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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Is Simterror repeating the DOD’s “terrorism futures market” lunacy?

Those wacky Aussies are conducting a two week blog-organized simulated terrorist attack. Simulated “cell leaders” submit attack claims while simulated country leaders and citizen participants say what they would do in response. Referees continually estimate and report the outcomes of the conflict and the simulation continues in that real-time fashion for two weeks.

So far it all looks innocuous, but I hope that the simulated terrorists do not get overzealous and start making public their most insightful thinking about how terrorists could most effectively attack. The one Bush administration official who did this will remain nameless on this blog, but he ought never to hold a position of public responsibility again.

In July of 2003 the Pentagon briefly considered setting up a futures market where speculators could make gains betting on what they thought would be the most likely terrorist attack method (the payoff coming if the attack method was actually used). The theory was that market prices, reflecting the collected intelligence of the participants, would yield accurate information about the most effective attack strategies, telling the DOD where to focus its defensive efforts. I presume they realized that it would also tell the terrorists where to focus their attack efforts--on the least defendable targets--and that this would be a bad bargain. Depending on how it is handled, this Simterror exercise could be a similar mistake.

Looking over the first couple of days of posts (Simterror started on Monday) the only attacks listed so far are generic “bombings.” Good. Keep it that way. Any mention of innovative and effective attack strategies should be strictly barred!

P.S. The terrorism futures-market scheme also had the drawback that terrorists could use it to get paid for carrying out attacks, but that should have been a relatively minor concern, since the terrorists would have had to collect the money, and anyone who made a lot of money would be an obvious suspect.

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