the talking dog

July 31, 2003, He knows where you've been sleeping...

On the occasion of the departure of a valued public servant, sometimes its good to say a brief good-bye. Such is the case of Defense Department employee Adm. John Poindexter (Ret.) who announced his exit from the Department's DARPA (that's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) which came up with the futures market for terrorist activity and the Total Information Awareness programs.

While the futures market for terrorism certainly sounds creepy, there's nothing intrinsically problematic (IMHO) as to why the government shouldn't be able to measure popular sentiment regarding the likelihood of such activity; certainly, a terrorist planning something so major that markets will be moved may already place bets on existing futures and stock markets. Yes, one can predict "number of U.S. soldiers killed", which is troubling given how many are now in harm's way-- but particular details like that could have been adjusted and made less egregious. I think the bigger problem with this program is simply that convicted-felons-who-were-pardoned-by-the-first- President-Bush really shouldn't be put in charge of much of anything important, because anything controversial will be, well, more controversial, and thus, a potentially useful information tool was shot down for reasons of political pander, but putting Poinsy in charge of the program made it impossible to defend.

The Total Information Awareness computer data mining project is, of course, also creepy-- the government basically trying to keep an updated dossier on everyone on the theory that it can figure out patterns of discernible activity that will enable it to spot terrorism (while also, ahem, doing wonders with privacy, not that Google hasn't already done wonders in that department as it is). When such a program is managed by friends of the constitution like Ollie North's boss Admiral Poindexter, the only reasonable conclusion is extreme cynicism.

So bon voyage, Admiral Poindexter. I suppose we won't be hearing from you again until the J.E.B. Bush Administration takes office.

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