and First Lady throughout these last two exciting years in office.”

TIME public health

Not All Birth Control Covered by Insurance Companies Under Obamacare

Woman taking birth controll pill
Frank May—picture-alliance/dpa/AP

A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds not all birth control is covered without costs or copays, including some IUDs and emergency contraceptives

Most health insurance companies are offering the free birth control required under the Affordable Care Act, but gaps still remain, according to a new report.

The Kaiser Family Foundation examined 20 health insurance providers in five states and found women are still paying some contraceptives, including vaginal rings, patches and implants.

The free birth control requirement is both a key and controversial piece of President Obama’s signature health law, seen as one of the many ways the law helps lower health costs for women. The report found that while many insurance carriers in California, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas are covering contraceptives cost-free, some do not fully cover Depo-Provera shots, the OrthoEvra patch, certain types of intrauterine devices or IUDs, and emergency contraception.

Without coverage, the contraceptives can be expensive. An IUD, for example, costs up to $1,000—which means that without insurance coverage, one of the most effective forms of birth control is unavailable to some of the women who want to use it.

“We encourage the administration to provide guidance and clarity to insurance companies to ensure all women can access the birth control methods that work for them without cost barriers, as the law intended,” Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

The Kaiser report notes that insurance carriers are permitted to limit the forms of birth control they cover under Obamacare, but the companies should still offer leeway to consumers who have a medical need for certain devices, the report found.

The report also found that despite the widespread attention to the effect the contraceptive mandate would have on religious institutions that oppose birth control, few groups have applied for a religious exception to the law.

Read more: Why You’re Still Paying for Birth Control Even Though It’s ‘Free’ Now

TIME ebola

Ebola Fighters Say Now Is Not the Time to Let Up

Barack Obama, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Alpha Condé
Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP President Barack Obama, flanked by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, left, and Guinean President Alpha Condé, speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, to discuss the progress made in the international Ebola response.

Cases may be nearing zero in certain areas, but the threat of the disease lingers

There were only 37 confirmed cases of Ebola last week, just a year after the deadly virus was spreading quickly across Western Africa. But key stakeholders in the effort to reduce the number of cases to zero said Thursday that success is not guaranteed.

“We are dealing now with the most difficult areas,” said Bruce Aylward, the assistant director-general of polio and emergencies at the World Health Organization. “We’re dealing with issues of fear, of trust with communities that have been marginalized. That have not been fully engaged.”

Alyward added, “These are issues that take time to resolve.” What’s more, the most affected areas are nearing their annual rainy season in April and May, which could exacerbate the disease’s spread. And, Alyward says, the eradication effort is running out of money.

“The only thing that’s falling faster than this graphic right here,” he said, holding up a chart that showed new confirmed cases, “is the one that shows you new financial contributions.”

The message on Thursday was clear: in the fight against Ebola, there’s no room for complacency. That’s not to say there hasn’t been progress. There has been a decline in new cases over the past several weeks and Liberia is inching closer to zero cases. In Sierra Leone, there were nine cases this past week and the week before. In Guinea, the situation is more mixed—there were 28 cases this week, up from 21 the week before. In an effort to keep numbers low, the government instituted a four-day stay-at-home policy in the most infected area so that teams can go to homes and share information.

Alyward, who joined WHO Director General Margaret Chan and others for a roundtable briefing at the United Nations Foundation on Thursday, said it’s important to keep up the fight, because if a single case or contact is missed, the community will suffer the consequences.

That message was similar to one that President Obama reiterated before meeting with leaders from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea at the White House on Wednesday. “We can’t be complacent. This virus is unpredictable,” Obama said. “We have to be vigilant, and the international community has to remain fully engaged in a partnership with these three countries until there are no cases of Ebola in these countries.”

Presidents from the three countries will also appear Friday with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim to discuss the continued effort to get to zero. The meetings and appearances on the Ebola effort come in the wake of a scathing New York Times report that said the U.S.’s response to the crisis was too much, too late. Few of the treatment centers the U.S. military spent resources and manpower to complete have been put to use, the report found.

David Nabarro, who has organized the UN’s response to Ebola, said Thursday the American response should be commended. “This immediate and rapid response by the U.S. to use military to build treatment centers was amazing,” he said. “Instead of feeling abandoned by the world, they felt there was a group who believed they were worth supporting.”

TIME

Vanessa Williams on How to Make the Perfect First Impression—On the Phone

The actress has partnered with Dress for Success

The non-profit organization Dress for Success has a long-held mantra: first impressions matter. That’s why it has dedicated ample time and resources to making sure women, no matter how disadvantaged, look and sound the part when they go in for job interviews.

But, times have changed. Often, the first meeting doesn’t come when in applicant walks into an interview room. It happens over the phone or on Skype. For Dress for Success CEO Joi Gordon, this change in hiring tactics has provided both a problem and an opportunity.

“We’ve already addressed the clothing aspects of how they look and how they feel and giving her the self-confidence and self-worth of walking into the interview,” Gordon tells TIME. “But if she doesn’t get to walk into the interview because her phone technique is poor and she doesn’t get the interview then we need to address that first.”

So, that’s what they’re going to do. In early April, Dress for Success launched “Success is Calling” a partnership with the wireless provider Tracfone that will provide women in 15 cities with phone-interview training and helpful tips. As a part of the program participants will also receive a complementary phone with a year’s worth of minutes. Gordon says the phone is a key piece: the women who use Dress for Success tend to be single moms, often coming from abusive or rocky relationships.

“She needs to be connected to her children and she needs to be connected to her employer,” Gordon says. “Tracfone is going to allow her to do just that.”

Though the program launches officially on June 1, the campaign already has the backing of one highly successful woman—Vanessa Williams.

Williams, who has worked with Dress for Success for over a decade, says though she’s lucky to have had parents who encouraged her to be successful, she feels it is important to help women who weren’t so lucky to get a fair shot.

“This is an opportunity for women who don’t have that background to have a better chance to be employed and feel better about themselves,” Williams tells TIME. “It will take much more time, attention and resolve to truly level the playing field in the workplace for women and men alike.”

TIME 2016 Election

Ben Carson Set to Answer Question of Presidential Run on May 4

Key Speakers At The Conservative Political Action Conference
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images Ben Carson, possible 2016 presidential candidate, listens to a question during an interview during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, Feb. 26, 2015.

The Tea Party favorite is making a 'major announcement' in his hometown of Detroit

Ben Carson may be throwing his hat into the race to the White House as soon as May, according to reports.

On May 4, Carson will host an event at the Detroit Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts where his campaign tells the Detroit Free Press he will make a major announcement.

The exact details of the announcement have yet to be ironed out, according to CNN. But given the retired neurosurgeon’s appearances in key primary states over the past several months, it’s likely that he’ll announce his plans to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

The location is of significance for Carson, who grew up poor in the Motor City, but later grew up to become a renowned brain surgeon and author. Despite his lack of political experience, Carson is favored among some grassroots conservative groups for being an outspoken critic of President Obama’s policies — particularly the Affordable Care Act, which he once likened to slavery.

[Detroit Free Press]

TIME 2016 Election

Poll: Chris Christie Losing New Jersey Support for 2016 Bid

Chris Christie
Mel Evans—AP A person photographs New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during a town hall meeting April 7, 2015, in Matawan, N.J.

69% of polled New Jersey voters think he wouldn't make a good president

New Jersey voters are losing faith in their governor’s potential to be a “good president.”

About 69% of New Jersey voters in a new Rutgers University poll say Gov. Chris Christie would not make a good president, a ten point leap from a February poll. About 24% say they think he has what it takes.

Christie is one of many Republicans expected to enter the race for 2016 in the coming months, joining Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Marco Rubio of Florida who have already announced their plans to seek the nomination. Former Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Scott Walker are also expected to join the race soon.

Though the poll represents a relatively small sample of New Jersey voters and hosts a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, it offers a glimpse at how voters from New Jersey feel about their governor’s potential campaign.

Though 58% of those polled don’t think the word “presidential” at all describes the governor (38% say it describes him pretty well), the majority, 57%, believes he will still become a presidential candidate. Thirty-two percent, on the other hand, do not.

And while New Jersey voters are important for Christie, the real test will come in early primary and caucus states like New Hampshire, where the governor will begin hosting a series of town-hall events with voters on Tuesday.

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