The Washington Post Spy Talk Jeff Stein
Robert Young Pelton spent years investigating counterterrorism mercenaries, so the last thing he expected was to be branded one himself.
Yet there he was on the front page of the New York Times on March 14, his color picture flanked by photos of legendary ex-CIA official Duane R. Clarridge and Michael D. Furlong, a Pentagon psychological warfare official.
The headline: “Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants.”
Today the Times corrected the story.
Robert Young Pelton comments:
I am happy to report that the New York Times has done the right thing and corrected their depiction of me in their recent series of articles about Afghanistan and “rogue” contractors. Although I have no personal or ethical problem with DoD contractors, information operations, intelligence activity covert operations or any other programs funded by the Department of Defense to protect our citizens here and overseas. I was not a DoD contractor nor was my company or were my employees involved in any spying, clandestine or illegal activity.
I do have a problem with the illegal use of contractors for espionage, breaking laws or stepping across clearly identified moral boundaries in the use of journalists. But I did not make these allegations, the source for the current activity (almost half a year after we were told the DoD would not be a subscriber) is a leaked memo and DoD insiders. Not my company.
A series of ongoing investigations will determine exactly what happened (or didn’t happen) in the events covered by the New York Times and other publications. However I think I made it clear that my company AfPax and Praedict had nothing to do with what may or may not have transpired after we pitched a subscription service to potential clients. We never provided the service as envisioned and we have many staunch supporters who see the real value for 24/7 ground truth from this and other difficult regions. A benefit that my readers and clients have known about since I first self-published the 1000 page The World’s Most Dangerous Places in 1993. “DP” is in its 5th edition.
I continue to look at new ways to share my access to conflict areas and players openly and productively. My decade and a half on the ground with many of the worlds’ rebel, jihad, insurgent and violent groups has made me uniquely positioned to provide insight and access. But I have never spied, I don’t need to.
This correction regarding my status as a contractor is more gratifying since I spent three years writing the book on the use of DoD and CIA contractors in the “War on Terror”. I took great pains to learn, experience and show exactly how contractors can enhance or detract from our security or foreign policy. In my biased opinion, Licensed to Kill, Hired Guns in the War on Terror is still the best insider guide to this rapidly evolving topic and will continue to be a reference for those that want to understand the industry and its clients.
There have been a raft of secondary and tertiary stories which created the illusion that somehow AfPax employed journalists for spying. Some even linking me to secret assassination squads and all deeply destructive to my free movement and reputation in the very regions I am known for having unfettered access to.
There is no truth in that assumption and this correction goes a long way to correcting this misconception. I will continue to travel unarmed and freely through Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and other difficult areas to seek the truth where I continue to have significant access and contacts.
Not being labeled a potential government spy or DoD contractor by the world’s largest print publication is a relief. I would have no problem providing open source information as a DoD contractor or consultant to help our government understand these regions but in this case the New York Times was too quick to rush to judgement on a premium subscription service modeled on our subscription site: IraqSlogger and confused it with another activity.
I continue to support efforts to better understand the region, the players and find solutions to reduce violence and bring stability.
Robert Young Pelton
Phi Beta Iota: Neither the NYT nor CNN bear any semblance to what the public should expect from the media–they have both sold out to advertisers, field frauds and light-weights (with one exception in each case), and have little to offer to those who seek holistic objective actionable “news” about the real world. RYP, in contrast, is, along with Ralph Peters, David Kaplan, and and a handful of others, “the real deal,” with real integrity, worthy of our attention.