By now we're all familiar with "Blackwater" (now called "Xe") the infamous private contractor (mercenary army) implicated in the unwarranted killing of civilians in Iraq.
Now come revelations of a secret network of private contractor spies operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that was signed off and approved by David H. Patraeus, the top military commander in January, 2009.
"The operation"with the contractors was supposed to provide only broad information that could be used for "force protection'"but some Pentagon officials said that over time the operation morphed into traditional spy activities."
As to its legality, The American military is largely prohibited from operating inside Pakistan. And under military rules, the army is not allowed to hire contractors for spying.
The operation is now under investigation within the Defense Department and the contract, "which expires at the end of May" will not be renewed.
So it seems there is a mixture of good news interspersed with bad news. A clearly illegal program is ending (the good news) but why did it exist in the first place (the bad news)?
The details remain murky. The money trail (legal?) leads to Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor, which has the contract to "manage and administer the contract" who hire the subcontractors (the actual spy networks) and the whole intricate web is supposed to be supervised "by the Pentagon office in charge of special operations policy."
But to this observer and other critics of the Pentagon, the real worry is the outsourcing of military and clandestine spying operations to a private network of contractors that are largely unaccountable (little Congressional oversight and dubious even to "some offices within the Pentagon" itself).
But the reality remains; are we not authorizing private mercenaries to conduct extralegal operations who know they can operate with impunity and with no real accountability for their actions?
These are literally rogue operations conducted by rogue operators masquerading as legitimate providers of national security. Do we hire the mafia to conduct police investigations of organized crime? Whatever moral legs we think we stand on are contaminated and betrayed when we resort to policies of "anything goes" by authorizing activities conducted by mercenaries operating under the guise of protecting "national security".
Do we dare say it; is it not a form of American style terrorism that begets the terrorism used against us?