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February 3, 2011

Rogue Element Running Amok


Rogue elements
Staff Reporter
1 November 2010
Copyright © 2010. Daily Times. 
Rogue Element Running Amok

RAWALPINDI: A senior US Air Force official, Michael Furlong, has been found in quite a precarious position according to a report published by the New York Times. Based on a Pentagon inquiry report, Mr Furlong has apparently gone too far in gathering intelligence in both Pakistan and Afghanistan by violating executive orders and the US Defence Department’s rules of engagement in war zones. Accused in March this year of siphoning off funds from legitimate US military programmes related to studying the culture and landscape of Afghanistan, Michael Furlong is charged with using these funds to gather intelligence on insurgent camps and militants with the use of private contractors after which insurgents would be rounded up or even assassinated. Such covert tactics are the stuff of clandestine operations that the CIA has employed in many a war-torn land. It should be remembered that the US has a different military policy for the public and another one for clandestine operations.

Michael Furlong’s programme, called Information Operations Capstone, was operated under a $ 22 million contract run by Lockheed Martin Corp, a major manufacturer of fighter jets. What Mr Furlong was running was not just a stealth operation, it was one where private contractors were said to be running amuck in Afghanistan and Pakistan, gathering intelligence and doing whatever they pleased.

Such James Bond-style escapades ought to serve the intelligence and military in Pakistan with a wake-up call. Afghanistan is a land under US and NATO occupation but Pakistan is not. For the report to quote Pakistan is a frightening reality. With rumours making the rounds of the presence of Blackwater in the country (now known as Xe Services LLC) and allegations of Mr Furlong’s programme being firmly supported by the Pentagon, it will not bode well for us to easily dismiss such a shadowy presence. Whatever tattered sovereignty Pakistan has left, such private contactors roaming around the border and broader areas of the country should not be tolerated, and that too from an ally. Lord knows what they are up to. Playing hanky panky is one thing but operating on an ally’s soil without so much as a nod in its direction is unacceptable. Our intelligence agencies must take note of this report and probe into the matter, after which it should be taken up with the American authorities.


How an ‘Off-the-Books Spy Operation’ Happens

March 15, 2010

This is Michael D. Furlong, a strategic planner for the Joint Information Operations Warfare Command based in Texas [at Lackland AFB]. According to a baroque story in today’s New York Times, Furlong is under criminal investigation for diverting money from a program that hired contractors to gather information about Afghanistan and Pakistan and used it to run what the paper terms an “off the books spy operation” to kill militants in the region.

Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on TerrorOne of those contractors [Clarridge] ran a website called AfPax Insider [Eclipse Group]. (I should disclose that I’m an acquaintance of one of AfPax Insider’s founders, Robert Young Pelton, and a friend of mine has worked for a previous Pelton venture that inspired AfPax Insider; I wrote something for that venture, IraqSlogger, when I was in Iraq in 2007.) 

Pelton and his partner, the former CNN executive Eason Jordan, maintain that AfPax Insider’s work and the government money to finance it were misused by Furlong to run his intelligence shop. The CIA objects to Furlong’s potentially-illegal work; Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategic-communications chief, Rear Adm. Greg Smith, objected to the contract that funded AfPax Insider; it is unclear whether anyone died as a result of what Furlong pulled off.

The question is why Furlong felt he had sufficient cover from the contract to divert money. And while the answer is anything but clear — the Times says no one knows “who condoned and supervised his work,” if anyone – the lax attitude to oversight permeating all aspects of contracting in war zones is a powerful institutional incentive. [emphasis added]

Blackwater by Kerstin Ekman
Blackwater guards can kill innocent civilians in war zones, steal U.S. military weaponry and still be eligible for future contracts because no contracting official will use the power he or she possesses to declare the company ineligible for bids. 

A branch of the State Department responsible for contracting out private security firms exhibited years’ worth of disinterest in oversight, resulting in the disappearance of about $1 billion in taxpayer money and the potential vulnerability to waste, fraud and abuse of up to $1.5 billion more. Ironically, when McChrystal’s command requested that the State Department branch lose the ability to control a contract for training Afghan police, the contract became ripe for Blackwater’s picking.

Furlong might not be forgiven by the criminal justice system, but he can certainly be forgiven for thinking he could get away with creating his own intelligence and assassination unit.

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