Much of what he tried to report about Pakistan’s nuclear program is common knowledge today, and several national security bestsellers have included his story, including George Crile III’s 2003 book “Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History,” which describes Barlow as a “brilliant young analyst who gave devastating testimony.”
Today, the consulting work has dried up. He has run out of money and thinks he is about a month from being homeless.
“I served my country for 23 years. I could go get a job for $10 at Wal-Mart,” he said. “But that’s not the issue, the issue is where’s my money?”
Despite efforts by senators and various legislative committees to get him compensated for his loss, the issue has never been resolved, for political and bureaucratic reasons.
He thinks part of the problem is that there’s no structure to compensate whistleblowers in the intelligence field. He also says that the Obama administration has criminalized whistleblowing on levels he’s never seen before.
Today, he spends his days in the wilderness, fly-fishing and bird hunting with his dogs.
It’s 8 a.m. on the 11th floor of a K Street office building, and Jesselyn Radack, 42, is trying to tame her curly blond hair with a straightening iron.
“Our PR people said, ‘Straight hair is serious hair,’ ” she said, laughing. “But it is like 100 degrees outside.”
Radack is an attorney and former ethics adviser for the Justice Department. Her supervisor told her to find another job after she disclosed after Sept. 11 that the FBI interrogated John Walker Lindh, known as the “American Taliban,” without an attorney present. Her case was closed in 2003, and prosecutors never identified a potential charge against her.
Today, Radack is a mother of three and director of national security and human rights at the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblowing advocacy organization.
That means she’s an advocate, attorney and, it turns out, therapist of sorts for whistleblowers who come to her “bankrupt, blacklisted and broken,” she says.
“Once you are labeled that way, you are just radioactive,” she said.
And she can certainly empathize.
Before she decided to make her disclosure, she says she suffered from horrible insomnia. She also has long suffered from multiple sclerosis, and the stress caused flare-ups of her disease.
“I had this knowledge and had to do something,” she said on a recent afternoon at her brick home in Tenleytown. “After law school, I thought the government wears the white hat and is on the right side of the law. I never expected to be a whistleblower.”
But the Yale Law School graduate saw something she thought was wrong and felt compelled to report it.
After her case went public, she noticed a chill in how she and her family were treated. She took her children to the “tot shabbat,” or sabbath celebration for young children, at Temple Sinai in Northwest Washington and noticed that no one would sit near her and her family. It turns out that some of the people she blew the whistle on also attended her temple. The situation got so bad, she said, she had to talk to the rabbi about it.
“We’re inside the Beltway, and it’s a small city,” Radack says. “It’s like high school. They just freeze you out.”