John McPeak, 24-01-2002
In Lebanon's fields the Resistance blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Heroes. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Lebanon's fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though Resistance grows
In Lebanon's fields.
The man who knew too much ......
about all "actors" in the Levant and Beyond....
He was the CIA's expert on Pakistan's nuclear secrets, but Rich Barlow was thrown out and disgraced when he blew the whistle on a US cover-up. Now he's to have his day in court.
US aid to Pakistan tapered off when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan. Dejected and impoverished, in 1987 Pakistan's ruling military responded by selling its nuclear hardware and know-how for cash, something that would have been obvious to all if the intelligence had been properly analyzed. "But the George HW Bush administration was not looking at Pakistan," Barlow says. "It had new crises to deal with in the Persian Gulf where Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait."
As the first Gulf war came to an end with no regime change in Iraq, a group of neoconservatives led by Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Donald Rumsfeld were already lobbying to finish what that campaign had started and dislodge Saddam. Even as the CIA amassed evidence showing that Pakistan, a state that sponsored Islamist terrorism and made its money by selling proscribed WMD technology, was the number one threat, they earmarked Iraq as the chief target.
When these neocons came to power in 2001, under President George W Bush, Pakistan was indemnified again, this time in return for signing up to the "war on terror". Condoleezza Rice backed the line, as did Rumsfeld, too. Pakistan, although suspected by all of them to be at the epicenter of global instability, was hailed as a friend. All energies were devoted to building up the case against Iraq.
At first Barlow thought he was helping safeguard the world. "I just loved it," he says. His focus from the start was Pakistan, at the time suspected of clandestinely seeking nuclear weapons in a programme initiated by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the father of Benazir. "Everywhere I looked I kept coming up against intelligence about Pakistan's WMD programme," Barlow says. "I thought I was telling them what they needed to hear, but the White House seemed oblivious." Immersed in the minutiae of his investigations, he didn't appreciate the bigger picture: that Pakistan had, within days of Reagan's inauguration in 1981, gone from being an outcast nation that had outraged the west by hanging Bhutto to a major US ally in the proxy war in Afghanistan.
Within months Barlow was out of a job. A small band of Republican hawks, including Paul Wolfowitz, had convinced the president that America needed a new strategy against potential nuclear threats, since long-term policies such as "detente" and containment were not working. Reagan was urged to remilitarize, launch his Star Wars programme and neutralize ACDA. When the agency's staff was cut by one third, Barlow found himself out of Washington and stacking shelves in a food store in Connecticut, where he married his girlfriend, Cindy. He was not on hand in 1984 when intelligence reached the ACDA and the CIA that Pakistan had joined the nuclear club (the declared nuclear powers were Britain, France, the US, China and Russia) after China detonated a device on Pakistan's behalf.
Soon after, Barlow was re-employed to work as an analyst, specializing in Pakistan, at the Office of Scientific and Weapons Research (OSWR). The CIA was pursuing the Pakistan programme vigorously even though Reagan was turning a blind eye - indeed, Reagan's secretary of state, George Schultz, claimed in 1985: "We have full faith in [Pakistan's] assurance that they will not make the bomb."
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.
Trawling through piles of cables, he found evidence that two high-ranking US officials extremely close to the White House had tipped off Islamabad about the CIA operation. Furious, Barlow called his superiors. "The CIA went mad. These were criminal offences," Barlow says. The State Department's lawyers considered their position. They argued that an inquiry would necessitate the spilling of state secrets. The investigation was abandoned just as Reagan made his annual statement to Congress, testifying that "Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device."
Congressman Stephen Solarz, a Democrat from New Jersey, demanded a closed congressional hearing to vet the intelligence concerning Pakistan's bomb programme. Barlow was detailed to "backbench" at the meeting, if necessary offering advice to the White House representative, General David Einsel (who had been chosen by Reagan to head his Star Wars programme). An armed guard stood outside the room where the hearing was held.
Barlow recalls that Solarz got straight to the point: "Were Pervez and ul-Haq agents of the Pakistan government?" Without flinching, Einsel barked back: "It is not cut and dried." It was a criminal offence to lie to Congress, as other hearings happening on the same day down the corridor were spelling out to Colonel Oliver North, the alleged mastermind behind Iran-Contra. Barlow froze. "These congressmen had no idea what was really going on in Pakistan and what had been coming across my desk about its WMD programme," he says. "They did not know that Pakistan already had a bomb and was shopping for more with US help. All of it had been hushed up."
Then Solarz called on Barlow to speak. "I told the truth. I said it was clear Pervez was an agent for Pakistan's nuclear programme. Everyone started shouting. General Einsel screamed, 'Barlow doesn't know what he's talking about.' Solarz asked if there had been any other cases involving the Pakistan government and Einsel said, 'No'." Barlow recalls thinking, " 'Oh no, here we go again.' They asked me and I said, 'Yes, there have been scores of other cases.' "
Later that year, Reagan would tell the US Congress: "There is no diminution in the president's commitment to restraining the spread of nuclear weapons in the Indian subcontinent or elsewhere."
When he was commissioned to write an intelligence assessment for Dick Cheney, defense secretary, giving a snapshot of the Pakistan WMD programme, he thought he was making headway. Barlow's report was stark. He concluded that the US had sold 40 F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan in the mid-80s - it had been a precondition of the sale that none of the jets could be adapted to drop a nuclear bomb. He was convinced that all of them had been configured to do just that. He concluded that Pakistan was still shopping for its WMD programme and the chances were extremely high that it would also begin selling this technology to other nations. Unbeknown to Barlow, the Pentagon had just approved the sale of another 60 F-16s to Pakistan in a deal worth $1.4bn, supposedly with the same provision as before.
"Officials at the OSD kept pressurizing me to change my conclusions," Barlow says. He refused and soon after noticed files going missing. A secretary tipped him off that a senior official had been intercepting his papers. In July 1989, Barlow was hauled before one of the Pentagon's top military salesmen, who accused him of sabotaging the new F-16 deal. Eight days later, when Congress asked if the jet could be adapted by Pakistan to drop a nuclear bomb, the Defense Department said, "None of the F-16s Pakistan already owns or is about to purchase is configured for nuclear delivery." Barlow was horrified.
Barlow still would not give up. His almost pathological tenacity was one of the characteristics that made him a great analyst. With no salary and few savings, he found a lawyer who agreed to represent him pro-bono. At this point, more documents surfaced linking several familiar names to Barlow's sacking and its aftermath; these included Cheney's chief of staff, Libby, and two officials working for Wolfowitz. Through his lawyer, Barlow discovered that he was being described as a tax evader, an alcoholic and an adulterer, who had been fired from all previous government jobs. It was alleged that his marriage counseling was a cover for a course of psychiatric care, and he was put under pressure to permit investigators to interview his marriage guidance adviser. "I had to explain to Cindy that her private fears were to be trawled by the OSD. She moved out. My life, professionally and personally, was destroyed. Cindy filed for divorce."
Barlow's lawyers stuck by him, winning a combined inquiry by the three inspector generals acting for the Defense Department, the CIA and the State Department (inspector generals are the equivalent of ombudsmen in Britain). By September 1993, the lead inspector, Sherman Funk, concluded that the accusation of treachery was "an error not supported by a scintilla of evidence. The truth about Barlow's termination is, simply put, that it was unfair and unwarranted." The whole affair, Funk said, was "Kafka-like" - Barlow was sacrificed for "refusing to accede to policies which he knew to be wrong".
It seemed Barlow had been vindicated. However, when the report was published it had been completely rewritten by someone at the Pentagon. Funk was appalled. When Barlow's lawyers called the Pentagon, they were told it was the department that had been exonerated. Now it was official: Pakistan was nuclear-free, and did not have the capability of dropping a bomb from an American-supplied F-16 jet and the reputation of the only man who claimed otherwise was destroyed. Later, Barlow's lawyers would find his brief to Cheney had been rewritten, too, clearing Pakistan and concluding that continued US aid would ensure that the country would desist from its WMD programme.
The Pentagon officials who were responsible for Barlow's downfall would all be out of government by 1993, when Bill Clinton came into the White House. In opposition they began pursuing an aggressive political agenda, canvassing for war in Iraq rather than restraining nuclear-armed Pakistan. Their number now included Congressman Donald Rumsfeld, a former Republican defense secretary, and several others who would go on to take key positions under George Bush, including Richard Armitage, Richard Perle and John Bolton.
Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz headed the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, which concluded in July 1998 that the chief threat - far greater than the CIA and other intelligence agencies had so far reported - was posed by Iran, Iraq and North Korea: the future Axis of Evil powers. Pakistan was not on the list, even though just two months earlier it had put an end to the dissembling by detonating five nuclear blasts in the deserts of Baluchistan.
It was also difficult not to conclude that Islamist terrorism was escalating and that its epicenter was Pakistan. The camps that had once been used to train the US-backed mujahedeen had, since the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan, morphed into training facilities for fighters pitted against the west. Many were filled by jihadis and were funded with cash from the Pakistan military.
It was made clear to the new president, Bill Clinton, that US policy on Pakistan had failed. The US had provided Islamabad with a nuclear bomb and had no leverage to stop the country's leaders from using it. When he was contacted by lawyers for Barlow, Clinton was shocked both by the treatment Barlow had received, and the implications for US policy on Pakistan. He signed off $1m in compensation. But Barlow never received it as the deal had to be ratified by Congress and, falling foul of procedural hurdles, it was kicked into the Court of Federal Claims to be reviewed as Clinton left office.
When the George Bush came to power, his administration quashed the case. CIA director George Tenet and Michael Hayden, director of the National Security Agency, asserted "state secrets privilege" over Barlow's entire legal claim. With no evidence to offer, the claim collapsed. Destroyed and penniless, the former CIA golden boy spent his last savings on a second-hand silver Avion trailer, packed up his life and drove off to Bear Canyon campground in Bozeman, Montana, where he still lives today.
Even with Barlow out of the picture, there were still analysts in Washington - and in the Bush administration - who were wary of Pakistan. They warned that al-Qaida had a natural affinity with Pakistan, geographically and religiously, and that its affiliates were seeking nuclear weapons. Some elements of the Pakistan military were sympathetic and in place to help. But those arguing that Pakistan posed the highest risk were isolated. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were in the ascendant, and they returned to the old agenda, lobbying for a war in Iraq and, in a repeat of 1981 and the Reagan years, signed up Pakistan as the key ally in the war against terror.
Contrary advice was not welcome. And Bush's team set about dismantling the government agency that was giving the most trouble - the State Department's Nonproliferation Bureau. Norm Wulf, who recently retired as deputy assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation, told us: "They met in secret, deciding who to employ, displacing career civil servants with more than 30 years on the job in favor of young, like-thinking people, right-wingers who would toe the administration line." And the administration line was to do away with any evidence that pointed to Pakistan as a threat to global stability, refocusing all attention on Iraq.
The same tactics used to disgrace Barlow and discredit his evidence were used again in 2003, this time against Joseph Wilson, a former US ambassador whom the Bush administration had sent to Africa with a mission to substantiate the story that Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material to manufacture WMD. When Wilson refused to comply, he found himself the subject of a smear campaign, while his wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA agent. Libby would subsequently be jailed for leaking Plame's identity (although released on a presidential pardon). Plame and Wilson's careers and marriage would survive. Barlow and his wife, Cindy's, would not - and no one would be held to account. Until now.
When the Republicans lost control of both houses of Congress in 2006, Barlow's indefatigable lawyers sensed an opportunity, lodging a compensation claim on Capitol Hill that is to be heard later this month. This time, with supporters of the Iraq war in retreat and with Pakistan, too, having lost many friends in Washington, Barlow hopes he will receive what he is due. "But this final hearing cannot indict any of those who hounded me, or misshaped the intelligence product," he says. "And it is too late to contain the flow of doomsday technology that Pakistan unleashed on the world."