UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


SLUG: 6-13028 Pentagon's Terrorism "Futures"










INTRO: The United States Department of Defense has come under unusually sharp criticism in the press for a plan to gain information against terrorism. The quickly-canceled plan would have used "futures contracts," a market method normally applied to sales of maize, soybeans and other agricultural goods.

We get a sampling of editorial reaction from V-O-A's ___________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup.

TEXT: The idea was to have informed speculators bet on the probability of future terrorist attacks. If they were correct they would profit, and the government would be alerted to information on possible terrorist attacks it otherwise might not know about. The idea came from a research team headed by a former Iran-Contra scandal principal, retired admiral John Poindexter. The New York Times calls for his resignation.

VOICE: 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 [7-28] by embarrassed Pentagon officials. The next logical step is to fire Mr. Poindexter. The insensitivity of the idea boggles the mind. Quite apart from the tone-deafness of equating terrorist attacks with, say, corn [maize] futures, the plan would allow speculators - even terrorists - to profit from anonymous bets on future attacks.

TEXT: The Boston Globe, after recounting Mr. Poindexter's role in the Reagan-era Iran Contra program in which missiles were sold "to Iran to raise secret funds to support the Nicaraguan contras" says of the current controversy:

VOICE: An intelligence analyst scrutinizing [Mr.] Poindexter's record would be tempted to guess [he] has been functioning as a mole sent by some foreign power to embarrass the United States.

TEXT: In Louisiana, an incredulous Times-Picayune in new Orleans adds: "The idea is so [strange] that it's scary to think the Pentagon took it seriously. [It is] morally repugnant. While in Northern California, The San Jose Mercury News adds: "When it comes to bad government ideas, never sell Admiral John Poindexter short." [Editors: "to sell someone short" is U-S slang for "never underestimate"] As for Admiral Poindexter's future, Wisconsin's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has some suggestions.

VOICE: It's time for him either to retire for good from government service or be put on a very slow ship destined for a very long trip to a very distant port.

TEXT: For Missouri's Kansas City Star, the plan was a "disgraceful blunder," while in Michigan, The Detroit Free Press refers to it as a "stupid Pentagon plan."

TEXT: The plan is defended by Greensburg's [Pennsylvania] Tribune-Review.

VOICE: Some members of Congress succeeded in killing this "grotesque" and "unbelievably stupid" program. How unfortunate. As the Pentagon correctly noted, "markets are extremely efficient and timely aggregators of dispersed and even hidden information. Futures markets are often better [predictors] than expert opinions." The Policy Analysis Market could have been a valuable tool [against] terrorism.

And in New York City, The New York Post says the plan, while very politically incorrect, was no worse than:

VOICE: When oil traders react to the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein by driving down the price of oil. In any event, intelligence analysts must always be thinking outside the box. Which is exactly what the "terrorism-market" proposal represented.

TEXT: That defense of the controversial terrorism-gathering plan now discarded by the Pentagon concludes this editorial sampling on the matter.


Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list