Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Intelligence and the free market

Today NY Times writes about the new CIA report that places a lot of blame in the upper echelons of the organisation, at George Tenet among others, for not predicting that terrorism would be the next great thing to watch.

In other words, the problem could be found in the stage of the intelligence cycle that can be described as the 'tasking'. But this is an inherent problem in intelligence. Who will be the next big threat? It is in the nature of things that we can't see a thing as long as it is still under the 'threat-horizon'.

That did remind me of Admiral John Poindexter's botched suggestion for a 'terror stock market'. He proposed that intelligence services could rein and use the free market's predictive powers in order to anticipate new threats. This should be done on a virtual threat-market where people could bet on likely future security-related events.

The idea created an outrage and Poindexter resigned.

But was it so bad? Couldn't CIA have hoped for a more precise picture of threats to be had they had that market to watch. Michael Schrage has written an interesting piece in the NY Times to defend the idea.

From a rhetorical angle it is also quite interesting. The dichotomy between inside/outside is at play here. The American public won't have a trader in Dubai betting on assassinations of American politicians - whereas the abolition of the presidential ban on foreign assassinations wasn't really noticed in the mainstream (the spectacular attack - a hellfire-equipped Predator Drone that destroyed a car-full of people in Yemen was, however). This in turn is a rhetorical refutation of the realist claim that domestic politics can't permeate the hard shell of the state and influence international politics.


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