BETTING ON TERRORISM

The Pentagon’s plan to allow betting on terrorist acts through a quasi-stock-market will likely die an early death. Before it’s gone, take a look at the Policy Analysis Market web site set up for the program. Despite your instincts and the appearance of the site, this is not a joke. (According to the New York Times, some specific descriptions of potential betting events – hijackings, assassinations, and the like – were removed from the site yesterday morning.)

Admiral Poindexter, the director of the Terrorism Information Awareness Office and proponent of the Policy Analysis Market, has, umm, interesting ideas. Last year the same office proposed a sweeping electronic surveillance plan as a way of forestalling terrorism by tapping into computer databases to collect medical, travel, credit and financial records about all Americans.

The Bush administration will likely backpedal furiously away from this whole concept, but the administration’s proposed budget included eight million dollars for PAM.

POSTSCRIPT July 29, 9:30pm: It’s all over. The Pentagon abandoned the project today. Everyone will be running for cover. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations committee today that he’d never heard of the program before, and it’s shocking – shocking! Everyone else will say that and keep saying it until you believe that the whole thing magically appeared in the Defense Department files against their will.

POST-POSTSCRIPT July 30, 9:30am: Shouldn’t have procrastinated – the web site has already been taken down.