What, me worry? Not if you want to keep your job

It is safe to say that in the course of his career, Dr Khan has affected the lives of many people, some positively, some negatively. One of the latter is former US intelligence analyst Richard Barlow.

As this July 7 Washington Post article recounted, Barlow is not a happy camper, even though he lives in one.

To excerpt briefly:

Once a top intelligence officer at the Pentagon who helped uncover Pakistan’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, Barlow insisted on telling the truth, and it led to his undoing.

He complained in 1989 that top officials in the administration of President George HW Bush – including the deputy assistant secretary of defense – were misleading Congress about the Pakistani program. He was fired and stripped of his security clearances. His intelligence career was destroyed; his marriage collapsed.

This case has been put before the Congress to right a wrong, and for various reasons, they’ve failed to do it, said Robert Gallucci, dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and an expert in nonproliferation. It’s infuriating.

Gallucci has known Barlow since the late 1980s, when Barlow was tracking the work of AQ Khan, the Pakistani scientist amassing materials to produce nuclear weapons. Some of the men setting policy at the Defense Department at the time of Barlow’s firing – Stephen J Hadley, Paul D Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney – resurfaced in the current Bush administration, which Democrats and others have accused of shaping intelligence on the Iraq war to fit political goals.

Barlow’s intelligence work began at the CIA, where he analyzed nuclear programs in other countries. He contributed to the National Intelligence Estimates and presented findings to national security agencies, the White House and congressional committees. He received the CIA’s Exceptional Accomplishment Award in 1988.

The next year, he became the first intelligence officer for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, charged with analyzing nuclear weapons developments involving foreign governments. He answered to Gerald Brubaker, the acting director of the Office of Non-Proliferation. Supervising Brubaker was Victor Rostow, the principal director. Rostow reported to Deputy Assistant Secretary James Hinds, who reported to Assistant Secretary Stephen J Hadley.

At the time, the government was poised to sell .4 billion worth of new F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan to help the mujaheddin fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. But Congress, through two laws passed in 1985, had forbidden the sale of any equipment that could be used to deliver nuclear bombs.

Barlow wrote an analysis for then-Secretary Dick Cheney that concluded the planned F-16 sale violated this law. Drawing on detailed, classified studies, Barlow wrote about Pakistan’s ability, intentions and activities to deliver nuclear bombs using F-16s it had acquired before the law was passed

Barlow discovered later that someone rewrote his analysis so that it endorsed the sale of the F-16s. Arthur Hughes, the deputy assistant secretary of defense, testified to Congress that using the F-16s to deliver nuclear weapons far exceeded the state of art in Pakistan – something Barlow knew to be untrue.

In the summer of 1989, Barlow told Brubaker, Rostow and Michael MacMurray, the Pakistan desk officer in charge of military sales to Pakistan who prepared Hughes’s testimony, that Congress had been misled.

Within days, Barlow was fired.

‘They clearly didn’t want the nonproliferation policy to get in the way of their regional policy,’ Gallucci said. ‘They were worried someone like Rich [Barlow], in his stickler approach, would insist that if there’s going to be testimony on the Hill about the F-16 aircraft, that the answers be full and truthful. He was a thorn in their side, and they went after him. And they did a very good job of screwing up his life.

So what is the moral of the Barlow story? Perhaps it is that worrying about nuclear proliferation is not a career enhancing move.

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