Washington: A US Defence Department official had set up a private network to help track and kill suspected militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, military sources have revealed.
Michael D Furlong hired contractors from private security companies that employed former CIA and Special Forces operatives.
The News quoted military sources as saying that the contractors gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
While it has been widely reported that the CIA and the military are attacking operatives of al Qaeda and others through unmanned, remote-controlled drone strikes, some US officials grew concerned over Furlong’s off-the-books spy operation.
The officials say they are not sure who condoned and supervised his work.
It is illegal for the military to hire contractors to act as covert spies.
Sources say Furlong’s secret network might have been improperly financed by diverting money from a program designed to merely gather information about the region.
Moreover, in Pakistan, where Qaeda and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, the secret use of private contractors may be seen as an attempt to get around the Pakistani government’s prohibition of American military personnel’s operating in the country.