Employees of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have reportedly been warned about racism after what appeared to be a noose was discovered near a facility.
CIA director William J Burns allegedly issued the warning last week to the agency’s workforce after the object was discovered, The New York Times reported on Monday.
Citing sources familiar with the matter, the report said it was unclear if the rope, which was found outside a building that holds a “secret” CIA workplace, was supposed to be a noose.
The rope with a loop and running knot is widely regarded as a hate symbol following the execution of an estimated thousands of Black people in the South between the 19th and 20 centuries, or what is otherwise referred to as lynching.
In a statement to The Independent, a spokesperson for the agency said: “CIA has zero tolerance for actions or symbols of hatred and treats any such incidents with the utmost seriousness.”
It continued: “Our values and our vital national security mission demand that we uphold nothing less than the highest standards of inclusiveness and safety.”
No further details about Mr Burns’s warning were reported or released by the agency, whose headquarters are in Langley, Virginia.
Sources told the Times that the alleged noose did not appear at the heavily guarded facility in Langley. There was also no evidence to suggest a CIA employee or a foreign intelligence service had left the object or whether it was actually a noose.
Darrell Blocker, a former senior CIA official of 30 years, praised the person who reported the alleged noose and told the Times that racism could occur in the agency because it is “a microcosm of the populace”.
“The CIA is a microcosm of the populace from which it draws its workforce, so it should not surprise anyone who understands the deep-seated racism that has permeated all institutions throughout our history,” he said.
As CIA director, Mr Burns has reportedly worked to increase levels of diversity in the secretive agency, which was the subject of a diversity report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2021.
It found that among civilian employees, 12.3 per cent were Black and that the number had risen from 2019. Representation remains an issue at senior levels however with just 6.5 per cent of those roles being filled by Black employees.