A senior Defence Department official violated Pentagon rules and deliberately misled senior military officers when he created a spy operation using private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a Pentagon inquiry has found, according to the New York Times.
The Times quoted Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan as saying the probe found that “further investigation is warranted of the misleading and incorrect statements the individual made” about the legality of the spy program.
The allegations about the off-the-books spy operation centered on Michael Furlong, a senior U.S. Air Force civilian official who hired contractors from private security companies that employed former CIA and military operatives, the Times reported.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the investigation in March.
The contractors gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps and then sent that material to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, according to the paper, reports Reuters.
A Pentagon spokesman said he had no information regarding the Times story.
The Times quoted Furlong as saying in a telephone interview that he is angry about the conclusions of the Pentagon’s investigation and that the Defence Department had never interviewed him as part of the probe.
“This is a lot like kangaroo court justice,” Furlong said, according to the Times.
The Times quoted him as saying that his work had been approved by a number of senior officers in Afghanistan, and that he had never misled anyone.
The U.S. government’s use private security contractors has been controversial in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a decree in August banning all private security contractors in Afghanistan, with an exception for those guarding embassies, military installations, diplomatic residences and the transport of diplomatic personnel, straining ties with Washington.
According to the Times, Furlong’s operation, using companies that employed agents inside Afghanistan and Pakistan to gather intelligence on militant groups, operated under a $22 million contract run by Lockheed Martin Corp.
The Times said one of the companies used a group of US, Afghan and Pakistani agents overseen by Duane Clarridge, a CIA veteran known for his role in the 1980s Iran-contra scandal.