In the New York Times:
Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.
The official, Michael D. Furlong, 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, the officials said.
The story mentions that “It is generally considered illegal for the military to hire contractors to act as spies.”
Well, you don’t “consider” whether it’s illegal or not. It is, or it isn’t. If this was illegal, it should have been run by the CIA, which is where we want the law-breaking terrorist killers to be working.
“While no legitimate intelligence operations got screwed up, it’s generally a bad idea to have freelancers running around a war zone pretending to be James Bond,” one American government official said.
Well, these were apparently people hired by a DoD official, not “freelancers running around pretending to be James Bond.”
There is at least some speculation that the work brought some results.
Then there’s this:
Moreover, in Pakistan, where Qaeda and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, the secret use of private contractors may be seen as an attempt to get around the Pakistani government’s prohibition of American military personnel’s operating in the country.
Honestly, I’m not sure that I really see this concern as much of a concern.