WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
By Sharon Smith | August 8, 2003 | Page 7
"PENTAGON ABANDONS Terrorism Betting Plan," was ABC's headline on July 29 for a news story explaining that the Pentagon plans to scrap an online futures market trading on acts of terrorism that was set to open its doors to investors on August 1. The online betting site (which the Pentagon shut down but was saved online by the foresighted activists at www.ReclaimDemocracy.org) invited investors to anonymously predict the likelihood of such calamities as the overthrow of the King of Jordan, the assassination of Yasser Arafat or a North Korean missile attack.
The Pentagon is also scrapping the program's key architect, retired Adm. John Poindexter, from his high-ranking post in its Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The mastermind of the $8 million futures scheme had apparently failed to consider the obvious possibility of insider trading, which could add a whole new dimension to "making a killing" on the markets.
Poindexter was the central figure, along with Lt. Col. Oliver North, in the 1980s Iran-Contra conspiracy that nearly unraveled the Reagan presidency--making him well-suited to serve in another administration based upon secrecy, deception and an unwavering fealty to the system of private enterprise. "Admiral Poindexter is somebody who this administration thinks is an outstanding American and an outstanding citizen who has done a very good job in what he has done for our country, serving in the military," huffed White House spokesman Ari Fleischer to a reporter who dared mention Poindexter's checkered past.
As Reagan's deputy national security adviser, Poindexter instructed White House spokesperson Larry Speakes to declare "preposterous" rumors that the U.S. was about to invade the tiny Island of Grenada on October 24, 1983--as U.S. troops were landing there.
As senior national security adviser to Reagan in 1986, Poindexter led the project known as Iran-Contra--illegally selling weapons to Iran and secretly diverting the profits to fund the right-wing Contra army fighting to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, funding explicitly banned by Congress. As soon as the Iran-Contra story broke, Poindexter initiated a massive cover-up, which included destroying the only document that could incriminate Reagan in the conspiracy. As Poindexter told Congress in 1987, "I wanted the president to have some deniability so that he would be protected."
Poindexter and North deleted 5,000 incriminating e-mails, but neglected to delete the backup tape.
In 1990, Poindexter was convicted on five counts of lying to Congress and obstruction of justice, but he never served a day in prison. His conviction was overturned on appeal, on the grounds that he had been offered immunity for his testimony before Congress, even though his testimony was full of lies.
The price for the Iran-Contra conspiracy was paid for by tens of thousands of Nicaraguans killed--and a popular movement crushed--by a U.S.-funded army of terrorists aiming to overthrow Nicaragua's democratically-elected government.
Poindexter--who Bush appointed in February 2002 to DARPA's Information Awareness Office--enjoyed the support of his Department of Defense superiors, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz even after last year's demise of his first major DARPA project, the "Total Information Awareness" (TIA) scheme. TIA was centered around a plan to set up a massive database with a profile on every American's personal, financial, travel and medical information that would trigger an alarm in the instance of any "suspicious activity." Congress withdrew funding for the program, after which DARPA changed its name to "Terrorism Information Awareness" and claimed to scale back its surveillance capacity.
Last week, however, the rats from the Bush administration deserted Poindexter's sinking ship. "I share your shock at this kind of program," Wolfowitz told Congress, and both Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld ludicrously claimed to have learned of it in the newspaper.
Poindexter may be gone, but Big Brother lives on. Other DARPA projects in development--making pills to alter soldiers' metabolisms to go days without food, sleep or water, and high-tech systems to remotely detect the intent to commit a crime (bearing an uncanny resemblance to a Hollywood film starring Tom Cruise)--are no less Orwellian.