It’s the Nnowledge, Not the Material

Back in July the Washington Post did a piece on the sad case of Richard Barlow, the former US intelligence analyst who was screwed over by this government for doing his job. The article starts:

From a cramped motor home in a Montana campground where Internet access is as spotty as the trout, Richard Barlow wakes each morning to battle Washington.

Now, another piece on Barlow was published this past weekend in the British Guardian. It was written by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark who wrote the just published Deception: Pakistan, The United States And Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy. Their lede is:

Rich Barlow idles outside his silver trailer on a remote campsite in Montana – itinerant and unemployed, with only his hunting dogs and a borrowed computer for company.

Evidently there is something about motor homes and Montana which is just irresistible to reporters.

Anyway, this excerpt is revealing in a governmental do as I say, not as I do kind of way:

Back on a government salary, Barlow, aged 31, moved to Virginia with his wife Cindy, also a CIA agent. From day one, he was given access to the most highly classified material. He learned about the workings of the vast grey global market in dual-use components – the tools and equipment that could be put to use in a nuclear weapons programme but that could also be ascribed to other domestic purposes, making the trade in them hard to spot or regulate. ‘There was tonnes of it and most of it was ending up in Islamabad,’ he says. Pakistan had a vast network of procurers, operating all over the world.’ A secret nuclear facility near Islamabad, known as the Khan Research Laboratories, was being fitted out with components imported from Europe and America ‘under the wire’. But the CIA obtained photographs. Floor plans. Bomb designs. Sensors picked up evidence of high levels of enriched uranium in the air and in the dust clinging to the lorries plying the road to the laboratories. Barlow was in his element.

However, burrowing through cables and files, he began to realise that the State Department had intelligence it was not sharing – in particular the identities of key Pakistani procurement agents, who were active in the US. Without this information, the US Commerce Department (which approved export licences) and US Customs (which enforced them) were hamstrung.

Barlow came to the conclusion that a small group of senior officials was physically aiding the Pakistan programme. ‘They were issuing scores of approvals for the Pakistan embassy in Washington to export hi-tech equipment that was critical for their nuclear bomb programme and that the US Commerce Department had refused to license,’ he says. Dismayed, he approached his boss at the CIA, Richard Kerr, the deputy director for intelligence, who summoned senior State Department officials to a meeting at CIA headquarters in Langley. Barlow recalls: ‘Kerr tried to do it as nicely as he could. He said he understood the State Department had to keep Pakistan on side – the State Department guaranteed it would stop working against us.’

Then a Pakistani nuclear smuggler walked into a trap sprung by the CIA – and the Reagan administration’s commitment to rid the world of nuclear weapons was put to the test.

US foreign aid legislation stipulated that if Pakistan was shown to be procuring weapons of mass destruction or was in possession of a nuclear bomb, all assistance would be halted. This, in turn, would have threatened the US-funded war in Afghanistan. So there were conflicting interests at work when Barlow got a call from the Department of Energy. ‘I was told that a Pakistani businessman had contacted Carpenter Steel, a company in Pennsylvania, asking to buy a specific type of metal normally used only in constructing centrifuges to enrich uranium. His name was Arshad Pervez and his handler, Inam ul-Haq, a retired brigadier from the Pakistan army, had been known to us for many years as a key Pakistan government operative.’ Barlow and US customs set up a sting. ‘Pervez arrived to a do a deal at a hotel we had rigged out and was arrested,’ Barlow says. ‘But ul-Haq, our main target, never showed.’

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