POINDEXTER: 2 of spades
(L, J) (what
do these signs mean?)
United States has close to 300 million people. It has
a military numbering over a million. Thousands of soldiers
are officers. Many are honest, competent, and devoted
to their job. But when the time came for George
W. Bush to pick the man who would oversee the
greatest government investigative agency in our history,
an agency dedicated to acquiring the most private information
on the buying, travel, and reading habits of every American,
none of these people were selected for the task.
Bush chose John Poindexter instead. Poindexter got off
of a felony rap due to a technicality - he had previously
testified to Congress. But the facts remained: that
he had lied under oath and in uniform. Thus does George
Bush bring honor to the White House. What an inspiring
message to send honest servants of their country.
equal to Bush's
John Poindexter has a reputation as an out of the box
thinker. This can be very good. But out of the box shouldn't
mean out of your mind. Poindexter's activities led him
to lie under oath, deceive taxpayers and elected representatives
alike, and practice a kind of tunnel vision that befits
fanatics who see only their own narrow view of reality
as truly important.
Reagan's National security Advisor, John Poindexter
was up to his neck in the Iran-Contra scandal, sending
weapons to our enemies in order to pursue foreign policy
goals Congress had prohibited by law. Secret sales of
arms to Iran were used to finance rebels fighting in
Nicaragua at a time when such assistance was banned
got caught. In 1990 Poindexter was convicted on five
felony counts, including lying to Congress, destroying
documents and obstructing congressional inquiries into
the affair. Although his conviction was overturned in
1991 -- on grounds that Poindexter had been granted
immunity from prosecution as a result of his testimony
before Congress, there was no question that he was guilty
of lying under oath and deceiving elected officials
retired to richly deserved life outside public service.
But that was before George Bush moved to the White House.
Bush promised "I'll bring in a group of men and
women who are focused on what's best for America, honest
men and women, decent men and women, women who will
see service to our country as a great privilege and
who will not stain the house." (1/15/00) Poindexter's
appointment demonstrates how seriously Bush meant it.
Bush's sponsorship, Poindexter came up with his idea
for the now-defunct TIA (Terrorism Information Awareness)
program, where the government would collect all our
financial records, health, library visits, so as to
try and determine "patterns" of suspicious
public outcry led to the demise of that idea, Poindexter
developed his now infamous idea for a market in terrorism
futures. Poindexter's scheme was based on one true insight
and lots of bad thinking. The true insight is that the
market often beats experts in predicting future developments
and the same kind of dispersed network might be useful
in anticipating attacks. But the bad idea is that markets
can be manipulated in the short run - as the country
just discovered in the case of Enron. There is nothing
some people won't do to make a buck. Beating the market
on terrorism futures suggests some truly evil methods
of self enrichment. Anyone thinking such methods wouldn't
be attempted has been living on the moon.
Poindexter blamed the bad publicity on an unauthorized
decision by an outside contractor -- Net Exchange --
to post "some extremely bad examples" on the
program's Web site, giving skeptics ammunition to attack
the idea. The "bad examples" included betting
on Yasser Arafat's assassination or the overthrow of
Jordan's monarchy. Interestingly, Poindexter did not
say these "bad examples" were false examples.
What made them bad was their capacity to discredit a
a letter of resignation ending his 20-month Pentagon
post, Poindexter continued to argue for using new technologies
to discover terrorists' plans by analyzing patterns
in credit card purchases, travel reservations and e-mail.
Interestingly, the information needed to prevent 9-11
had been developed by old-fashioned methods, but not
paid attention to. And those methods fit with our Bill
of Rights and protection of our privacy.
has resigned, returning again to the private life. But
we continue to honor him in our deck as a good example
of Bush's concern for his own secrecy and desire to
know everything about you.