The March 15, 2010 New York Times led with a story about a contractor who had gone rogue using government funds and information sources to run a clandestine private terrorist-hunting program. The principal source for that story, Robert Young Pelton, talked with Ian Masters on his show, The Daily Briefing on KPFK-FM Los Angeles.
Pelton tells how a program designed to provide accurate information about current events and society in Afghanistan, AfPax Insider, became warped into a tool for targeting and killing alleged Taliban and others.
Their purpose was to provide accurate information so that people within the military would be better able to understand Afghan people, not kill them.
We work towards peace. We work towards lowering the confusion and the violence. We do not endorse dropping bombs on people or shooting people, because we know we're leaving Afghanistan, so it's not our goal to create more death.
The goal was as much pragmatic as it was humanitarian.
However well-intentioned, those reports soon went to more damaging uses. Pelton
describes how Michael Furlong brought in unsavory newcomers, despite the founders' complaints.
We had suspicions. For example, on our website you can see some footage of a terrorist training camp, and within two days that camp was taken out. One of our correspondents was dragged out of his car and murdered . . . We had indications that something was seriously wrong.
Listen to the first part of the interview here:
Even as Furlong worked to keep his operations secret, he could not resist boasting:
He bragged that he was King of the Grey Areas. What he does is he notices that people don't pay attention to boring things.
Pelton takes no issue with the clandestine operations or even missions designed to kill terrorists. He did have a pragmatic reasons for opposing Furlong:
We simply said, "Look, if you keep killing the members of the Taliban, they're going to bring in wackier and crazier people to replace them, and then you're going to have to start over from scratch.."
Pelton particularly regrets that now no one is doing the work that AfPax Insider was doing:
The problem is that the general needed what we were providing, so that got sandbagged. Instead, this haphazard Jason Bourne operation flourished, and now is dead. So now what is happening is that people like Major General Flynn don't have the basic information they need to make decisions.
Hear the second part of the interview here:
Ian Masters airs Monday through Thursday, 5-6 PM Pacific Time and Sundays from 11-Noon. The show streams live here at www.kpfk.org.