In his resignation, Poindexter defends projects

John Poindexter's whirlwind 20 months as head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's newly created Office of Information Awareness will end on Aug. 29, the day he will officially step down.

Poindexter sent his boss, Anthony Tether, director of DARPA, a five-page letter of resignation yesterday.

In it, Poindexter said the political climate and ignorance over programs that he strongly supported were the reasons for his resignation.

Those programs include one that would use data mining technologies to identify terrorist behavior and another that would have set up an online futures market for terrorism in an effort to predict trends in terrorism.

The Terrorism Information Awareness program, a computerized terrorist tracking system, is designed to collect and correlate information in disparate databases, ranging from financial to health information, to help the government track down potential terrorists.

But critics quickly slammed the program, saying it violated the public's right to privacy.

Poindexter said DARPA was also studying ways to use technology to preserve an individual's privacy, while also searching through data for specific patterns of potential terrorist activity, but that those efforts were vastly overlooked.

Furthermore, Poindexter said, he was always very open about his vision and research objectives, even opening an Internet Web site to the public in May 2002 explaining his goals.

'We never contemplated spying and saving data on Americans,' Poindexter wrote. 'We only wanted to find specific patterns of activities that would lead us to foreign terrorists.'

Another controversial program Tether recently canceled was FutureMap, the online futures market proposed by Poindexter's office.

The market would have allowed futures traders to buy and sell contracts, betting that investment trends will provide indications of the likelihood of the events actually occurring.

Both TIA and FutureMap were highly criticized by congressional leaders and members of the public.

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