Despite official denials, a secret network of Blackwater private spies set up by a US Defense Department official continues to operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a US newspaper has reported. Citing unnamed US officials and businessmen, the newspaper said the network was still operating. Its reports on Taliban activities, especially in Pakistan, were submitted almost daily to top US commanders in the region. The Times reported in March that Defense Department official Michael Furlong had set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants. He did this under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program.