A leading campaigner in the fight to repeal the US military gay ban has said that the firing of a number of military personnel for being gay may have undermined the government’s potential to prevent the September 11th bombings.

Speaking exclusively to PinkNews.co.uk, Dan Choi, the co-founder of KnightsOut, a group campaigning to have the ban repealed, said:

“On Monday, September 10th 2001, a message was intercepted by the State Department: tomorrow is zero hour.

“Despite its simplicity, nobody was able to translate it. Any of the dozens of linguists already discharged for being gay at the time would have done so easily.”

Around 12,500 servicemembers have been ejected since the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy’s introduction in 1994, including 60 Arabic linguists.

The argument of national security has also been used by supporters of the gay ban.

Retired army general James L Lindsay said last week that allowing gays to serve openly would lead to “mass resignations”, estimating that the military could lose 228,600 service members who objected to the ban being lifted.

He argued: “Many more will be dissuaded from ever enlisting. There is no compelling national security reason for running these risks to our armed forces.”

Choi, a 27-year old infantry platoon leader in the New York Army National Guard, defied the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell rule by announcing he was gay live on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow TV show.

Earlier this month, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said that the military’s policy regarding gay and lesbian service members is unlikely to be changed any time soon.

The policy was introduced in 1994 and allows gay men and women to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret and do not engage in any homosexual acts.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Gates said: “The president and I feel like we’ve got a lot on our plates right now and let’s push that one down the road a little bit.”

“It continues to be the law and any change in policy would require a change in the law,” Gates said. “We will follow the law, whatever it is.

“That dialogue, though, has really not progressed very far at this point in the administration,” he added.

In January, Obama’s press secretary said the administration was planning to end the gay ban.

Responding to a question on whether the administration would repeal the policy, he said: “You don’t hear a politician give a one-word answer much, but it’s ‘Yes.'”