SPADES | politicians

JOHN POINDEXTER: 2 of spades
(L, J) (what do these signs mean?)

The 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.

George 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.

Judgement 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.

Ronald 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 by Congress.

He 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

Poindexter 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.

Under 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 behavior.

When 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 foolish idea.

In 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.


Poindexter 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.

Good additional link:

  American shadow

the web

copyright © 2003, inc | legal disclaimer | privacy policy