The federal government is easing its ban on giving security clearances to gays, according to a Congressional General Accounting Office report. Federal agencies for years had denied such clearances to homosexuals on the assumption that all gays were at risk of being blackmailed. The GAO said today that it reviewed records for contractors and civilians from eight agencies and found homosexuality was no longer a criterion for granting security clearances. Six of those agencies have written policies that prohibit asking clearance applicants about their sexual orientation. The Defense Department and the Secret Service said sexual orientation is no longer a criterion but they have not revised their written policies to reflect that.