Mark Mazetti reports April 27 for The New York Times on the peculiar case of
Michael D. Furlong. See also March 14 piece by Mazetti with Dexter Filkins,"Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants" (link provided in story below)
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has opened an inquiry into whether a top Defense Department official violated Pentagon rules by setting up a network of private contractors to gather intelligence in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday that Mr. Gates was also demanding greater oversight over the millions of dollars the Defense Department spent annually to carry out “information operations,” to ensure that such missions did not “stray off course” into secret intelligence collection.
At the center of the Pentagon inquiry is Michael D. Furlong, a civilian official working for the Air Force who last year used a web of private contractors to clandestinely gather intelligence in Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to current and former government officials, some of that information was turned over to Special Operations troops to help fight militants.
Some American officials think that Mr. Furlong may have financed the secret network by improperly diverting money from an overt program to gather information about the tribal structures and political dynamics in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon’s inspector general is already conducting a criminal investigation into the matter. One focus of that investigation is whether Mr. Furlong engaged in contract fraud by channeling contracts to International Media Ventures, a media technology firm that American officials say Mr. Furlong used in the intelligence-gathering effort.
But even if no laws were broken, officials said, the inquiry announced on Tuesday will more clearly define the Pentagon’s boundaries in intelligence operations, and determine whether Mr. Furlong’s outsourcing of intelligence collection violated Pentagon rules.
The inquiry will be led by Mr. Gates’s senior aide in charge of intelligence oversight.
Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said that a Pentagon team set up to do a quick study of Defense Department information operations — the area of warfare where information is used to achieve military ends — had found that the programs were well managed and had unearthed no evidence of operations similar to the one set up by Mr. Furlong.
“There do not seem to be any other alleged rogue information operations under way,” he said.
Since The New York Times last month revealed details about his contractor network, Mr. Furlong has given only one interview, telling a newspaper in San Antonio that all of his actions had been approved by senior military officials. He did not provide the names of these officials.
One of the contractors Mr. Furlong hired, officials said, was Duane Clarridge, a former C.I.A. officer whose history includes an indictment and subsequent presidential pardon for his role in the Iran-contra scandal.
Mr. Morrell said that despite the investigations into the Furlong case, Mr. Gates thought that information operations remained an essential tool for the military to carry out its strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Warfare continues to become more professional and dehumanized every day.
The purpose of Extraordinary Edition is being revisited for winter, headed into 2013. U.S. foreign policy, Central Asia and the Middle East remain key focal points. Economics and culture on your front doorstep are coming into focus here.