The Man Who Warned Congress about Pakistan Nukes Paid a Steep Price

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by sasi, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. sasi

    sasi Senior Member Senior Member

    Nov 18, 2012
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    He tried to pull the plug on Pakistan’s nuclear bomb program. His career blew up instead. Goran Tomasevic /Reuters
    Richard Barlow was driving his 13-year-old motorhome through a mountain state’s blizzard the week before Thanksgiving when news broke of the Iran nuclear deal.
    Bad memories flooded his mind, not that they’re ever far away. For more than 25 years, ever since he testified behind closed doors on Capitol Hill that the CIA had “scores” of “absolutely reliable” reports on Pakistan’s clandestine efforts to obtain nuclear bomb technology – technology it later gave to Iran – his life has been tumbling through one trapdoor after another.
    Barlow’s testimony in 1987 shocked several panel members of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, in part because Army General David Einsel, assigned to the CIA as a top intelligence official, had just told the committee that – despite the recent arrest of a Pakistani caught red-handed buying prohibited nuclear materials – the evidence that Islamabad was pursuing a bomb was inconclusive. The hearing erupted in shouts when Barlow told them differently. “They went through the roof,” he recalled from the road this week. By the time he got back to CIA headquarters, “the phones were ringing off the hook.”
    Top Reagan administration officials were in “a panic,” he said, because Pakistan was the crucial player in the CIA operation funneling weapons to Islamic “holy warriors” fighting the Soviet Red Army next door in Afghanistan. If it became known that Pakistan was secretly building a bomb, a law passed by Congress would require a cut-off of military aid.
    Obsessed with communism, the administration made a choice: It would turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear program in order to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan.
    And that meant Barlow, 33 at the time, had to be destroyed.
    “For the Cold War warriors, the only way to save the Pakistan program was to discredit the young agency analyst,” British journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark wrote in their 2007 book,Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons.
    And they did. His phone stopped ringing. His reports went into circular files. Barlow realized his career at the CIA had flamed out, he says, and he resigned. He moved temporarily to U.S. Customs as a special agent and then to the Pentagon, still tracking nuclear smuggling. After internally objecting to Congressional testimony by Department of Defense officials that Pakistan’s U.S.-bought F-16s were not capable of carrying nuclear weapons he was forced out and subjected to a security investigation, his marriage (to a woman who worked at the CIA) destroyed, he left town. Today, at 59, his savings nearly drained, he wanders the mountains from Montana to Arizona in his motorhome, hunting and fishing with his three dogs, haunted by the idea of what might have been. And what is.
    “If they had busted those [Pakistani] networks,” he said last week, “Iran would have no nuclear program, North Korea wouldn’t have a uranium bomb, and Pakistan wouldn't have over a hundred nuclear weapons they are driving around in vans to hide from us.”
    Iran had no means to advance its nuclear desires without Pakistan’s help, he said. “It would have been impossible. The Iranians lacked the technical, scientific, and engineering capabilities to develop or manufacture centrifuges or nuclear weapons on their own. They were trying, but they were getting nowhere. It made the impossible possible.”
    Barlow moved to New Mexico in 1991, but he still had a few friends in the CIA’s analytical wing who valued his expertise on Pakistan. Indeed, in 1988, before his world started crumbling, he’d won a “certificate for services of extreme value to the Central Intelligence Agency,” signed by CIA Director William Webster. And in May 1990, the Pentagon’s security office declared that “any questions of your trustworthiness or access to sensitive information was resolved in a manner completely favorable to you.”
    For a while he worked for the CIA “out of my house in Santa Fe.” but efforts by his allies to get him fully reinstated were blocked by higher-ups.
    He reached out to the FBI’s terrorism maven, John O’Neill (who would die on 9/11 at the World Trade Center); O’Neill asked him to help the bureau set up a nuclear counter-proliferation program from the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.
    For the next dozen years, the exiled Barlow helped run operations to penetrate the nuclear weapons programs of not just Pakistan, but Iran, North Korea, and others. In 2004 a bureaucratic power struggle broke out between the FBI and Sandia, and his job was eliminated.

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