Military Program of Rogue ‘Jason Bournes’ Under Investigation
March 15, 2010
(ChattahBox)— The New York Times published a wild story today about a U.S. Defense Department official, running a rogue James Bond operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, using funds diverted from another project. The covert spies were civilian contractors and they were used to gather intelligence on Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, which was then allegedly used to assassinate them. It’s generally illegal for the military to contract out its spying operation. And when the C.I.A. finally got wind of the Defense Department’s “off-the-books spy operation,” the shady operation was shut down. The spymaster military official, Michael D. Furlong is now under criminal investigation for contract fraud.
The Times’ piece is based on interviews with “military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States; namely Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, the military’s top flack in Afghanistan and two journalists; Robert Young Pelton, a wartime author and Eason Jordan, a former CNN news chief.
In 2008, Pelton and Eason approached Gen. David D. McKiernan and Furlong with the idea to man and operate a public Web site in Afghanistan and Pakistan, for the purposes of gathering news about the people and the region, to aid the military in its operations. The two men were enthusiastically given the go ahead by Furlong, and they promptly created the Web site Afpax. But over time it started to become clear to Pelton that his news gathering may have been used to kill insurgents.
And there was the question of money. Pelton says he didn’t get much of it. After two initial payments from Furlong, there were no further payments from the military. When Pelton asked, Furlong told him the money was being used for other operations. “He told us that there was less and less money for what we were doing, and less of an appreciation for what we were doing,” said Pelton.
According to The Times, the approximately $22 million allotted to Furlong for his operation “to use private companies to gather information about the political and tribal culture of Afghanistan,” largely went towards hiring rogue spies from private contractors having a cadre of ex military commandos and Navy seals on their payrolls:
“The official, Michael D. Furlong, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former C.I.A. and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, 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, the officials said. While it has been widely reported that the C.I.A. and the military are attacking operatives of Al Qaeda and others through unmanned, remote-controlled drone strikes, some American officials say they became troubled that Mr. Furlong seemed to be running an off-the-books spy operation. The officials say they are not sure who condoned and supervised his work.”
Furlong’s military bio describes him, as “the Strategic Planner and Technology Integration Adviser, Joint Information Operations Warfare Command, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas”
Furlong’s undoing seems to have come partly from his propensity to brag to his colleagues about his super cool spying operations. He referred to his team of private spies, as “my Jason Bournes.” Finally, the C.I.A. heard about Furlong’s rogue operation of “Jason Bournes” running around Afghanistan unchecked and alerted the Pentagon to Furlong’s “serious offenses.”
Admiral Smith also says that he saw a potential conflict with Furlong’s operation and the C.I.A. and “took the air out of the balloon,” of Pelton and Eason. And when Furlong complained, Smith told Furlong it was over. “I finally had to tell him, ‘Read my lips,’ we’re not interested,’ ” Admiral Smith said.
Out of the original $22 million that was made available to Furlong, $15 million is largely unaccounted for.
Was Furlong’s military covert spying operation of “Jason Bournes” really a rogue project, or was it approved with a wink. Who knows, but it makes for good reading.
See The New York Times for more.