“CRASS” is the only adjective that will do. “Showing a grossly insensitve intelligence” (OED). The adjective is needed to describe the latest idea of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), a Pentagon operation run by Admiral John M Poindexter who was once National Security Advisor to President Reagan. Darpa was recently in trouble for proposing Total Information Awareness, an electronic surveillance plan that would tap into the public's computer databases to collect medical, travel, credit and financial records. But the latest idea beats that; called the Policy Analysis Market it envisages an online futures trading market in which speculators could bet on the likelihood of terrorist attacks, coups and assassinations. I will repeat that: an online futures trading market in which speculators could bet on the likelihood of terrorist attacks, coups and assassinations. For instance, if you think that Prime Minister X is likely to be assassinated you could buy the futures contracts for 5 cents each; as more people think its likely, the cost of the contract could go up to 50 cents. The payoff if he's assassinated is $1 per future, so those who bought at 5 cents make 95 cents. The idea behind the Pentagon's brainstorm is that prediction and prevention of events would be helped by the expertise of the open market instead of relying only on government agencies. But Senator Dorgan of North Dakota, who found out about the scheme, said “How would you feel if you were the King of Jordan and learned that the US Defense Department was taking bets on your being overthrown within a year?” A very good question.

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