Private Contractors Hired as Spies?

At least it wasn’t Blackwater? A Defense Department official hired private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to serve, essentially, as spies, says The New York Times. Michael D. Furlong paid former CIA agents and Special Force operatives who worked for private companies to gather intelligence on suspected militants; the information was then sent to military units and intelligence operatives—sometimes for lethal action. The Times calls it an “off-the-books spy operation” and notes that it’s typically illegal for the government to hire contractors as covert spies. Furlong's operation has been shut down and he’s now the subject of a criminal investigation; no one’s sure who sanctioned Furlong's work.