Poindexter's Follies

  1. This is now old news. Most of you, by now, are aware that there were plans within the Pentagon to develop a "Futures Market" on terror. I would hope that ALL would agree that from a moral and ethical point of view, this is just darn-right wrong.

    Below are two articles regarding this hopefully ill-fated plan. The first article give a brief account of the plan. The second is actually a commentary/opinion calling for Mr. Poindexter's resignation.

    I question the moral and ethical judgement of A LOT of decisions made within this current administration. Although this particular plan/event probably can't be blamed on the Bush Administration, I believe it's this particular administration that has kept Mr. Poindexter working within the walls of the Pentagon.
    ___________________________

    Pentagon Abandons Plan for Futures Market on Terror

    July 29, 2003
    By CARL HULSE


    WASHINGTON, July 29 - The Pentagon office that proposed
    spying electronically on Americans to monitor potential
    terrorists has quickly abandoned an idea in which anonymous
    speculators would have bet on forecasting terrorist
    attacks, assassinations and coups in an online futures
    market.

    Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said today that
    the program would be dropped. And he asserted that he first
    learned of the Pentagon-sanctioned futures market through
    news accounts today after two Democratic senators disclosed
    the concept on Monday.

    "I share your shock at this kind of program," Mr. Wolfowitz
    told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We'll find
    out about it, but it is being terminated."

    Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who heads
    the Senate Armed Services Committee, said today that he had
    conferred with the program's director at the Pentagon, "and
    we mutually agreed that this thing should be stopped."

    The discarded program was met with astonishment and
    derision almost from the moment it was disclosed.

    In the proposed futures market, traders bullish on a
    biological attack on Israel, say, or bearish on the chances
    of a North Korean missile strike would have had the
    opportunity to bet on the likelihood of such events on a
    new Internet site established by the Defense Advanced
    Research Projects Agency.

    The Pentagon called the idea a new way of predicting events
    and part of its search for the "broadest possible set of
    new ways to prevent terrorist attacks." But the two
    Democratic senators who disclosed the plan on Monday called
    it morally repugnant and grotesque. The senators said the
    program fell under the control of Adm. John M. Poindexter,
    President Ronald Reagan's national security adviser.

    One of the two senators, Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota,
    said the idea seemed so preposterous that he had trouble
    persuading people it was not a hoax. "Can you imagine," Mr.
    Dorgan asked, "if another country set up a betting parlor
    so that people could go in - and is sponsored by the
    government itself - people could go in and bet on the
    assassination of an American political figure?"

    After Mr. Dorgan and his fellow critic, Ron Wyden of
    Oregon, spoke out, the Pentagon sought to play down the
    importance of a program for which the Bush administration
    has sought $8 million through 2005. The White House also
    altered the Web site so that the potential events to be
    considered by the market that were visible earlier in the
    day at www.policyanalysismarket.org could no longer be
    seen.
    But by that time, Republican officials in the Senate were
    privately shaking their heads over the planned trading. One
    top aide said he hoped that the Pentagon had a good
    explanation for it.

    But it seemed obvious today that no explanation would
    suffice politically. Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the
    Republican majority leader, said as much in a letter to
    Senators Warner and Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who
    heads the Appropriations Committee.

    "I cannot conceive of any reason why the United States
    should be involved in a project of this nature," Mr. Frist
    wrote.
    Senator Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who serves on
    both the Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, called
    the market plan "absurd" and added, "It seems to me they
    are way off base and somebody should bear that
    responsibility, and I think we know who that is."

    The Pentagon, in initially defending the program, said such
    futures trading had proven effective in predicting other
    events like oil prices, elections and movie ticket sales.
    "Research indicates that markets are extremely efficient,
    effective and timely aggregators of dispersed and even
    hidden information," the Defense Department said in a
    statement. "Futures markets have proven themselves to be
    good at predicting such things as elections results; they
    are often better than expert opinions."

    But it became abundantly clear this morning, at the hearing
    of Senator Warner's committee, that whatever the logic of
    the Pentagon's position it had no chance of surviving
    politically.

    "I must say this is perhaps the most irresponsible,
    outrageous and poorly thought-out of anything that I have
    heard the administration propose to date," said Senator Tom
    Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic leader.

    According to descriptions given to Congress, available at
    the Web site and provided by the two senators, traders who
    register would have deposited money into an account similar
    to a stock account and win or lose money based on
    predicting events.
    "For instance," Mr. Wyden said, "you may think early on
    that Prime Minister X is going to be assassinated. So you
    buy the futures contracts for 5 cents each. As more people
    begin to think the person's going to be assassinated, the
    cost of the contract could go up, to 50 cents.
    "The payoff if he's assassinated is $1 per future. So if it
    comes to pass, and those who bought at 5 cents make 95
    cents. Those who bought at 50 cents make 50 cents."
    The senators also suggested that terrorists could
    participate because the traders' identities will be
    unknown.

    "This appears to encourage terrorists to participate,
    either to profit from their terrorist activities or to bet
    against them in order to mislead U.S. intelligence
    authorities," they said in a letter to Admiral Poindexter,
    the director of the Terrorism Information Awareness Office,
    which the opponents said had developed the idea.

    The program, called the Policy Analysis Market, had
    intended to begin registering up to 1,000 traders on
    Friday. It instead became the latest problem for the
    advanced projects agency, or Darpa, a Pentagon unit that
    has run into controversy for the Terrorism Information
    Office. Admiral Poindexter once described a sweeping
    electronic surveillance plan as a way of forestalling
    terrorism by tapping into computer databases to collect
    medical, travel, credit and financial records.

    Worried about the reach of the program, Congress this year
    prohibited what was called the Total Information Awareness
    program from being used against Americans. Its name was
    changed to the Terrorism Information Awareness program.
    This month, the Senate agreed to block all spending on the
    program. The House did not. Mr. Wyden said he hoped that
    the new disclosure about the trading program would be the
    death blow for Admiral Poindexter's plan.
    The Pentagon did not provide details of the Policy Analysis
    Market, like how much money participants would have had to
    deposit in accounts to participate. Until today, trading
    had been scheduled to begin on Oct. 1, with the number of
    participants initially limited to 1,000 and possibly
    expanding to 10,000 by Jan. 1.

    "Involvement in this group prediction process should prove
    engaging and may prove profitable," the market's Web site
    said.

    The overview of the plan said the market was planning to
    focus on the economic, civil and military futures of Egypt,
    Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey
    and the consequences of United States involvement with
    those nations. The creators of the market envisioned other
    trappings of existing markets like derivatives.
    In a statement, Darpa said the trading idea was "currently
    a small research program that faces a number of major
    technical challenges and uncertainties."

    "Chief among these," the agency said, "are: Can the market
    survive and will people continue to participate when U.S.
    authorities use it to prevent terrorist attacks? Can
    futures markets be manipulated by adversaries?"
    Mr. Dorgan and Mr. Wyden called for an immediate end to the
    project and said they would use its existence to justify
    cutting off financial support for the overall effort. In
    the letter to Admiral Poindexter, they called the
    initiative a "wasteful and absurd" use of tax dollars.

    "The American people want the federal government to use its
    resources enhancing our security, not gambling on it," the
    letter said.
    The two lawmakers said the program needed to adhere to a
    high standard because of the involvement of Admiral
    Poindexter, who was convicted of lying to Congress about
    weapons sales to Iran and illegal aid to Nicaraguan rebels.
    His conviction was later reversed on the ground that he had
    been given immunity for testimony in which he lied.

    In their letter, the senators cited the example from the
    Pentagon of a bioterror attack on Israel.

    "Surely, such a threat should be met with intelligence
    gathering of the highest quality - not by putting the
    question to individuals betting on an Internet Web site,"
    they wrote.
    ________________________________


    Poindexter's Follies

    The time has obviously come to send John Poindexter packing and to shut down the wacky espionage operation he runs at the Pentagon. The latest idea hatched by Mr. Poindexter's shop-an online futures trading market where speculators could bet on the probabilities of terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups-was canceled yesterday by embarrassed Pentagon officials. The next logical step is to fire Mr. Poindexter.

    In testimony before Congress yesterday, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, disowned the futures project. The insensitivity of the idea boggles the mind. Quite apart from the tone-deafness of equating terrorist attacks with, say, corn futures, the plan would allow speculators-even terrorists-to profit from anonymous bets on future attacks. The project's theoretical underpinnings are equally absurd. Markets do not always operate perfectly in the larger world of stocks and bonds. The idea that they can reliably forecast the behavior of isolated terrorists is ridiculous.

    The "Policy Analysis Market" would actually have opened for business on Oct. 1 had Senators Ron Wyden and Byron Dorgan not blown the whistle. Despite Mr. Wolfowitz's pledge to kill it, however, the problem of Mr. Poindexter remains. He is a man of dubious background and dubious ideas. A retired rear admiral, he served as Ronald Reagan's national security adviser and helped devise the plan to sell arms to Iran and illegally divert the proceeds to the rebels in Nicaragua. He was sentenced to six months in jail for lying to Congress, a conviction overturned on appeal. He resurfaced under the Bush administration at the Pentagon. His first big brainstorm post-9/11 was a program known as Total Information Awareness, designed to identify potential terrorists by compiling a detailed electronic dossier on millions of Americans.

    Congress agreed earlier this year to subject that program to strict oversight and prohibit it from being used against Americans. In light of the revelations about the latest Poindexter scheme, Congress obviously did not go far enough. It should close his operation for good. The Senate recently agreed to do just that, adding an amendment to a Defense Department appropriations bill that would terminate funds for the program. The House must now follow suit
    •  
  2. 10 Comments

  3. by   SmilingBluEyes
    this is pure evil in my mind. but i remain un-surprised at the lows our administration would and others would sink to.

    sickening.
  4. by   donmurray
    It's only Libertarianism unleashed. Let the Market rule!
  5. by   VivaLasViejas
    We can't provide health care to some 40 million Americans, educate our children, keep our elderly properly clothed, housed, and fed......but until Ron Wyden from my home state of Oregon, along with others, put a stop to this little scheme, the administration was ready to shell out $8 million of OUR hard-earned money for it. If that doesn't prove our country is seriously on the wrong track, I honestly don't know what does.
  6. by   Mkue
    All Bets are Off
    New York Times
    Todd Buchholz
    July 31, 2003


    Before ridiculing the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, though, we should remember its mission: to finance and explore pathbreaking technologies that are not on the standard list of cocktail conversation. The agency started in 1958 as a response to the Sputnik launching, and backed speech-recognition technologies and antichemical warfare research long before they made headlines. Most famously, the agency developed the Internet.

    Let's also remember that the defense of our country is serious business, demanding serious consideration of every idea that can help make America more safe-even ideas that can make Americans squeamish. The Pentagon and the C.I.A. require analysts, informants and spies to sometimes trick and swindle their counterparts.

    entire article:http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/31/opinion/31BUCH.html

    Interesting article from the NYT.
  7. by   Ted
    With all due respect, Mkue, I seriously disagree with any attempt to implement such a program as discribed.

    I do not believe that the "ends justifies the means" here. Thinking about it may be one thing. But these cats were ready to implement it.

    We should thank our lucky stars for the "whistle blowers" for this particular project. We should also thank our system of "checks and balances". . . an important system, I believe, is becoming dangerously eroded by this particular administration.

    Ted
  8. by   Mkue
    Let's also remember that the defense of our country is serious business, demanding serious consideration of every idea that can help make America more safe
    I too am glad the Pentagon killed this idea, hopefully DARPA will come up with an idea that we can all agree on for the defense of our country.
  9. by   Brownms46
    Originally posted by mkue
    I too am glad the Pentagon killed this idea, hopefully DARPA will come up with an idea that we can all agree on for the defense of our country.
    Mkue....ummm You didn't just quote yourself did you???
  10. by   Brownms46
    Originally posted by mkue
    All Bets are Off
    New York Times
    Todd Buchholz
    July 31, 2003


    Before ridiculing the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, though, we should remember its mission: to finance and explore pathbreaking technologies that are not on the standard list of cocktail conversation. The agency started in 1958 as a response to the Sputnik launching, and backed speech-recognition technologies and antichemical warfare research long before they made headlines. Most famously, the agency developed the Internet.

    Let's also remember that the defense of our country is serious business, demanding serious consideration of every idea that can help make America more safe-even ideas that can make Americans squeamish. The Pentagon and the C.I.A. require analysts, informants and spies to sometimes trick and swindle their counterparts.

    entire article:http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/31/opinion/31BUCH.html

    Interesting article from the NYT.
    There IS no defense of the obvious wacky weed idea they came up with...sorry..
  11. by   Mkue
    There IS no defense of the obvious wacky weed idea they came up with
    I'm more surprised that the NY Times has an editorial article that partly defends it.. so unlike them.
  12. by   Brownms46
    You're kidding...right???

close