The Pentagon office that devised PAM, the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency (DARPA), said PAM arose from research "to investigate
the broadest possible set of new ways to prevent terrorist attacks."
While cynics might attribute truly murderous intent to the Bush
administration, another explanation is the preponderance of extreme
market ideology, whereby President Bush and company believe capitalism
is the answer--regardless of the question. It's reflected in the
administration's position that Iraq should open its oil industry to
foreign investment before a permanent government is in place. In other
words, ensure corporate profit-making opportunity first--then we can
discuss democracy after.
In a statement released Monday, DARPA asserted that markets could reveal
"dispersed and even hidden information. Futures markets have proven
themselves to be good at predicting such things as elections results;
they are often better than expert opinions."
DARPA partnered with two corporations to launch the PAM prototype: Net
Exchange*, a market technologies company, and the Economist Intelligence
Unit, an arm of The Economist magazine.
Senator John Warner, R-Va., of the Senate Armed Services Committee
announced on Tuesday that PAM would be cancelled -- just hours after
many Americans first learned of the plan in their morning newspapers.
DARPA already has admitted to spending $600,000 of taxpayers' money on
the scheme. The Bush administration had sought $8 million for PAM
PAM proposed to let traders buy and sell futures contracts just like
commodities, but the contracts would be speculating on events in the
Middle East. These events could have included economic trends, wars,
even assassinations and terrorist attacks. Traders believing certain
events would occur could buy a futures contract; those thinking the
event unlikely could sell theirs. The site had planned to register
investors, who supposedly could sign up anonymously this Friday.
The bottom line: one could bet big money that a certain person would
die, and then guarantee that investment. "This appears to encourage
terrorists to participate, either to profit from their terrorist
activities or to bet against them in order to mislead U.S. intelligence
authorities," said Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)
in a letter to John Poindexter, the director of the Terrorism
Information Awareness Program. Yes, this is same John Poindexter who was
convicted on felony charges for lying to Congress, fraud and conspiracy
as part of the Reagan Administration's Iran-Contra conspiracy. His
conviction subsequently was dismissed on grounds that he should have
enjoyed immunity from prosecution.
Announcement of the program's termination should be treated with
cautious optimism. Recall that after public and multi-partisan outrage
led DARPA to cancel the truly Orwellian "Total Information Awareness"
program, it resurfaced shortly thereafter as the less alarmingly titled
Terrorism Information Awareness. According to DARPA's Web site,
"Previously known as Total Information Awareness, this name created in
some minds the impression that TIA was a system to be used for
developing dossiers on U.S. citizens."
Name changed, problem solved, right? You'd think they'd at least feel
obliged to change the acronym.
The Bush administration has continually employed the strategy of tossing
out the most outrageous ideas with the aim of making subsequent,
slightly less offensive ideas seem moderate by comparison.
After the administration's Domestic Security Enhancement Act
widely dubbed "Patriot Act II" -- was leaked to the public in February
and promptly derided as an outrageous assault on Americans' freedoms,
Attorney General John Ashcroft quickly backpedaled from the draft
legislation. But just months later, there was Ashcroft, asking Congress
to enact substantial portions of the act, which he had earlier dismissed
as nothing more than discussion notes.
With this administration, even the worst ideas have a way of getting reborn.
The writer directs ReclaimDemocracy.org , a
non-profit organization dedicated to restoring citizen authority over
C 2003 ReclaimDemocracy.org and Pacific News Service