March 16th, 2010
04:33 AM ET

Pentagon investigating purported ad hoc spy network

The Department of Defense has launched an investigation into whether a $24 million contract to gather information about developments in towns and villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan may have been inappropriately used instead to run an ad hoc spy ring, according to U.S. military officials.

Concern within the Central Intelligence Agency about the contract prompted the investigation, officials said. An investigation by the Defense Department's inspector general is under way, according to a U.S. defense official. It's not clear whether that is the only investigation.

The contract was meant to be limited to gathering what is known as "open-source information," in which material is gathered in an unclassified manner from, for example, local media and public events.

The contractors may have instead hired local agents to gather information on the specific locations and movements of particular individuals and passed it along to military officials for possible lethal strikes, according to government officials and private-sector businessmen familiar with the investigation.

Military officials say the concern is that contract money used for open-source information cannot be used to target individuals. But a source close to the man overseeing the program says there is an exception if there is a demonstrated threat to U.S. forces and "force protection can be invoked as a reason."

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Filed under: Military • National security • U.S.
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Guy Kimble

    I agree that if a demonstrated threat to U.S. forces and "force protection this exception should be invoked. It would be like a meter reader going to check and seen a fugitive on the run then reporting the information to law enforcement. Now if the contractor was on purpose trying to set up a spy ring with contractor money then he or she should be accountable for their actions!

    March 16, 2010 at 5:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. Conan

    Whats the problem? Literally killing two birds with one stone.

    March 16, 2010 at 6:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. A.Audain

    The problem is not where the money is, but the problems it may case. Due to the Sum of money allocated to this intelligence effort, would it possible attract a Counter-Insurgency. The opposition to this strategy is strapped for cash, and may embrace the opportunity to infiltrate the program due to the large amounts of cash involved. This could attract double-agents, who often have their own agenda.

    March 16, 2010 at 7:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. djga67

    So what? They are going to ignore intelligence because it didn't come to them exactly how they wanted it?
    They are upset because they spent money one way to gather intelligence and it actually worked another way and still got better intel?

    How about, HEY GREAT we got more and better intelligence than we expected.
    Gathering Intel from TV and public events? for WHAT? to see what fun stuff there is to do around afghanistan on the weekend?

    There should be an investigation as to why they are wasting money for that stupid crap.

    March 16, 2010 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  5. Johny

    This is why it's so important to pay or taxes by April 15th, our goverment needs to send money overseas abd help other people while parts of our country are turning into crap.

    March 16, 2010 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  6. TY

    Sounds like we are getting more than we paid for. It's about time.

    March 16, 2010 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. Len

    With the lousy intel we are getting from the CIA and can't find a 6 foot tall Arab riding a donkey in the mountians for 8 years if anybody can come up with useful intel then Horay. We should be investigating the individual in the Pentagon that is exposing this, I think he is the trator!!!

    March 16, 2010 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  8. Kackler

    If you want to catch them, just get some really big speakers and play hip-hop music. They'll come out of hiding. Trust this method. I works

    March 16, 2010 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  9. Duncan Edwards

    Bad guys are still bad guys. Only a government accountant could find fault with this.

    March 16, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. Rick

    Why can these guys accomplish what the CIA can't? I suppose that's an "inappropriate" question. Gathering "open source" information? How many newspapers can $24 million buy? Increase the damn funding – at least this source seems to work for a change.

    March 16, 2010 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  11. Pete

    If the info gathered isexacting and varfiable and its used to nock off someone who is now or planing to kill troops that are allready in Harms way ,I am for it.
    tell ya the truth if if drones are used to take out terrorists I is for it. hell maye should get a good program going here in Home base ,take out a few traitors that we have throwing monkey wrenches in freedoms way. a few have allready departed by old age latlyjust be nice help some of them depart little faster
    be good for the Country

    March 16, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. Suzy

    Law is supreme and cannot be compromised.
    These cowboys end up compromising our security.
    They employ third rate foot soldiers and double agents who provide lousy and questionabel intel just to make a profit.

    March 16, 2010 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  13. Keith

    Isn't it ironic that a private individual can unearth intelligence that the government agencies can't seem to get? Now he's in trouble for showing them up. Go figure!

    March 16, 2010 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dennis Swanson

    This whole story sounds hokey to me. Let's see – the Dept of Defense awarded a contract to gather certain information, but the information that was gathered and passed along to the military was used to possibly conduct lethal strikes by it's own military. Here's what will happen with the OIG investigation: it will take a year to conduct and someone will get a fine or his hand slapped and then it will be back to business as usual. OIG investigations, in reality, don't stop fraud and abuse.They're just a show to keep people busy.

    March 16, 2010 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mark Heinrich

    I recognize that unsavory things need to happen in this business, but if we are paying we are responsible for the outcomes. To conduct dirty business by proxy and try to step away from responsibility when mistakes are made is morally weak. To pick up on the meter reader analogy – it is fine for a meter reader to call the police if they see a crime taking place – it is quite another to deputize them, giving them a gun and have them snoop around in people's homes under the auspices of reading their water meter. At some point that person is no longer a meter reader!

    March 16, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
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