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Poindexter Resigns but Defends Programs

John M. Poindexter took issue yesterday with critics of his Pentagon efforts to develop new data scanning systems and an online futures market for flushing out terrorists and predicting Middle East developments, saying the programs had fallen victim to ignorance, distortion and Washington’s “highly-charged political environment.” In a letter of resignation ending a controversial 20-month Pentagon tenure, Poindexter pressed his case for employing new technologies to discern terrorists’ plans in such everyday transactions as credit card purchases, travel reservations and e-mail. He said innovative approaches are needed to overcome the historic barriers among U.S. intelligence agencies and gain access to stores of information not available to the government. Insisting he had been mindful of the privacy concerns that critics in Congress and elsewhere raised about his work, the retired rear admiral cited the parallel efforts he made to study ways of protecting the rights of U.S. and foreign citizens. But Poindexter complained that attempts to explain his programs often proved fruitless. “Although we have tried to be very open about our work, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding,” he wrote. The five-page letter, submitted yesterday and made available to The Washington Post, provided Poindexter’s first opportunity to address critics after being ordered by Pentagon officials last autumn to avoid public comment because, he was told, he had become too much of a “lightning rod.” Full Story

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