A senior Pentagon official broke Department of Defence rules and lied to military officials when he set up a network of private contractors to spy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the New York Times reported today.
The Times cited an internal investigation stating that the official, Michael Furlong, set up an unauthorised spy network starting in late 2009 and "deliberately misled" top generals about it.
Pentagon rules forbid using contractors as spies. However some of the information provided by the network was used for strikes against militants, the Times reported.
The results of the Pentagon investigation, ordered by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, are classified, the Times said. It added that the Air Force inspector general is conducting a separate probe to see if Furlong broke any laws or committed contract fraud. Furlong's network was made up of small companies --including one run by an ex-CIA agent -- that used agents in Afghanistan and Pakistan to gather intelligence on militant groups.
It operated under a USD 22 million contract run by Lockheed Martin, according to the Times.
The Pentagon probe concluded that "further investigation is warranted of the misleading and incorrect statements the individual made" about the legality of the program, Pentagon spokesman David Lapan told the paper.
Furlong, a senior Air Force civilian official, however told the newspaper that his work had been approved by a number of senior military officers in Afghanistan, and that he misled no one.