Goofball idea put to rest

| 7/30/2003

The Pentagon will deep six a plan to establish a futures market to help predict terrorist strikes, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said July 29.

Sen. John Warner, R-VA, said he spoke by phone with the head of the agency overseeing the program, Tony Tether, ''and we mutually agreed that this thing should be stopped,'' The Associated Press reported. Tether is the head of the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA.

The plan envisioned a futures trading market in which speculators would wager on the Internet on the likelihood of a future terrorist attack or assassination attempts on a particular leader. 

When the plan was disclosed by two Democratic senators July 28, the Pentagon defended it as a way to gain intelligence about potential terrorists' plans.

Warner announced the decision not long after Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle denounced the program as ''an incentive actually to commit acts of terrorism.''

Traders would have bought and sold futures contracts just like energy traders do now in betting on the future price of oil. But the contracts in this case would have been based on what might happen in the Middle East in terms of economics, civil and military affairs or specific events, such as terrorist attacks.

Holders of a futures contract that came true would have collected the proceeds of traders who put money into the market but predicted wrong.