The program was to be like a commodities futures market, except you could invest in death and destruction instead of pork bellies. The hope was that those with inside information on terrorism would bet on a time and place where an attack was likely to occur, and that would help National Security officials predict trouble. I don't know if the Defense Department was also going to give the gamblers complimentary hotel suites and tickets to "Ziegfried and Roy."
Putting aside the bad taste of online terrorism betting (if that's possible), under this program an anonymous terrorist could make a wager about when and where something bad was going to happen, then perpetrate the act and get financially rewarded for it. Why not just give him the Congressional Medal of Honor while you're at it?
This "Windfall for Terrorists" program was the brainchild of the Defense Department's John M. Poindexter. You probably remember him from the Iran-Contra scandal. He was also a proponent of Star Wars-like command bunkers in space to protect us from foreign attacks. But we can't just blame the "Betting On The Bad Guys" plan on Poindexter. Its Web site was already online, they had already spent $600,000 of our money and the Pentagon had requested another $8 million over the next two years. In other words, even though everybody acted like it was somebody else's dog that messed up the carpet, an awful lot of people -- Democrats and Republicans -- must have known about it.
The one negative consequence of the plan being scrubbed is that it could have paved the way for other kinds of political betting. Maybe we could have gotten some action on propositions like:
In Poindexter's defense, the purpose of his agency was to look for unorthodox methods of providing national security. Poindexter and his people were supposed to think "outside the box," let their imaginations run wild and say whatever came into their minds without censoring themselves. The idea of these places is that you're not supposed to be afraid to say something that may be goofy or stupid because you just might come up with something great. But what Poindexter and his people forgot was that if you do say something stupid, you're supposed to move on to the next thing. You're not supposed to implement the goofy idea and start booking bets on terrorism, giving 5 to 1 odds on bombings or 15 to 1 on poisoned water sources.
But we shouldn't abandon thinking "outside the box" just because Poindexter and his friends got carried away. It can lead to very imaginative solutions. I'm going to try it right now to see what kind of creative anti-terrorists strategies I can come up with. I'm just going to go right off the top of my head, so some of them might not be all that practical -- but who knows?
Oops! I guess we're already doing that goofy one.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver