Here is a summary of the development from DemocracyNow:
"The Pentagon has launched a criminal investigation of a Defense Department official who set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants. The New York Times reports the official, Michael Furlong, has been accused of running an off-the-books spy operation with the help of private contractors who gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps. It is generally considered illegal for the military to hire contractors to act as covert spies. Two of the contractors hired by the military were the writer Robert Young Pelton and Eason Jordan, the former chief news executive for CNN. Pelton said he and Jordan were hired by the military to run a public website to help the government gain a better understanding of the region but that their reporting was then used to kill people."
An interesting and potentially quite revealing line of inquiry would be to look into Michael Furlong's career and his connections to the "Special Operations" in Iraq and Af-Pak. The NY Times reports that he "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".
General McChrystal, the current commander of ISAF operations in Afghanistan, had previously served as Commander of Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008. Before his present assignment, he served in Iraq, where Michael Furlong is also reported to have carried out his covert activities. On the occasion of General McChrystal's assignment in Afghanistan by President Obama, Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch commented on the nature of General McChrystal's operations in these words:
"From 2003-2008, McChrystal ran a special operations outfit in Iraq (and then Afghanistan) so secret that the Pentagon avoided mention of it. In those years, its operatives were torturing, abusing, and killing Iraqis as part of a systematic targeted assassination program on a large scale. It was, for those who remember the Vietnam era, a mini-Phoenix program...
"Although he's now being touted in the press as the man to bring the real deal in counterinsurgency to Afghanistan (and "protect" the Afghan population in the bargain), his actual field is "counter-terrorism." He spoke the right words to Congress during his recent confirmation hearings, but pay no attention.
The team he's now assembling in Washington to lead his operations in Afghanistan (and someday maybe Pakistan) tells you what you really need to know. It's filled with special operations types. The expertise of his chosen key lieutenants is, above all, in special ops work. At the same time, reports Rowan Scarborough at Fox News, an extra 1,000 special operations troops are now being "quietly" dispatched to Afghanistan, bringing the total number there to about 5,000. Keep in mind that it's been the special operations forces, with their kick-down-the-door night raids and air strikes, who have been involved in the most notorious incidents of civilian slaughter, which continue to enrage Afghans.
Note, by the way, that while the president is surging into Afghanistan 21,000 troops and advisors (as well as those special ops forces), ever more civilian diplomats and advisors, and ever larger infusions of money, there is now to be a command surge as well. General McChrystal, according to a recent New York Times article, has "been given carte blanche to handpick a dream team of subordinates, including many Special Operations veterans... [He] is assembling a corps of 400 officers and soldiers who will rotate between the United States and Afghanistan for a minimum of three years. That kind of commitment to one theater of combat is unknown in the military today outside Special Operations, but reflects an approach being imported by General McChrystal, who spent five years in charge of secret commando teams in Iraq and Afghanistan."Considering the nature and history of Michael Furlong's activities, it is quite likely that he is part of the current "Af-Pak" strategy of the US/ISAF Commander in Afghanistan and is running his business with the consent of the US Special Representative for the region, Richard Holbrooke.
The same NY Times report further indicates the following about Michael Furlong's involvement:
"Officials say Mr. Furlong’s operation seems to have been shut down, and he is now is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Defense Department for a number of possible offenses, including contract fraud.
Even in a region of the world known for intrigue, Mr. Furlong’s story stands out. At times, his operation featured a mysterious American company run by retired Special Operations officers and an iconic C.I.A. figure who had a role in some of the agency’s most famous episodes, including the Iran-Contra affair.
The allegations that he ran this network come as the American intelligence community confronts other instances in which private contractors may have been improperly used on delicate and questionable operations, including secret raids in Iraq and an assassinations program that was halted before it got off the ground."