The whole betting-on-terrorism idea at the Pentagon — creating a futures market to predict terrorist attacks, assassinations, and similar grotesque events — was such a horrible and horrifying concept that, as soon as word leaked out and public outrage leaked in, the operation was shut down.
But that’s not enough. Heads should roll. If this had been unveiled in the private sector, we’d hear condemnations, accusations, and repercussions from coast to coast. Or suppose some teen had done it as a joke on his website — he’d be kicked out of school and ordered into counseling. So why isn’t someone at the Pentagon’s agency, DARPA, being flushed down the career toilet in public?
These are the same people who came up with Total Information Awareness, a program that would have combed government and commercial databases to develop computer files on each and every American. When that one became public knowledge, the howls of “what part of privacy don’t you understand?” helped to get it canceled.
The guy at the top of this bizarre, little-known agency is former Admiral John Poindexter, a man with a murky legal past, to say the least. He and his cronies were defended yesterday by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who said (I’m paraphrasing here), “These are imaginative people who we ask to come up with creative new plans. Sometimes they get a little too imaginative.”
It reminded me of the movie “Under Siege,” where Tommy Lee Jones’ character takes control of the USS Missouri and tries to off-load its nuclear missiles. It turns out he was an independent contractor for the CIA, doing deep covert missions. The man who used to be his boss — and once tried to have him killed — is asked how such a man could be allowed to operate so dangerously with virtually no supervision. The CIA man says (I’m paraphrasing again), “Sometimes these creative, independent thinkers get a little too creative and independent.”
Maybe we need to send Steven Seagal in to deal with these imaginative folks at DARPA. Certainly, someone there needs to be held accountable for the waste of time, money, and effort that is going into these insanely idiotic ideas.
Update: the day after this column appeared, John Poindexter resigned as head of DARPA.