Richard Barlow is an American intelligence analyst and a former senior member of the counter-proliferation desk at the Central Intelligence Agency who lost his job when he acted as a whistleblower about the George H. W. Bush administration's misleading Congress over Pakistan's nuclear program. Following several investigations, he was vindicated in 1997; unable to collect a government pension, he lives in a motor home in Montana.
Career in government
Barlow entered the intelligence community with two years of work at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He then, in 1985, entered the CIA, where he collated and examined information about nuclear programs in the Third World. He worked on the National Intelligence Estimates, and won the CIA's Exceptional Accomplishment Award in 1988.
In 1989, Barlow transferred to the office of the Secretary of Defense, where he initiated an in-house intelligence analysis program. He was in a chain of command below Stephen J. Hadley, then Assistant Secretary of Defense; the Secretary of Defense was Dick Cheney. His early work included an effort to sound the alarm about the now-discredited Pakistani nuclear scientist and proliferator, Abdul Qadeer Khan. In particular, he discovered that Pakistan's nuclear program depended upon clandestine and illegal procurement activity within the United States. The US administration, however, knew that this was the case; indeed, his report detailed occasions when the State Department under Ronald Reagan had actually helped it happen, warning targets of sealed arrest warrants in FBI operations and approving export licenses for restricted goods.
During the debate over the sale of F-16s to Pakistan in 1989, the U.S. administration was constrained by the 1985 Pressler amendment of the Foreign Assistance Act which prohibited the sale of any matériel or armaments which might assist in the development or delivery of nuclear weapons. Barlow's analysis of Pakistan's nuclear program indicated that Pakistan possessed the capability to use the fighters to drop nuclear bombs, and the report which he submitted to Dick Cheney concluded that the F-16 sale indisputably violated the law. He drew on details available to the intelligence community about how Pakistan had used the F-16s it already possessed.
Barlow then learned that Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Arthur Hughes had delivered testimony to Congress that stated the exact opposite, including the statement that using F-16s to deliver nuclear weapons "far exceeded the state of art in Pakistan," which Barlow knew to be untrue. Barlow believed that the details had been "willfully falsified by officials at the Office of the Secretary of Defense", including then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz and then-Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Scooter Libby. On examining the archives he discovered that his reports were "mysteriously substituted or altered".
Events following dismissal
Barlow brought a legal action for wrongful dismissal that received considerable attention, including from the United States Congress, where he was defended by Paul Wolfowitz, who said "there have been times on that issue when I specifically sensed that people thought we could somehow construct a policy on a house of cards that the Congress wouldn't know what the Pakistanis were doing" and that the retaliation Barlow had faced was "wrong".
Following congressionally ordered investigations, the inspector-general at the State Department concluded that Barlow had been fired as a reprisal; however, the inspector-generals at the CIA and the Defense Department stated that the Pentagon was within its rights to fire Barlow. A final investigation by Congress' own Government Accountability Office was completed in 1997 and "largely vindicated" Barlow, who had his security clearance restored. During the investigation, the State department inspector-general, Sherman Funk, described Barlow as “one of the most brilliant analysts I’ve ever seen”.
The activities of the Defense Department officials, however, including Cheney, Libby, Wolfowitz and Hadley, were never investigated. Rep. Stephen Solarz, a major player in counter-proliferation, told Seymour Hersh for the latter's famous exposé of the Pakistani nuclear program that "If what Barlow says is true, this would have been a major scandal of Iran-Contra proportions, and the officials involved would have had to resign".
Barlow, however, was unable to find employment after his clearance was removed and marriage broke up. "They viciously tried to destroy my life, personally and professionally" he is quoted as saying. "Not just my career, but they went after my marriage, my livelihood, and smeared my name in truly extraordinary ways that no one had ever seen before or since—at least not until the Wilsons were victims of the same people years later." According to Barlow the allegations included the "fabrication" that he "was an ‘intended’ Congressional spy", that he was an alcoholic, had not paid his taxes, and was an adulterer. "Then they accused me of being psychotic and used that to invade my marital privacy, including that of my now ex-wife who also worked at the CIA, and sought to destroy my marriage as punishment."
Although he was found to have breached no national security regulations and was vindicated, Barlow did not receive his government pension and has had trouble finding employment. The authors of The Nuclear Jihadist, a biography of A.Q. Khan, caused a sensation in 2005 when they revealed that they had tracked him down to a motor home in Montana where he lived with two dogs.