Whistle-Blower's Fight For Pension Drags On
Saturday, July 7, 2007
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.
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 H.W. 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.
Federal investigations found Barlow was unfairly fired, winning him sympathy from dozens of Democratic and Republican lawmakers and public interest groups. But for 17 years, he has fought without success to gain a federal pension, blocked at every turn by legal and political obstacles also faced by other federal intelligence whistle-blowers.
"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."
Barlow, 52, and his supporters want funding added to the defense authorization bill to be debated by the Senate when it returns from recess next week. The mechanism Barlow hopes to use -- a private relief bill that benefits a specific individual -- is increasingly rare and, in his case, still faces hurdles.
Gallucci has known Barlow since the late 1980s, when Barlow was tracking the work of A.Q. 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 $1.4 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.