Poindexter bails out

Retired admiral John Poindexter is jumping ship. The Iran-Contra operative who headed two controversial Pentagon projects, plans to leave his present post within weeks, according to defense officials.

Poindexter was the inventor of the silly market scam in which individuals could participate in a futures market in predictions of terrorism, assassinations and other events in the Mideast.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld scrapped the project shortly after it

was announced.

Members of both major parties ridiculed the program, calling it such things as “bizarre,” “unbelievably stupid,” and “offensive.”

Rumsfeld said he canceled it “an hour after I read about it.”

Poindexter, who worked for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA, had led development of a computerized surveillance project aimed at discovering potential terrorist threats. It would have searched private databases containing data on millions of Americans.

Poindexter was former President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser in the 1980s. He was a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal in which the proceeds from secret arms sales to Iran was used to finance Nicaraguan guerillas.

Poindexter was convicted of lying to Congress about that operation, but later was freed of all charges.

He had worked for DARPA since January 2002, and was paid $142,500 per year, according to the Pentagon.

DARPA said the $8 million Policy Analysis Market project was intended to explore the ability of futures markets to forecast and perhaps prevent terrorist attacks, arguing that futures projects had a history of accurately predicting such things as election results.

“Everybody certainly recognizes Admiral Poindexter’s background,” said a senior defense official. “And in the context of that background, it became in some ways very difficult for him to receive an objective reading of work that he was doing on behalf of finding terrorists.”

Poindexter became bogged in another controversy over the Total Information Awareness project. It drew fire from a wide range of privacy advocates, prompting lawmakers and the Defense Department to put limits on the plan.

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