Monday, November 29, 1999

Against own policy, US has private spies in Af-Pak

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Top military officials have continued to rely on a secret network of private spies who have produced hundreds of reports from deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to American officials and businessmen, despite concerns in the military about the legality of the operation.Earlier this year, government officials admitted that the military had sent a group of former cia officers and retired Special Operations troops into the region to collect information - some of which was used to track and kill people suspected of being militants. Many portrayed it as a rogue operation that had been hastily shut down once an investigation began.But interviews with more than a dozen current and former government officials, and an examination of government documents, reveal that not only are the networks still operating, their detailed reports on subjects like the workings of the Taliban leadership in Pakistan and the movements of enemy fighters in southern Afghanistan are also submitted almost daily to top commanders.The American military is largely prohibited from operating inside Pakistan. And under Pentagon rules, the Army is not allowed to hire contractors for spying. Military officials said that when Gen David H Petraeus, the top commander in the region, signed off on the operation in January 2009, there were prohibitions against intelligence gathering, including hiring agents to provide information about enemy positions in Pakistan. Contractors were supposed to provide only broad information about the political and tribal dynamics in the region, and information for "force protection," they said.Some Pentagon officials said that over time the operation appeared to morph into traditional spying activities. And they pointed out that the supervisor who set up the contractor network, Michael D Furlong, was now under investigation.But a review of the programme found Furlong's operatives were still providing information using the same methods. The contractors were still being paid under a $22 million contract and were supervised by the Pentagon office in charge of special operations policy.Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said the programme was "under investigation". Spokesmen for Petraeus and Gen Stanley A McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, declined to comment. Furlong remains at his job, working as a senior civilian Air Force official. NYT'Pak anchor's links to Taliban led to killing'ISLAMABAD: Executive Editor of Geo News, Hamid Mir's conversation with the Taliban may have caused the killing of Khalid Khawaja, a retired Air Force official, the Daily Times said. An audiotape of conversation between Mir and a man from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, shows the former saying Khawaja had links to the CIA. PTI

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