Betting on Terror

The news sites are all report­ing a Pen­ta­gon plan to bet on future ter­ror­ist activ­i­ty (BBC). It’s report­ed as a stock market-style sys­tem in which sucess­ful pre­dic­tions by investors would win them mon­ey.
Some­one at the Pen­ta­gon has read a lit­tle too many books about the infi­nite wis­dom of the free mar­ket. There are those who have a reli­gious faith in the pow­er of unfet­tered cap­i­tal­ism, who posit it as a kind of all-knowing, self-correcting God. With the input of enough self-interested actors, the truth can be dis­cerned. I’d argue that stock mar­kets are more like blogs (the highly-linked New York Times ver­sion of the arti­cle), with every­one rush­ing to make the same links (Asso­ci­at­ed Press).
The truth of the mat­ter is that recent intel­li­gence laps­es have been the result of polit­i­cal med­dling in the col­lec­tion and ana­lyt­i­cal process­es. When the boss wants a cer­tain result (proof of weapons in Iraq, proof of Al Qae­da links), then the group-think pres­sure to con­form will warp the sift­ing process. A stock market-style sys­tem for pre­dict­ing ter­ror would be about as accu­rate as a poll of CNN and Fox News watch­ers – it will tell you what every­one thinks but it prob­a­bly won’t tell you the truth.

“Have you ever felt like the fall guy?”

In strange and sad news, the man who was prob­a­bly the unnamed “senior offi­cial” who first told the BBC that Britain “sexed up” its Iraq weapons dossier has turned up dead in the woods near his home. Dr. David Kel­ly gave evi­dence to the UK for­eign affairs com­mit­tee just days ago, where he asked the com­mit­tee “Have you ever felt like the fall guy?” One mem­ber of the com­mit­tee told the Guardian that “We thought he’d been put up quite delib­er­ate­ly to dis­tract us from the case of the government’s case for war.

David Kel­ly has been described as a “soft spo­ken” man not used to the pub­lic glare he’s been under. Reports haven’t even giv­en the cause of death, so con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries will have to be put on hold. It’s quite pos­si­ble that this faith­ful civ­il ser­vant and sci­en­tist final­ly cracked under the pres­sure of the media onslaught and took his life. It is a tragedy for his fam­i­ly.