Pentagon inquiry into freelance 'spy cell'

A US defence department official is under investigation for allegedly hiring private contractors to gather intelligence on suspected insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the case, said that Michael D. Furlong directed a defence contract to gather information about the region that could be shared with military units. After military officials suspected that he was using Defense Department money for an off-the-books spy operation, defense officials shut down that part of the contract, the official said.



The story was first reported by The New York Times in yesterday's editions, quoting unidentified military and business sources as saying that Furlong, now a senior civilian employee at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, hired subcontractors who had former US intelligence and special forces operatives on their payrolls. The newspaper said some of the information collected by the contractors was used to track down and attack militants.



"The story makes some serious allegations and raises numerous unanswered questions that warrant further review by the department," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.



The military in mid-2008 put Furlong in charge of a program to use private companies to gather information about Afghanistan's political and tribal culture, the Times reported.



Part of the original $22 million contract that Furlong was directing remains intact, the official said, because it provides the funding for nine workers involved in information-gathering, translation and similar work. Those workers are employed by International Media Ventures with offices in Florida, Texas and elsewhere.



Nine employees from International Media Ventures were hired by the US military to serve as information analysts and in other administrative jobs at the International Security Assistance Force headquarters operations center in Kabul, said Maj. Steven Cole, a spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan.



"We are not aware of, nor responsible for, any other activities performed by this company or any of its subsidiaries," Cole said.



Furlong continues to work for U.S. Strategic Command as a "strategic planner and technology integration adviser" at the Joint Information Operations Warfare Center at Lackland Air Force Base.



Master Sgt. Kevin Allen, a spokesman for US Strategic Command, said Furlong began working there in February 2008 but was soon assigned to support US Central Command, which oversees the war in Afghanistan.



Allen declined to make Furlong available for an interview or confirm that Furlong was under investigation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HRIS Project Manager - e-Learning - Surrey - up to £450 per day

£450 per day: Ashdown Group: HR Systems Project Manager - Surrey - up to £450 ...

Ashdown Group: Senior Network Engineer - London - £70,000

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An excellent opportunity ...

Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administrator - London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administra...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness