Shadowy Group Employed to Predict Future
By Keith Johnson
A shadowy group with ties to U.S. defense and intelligence agencies is seeking thousands of Americans to participate in a multiyear study at taxpayers’ expense that will be tasked with trying to predict the future.
Sponsored by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), a division of the office of the director of national intelligence, the Forecasting World Events Project plans to assemble five competing panels whose members will make predictions about future events and global trends. According to the project’s website, their objective is to investigate the accuracy of individual and group predictions that could lead to fundamental advances in the science of forecasting.
This is the latest in a series of off-the-wall experiments IARPA has launched since its creation in 2007. The cost to taxpayers remains unknown at this time, as the program is classified. But it is not hard to speculate that it will cost the United States tens of millions of dollars, at least, before it is shut down. IARPA is the intelligence community’s version of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a Pentagon undertaking responsible for introducing an Orwellian domestic spying program known as Total Information Awareness (TIA). This program was a massive data mining operation that utilizes ultra large scale computers to track the movements of millions of American citizens in an attempt to identify patterns consistent with alleged terrorist activity.
In 2003, DARPA proposed its own forecasting project called the Policy Analysis Market for Terrorism. The plan was to establish an online trading venue whereby investors could speculate on future political and economic turmoil in the Middle East—such as coups, assassinations and terrorist attacks.
The organization that has been awarded taxpayer dollars to conduct IARPA’s forecasting project is MITRE, a Maryland based “not-for-profit” mercenary firm whose board chairman is former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger.
Schlesinger is a notorious fear-monger and advocate for the “war on terror” whose hawkish ideology can be summed up in his 1997 address to the Council on Foreign Relations regarding the CIA’s future:
“Today the intelligence community is under assault partly because of a natural complacency after the end of the Cold War in which the American people believe that we in this country are unthreatened,” opined Schlesinger.
During his tenure as defense secretary under Gerald Ford, Schlesinger insisted on higher war budgets and no compromise negotiations with the Soviets. His harsh criticism of certain dovish congressional members ultimately led to his dismissal.
Schlesinger’s not-for-profit outfit came under public scrutiny in September 2004 when former DARPA employee Indira Singh testified before the 911 Commission and identified MITRE as one of two technology contractors that had unique access to systems capable of disabling NORAD and disrupting American air defenses during Sept. 11, 2001.
“Ptech [software company—Ed.] was with MITRE Corporation in the basement of the FAA for two years prior to 911,” Singh said. “Their specific job is to look at interoperability issues the FAA had with NORAD and the Air Force in the case of an emergency. If anyone was in a position to know the FAA—that there was a window of opportunity to insert software or to change anything—it would have been Ptech along with MITRE.”
MITRE is also the last place of employment for John P. Wheeler III, a former CFR member and aide to Ronald Reagan. Wheeler’s dead body was found in a Delaware landfill earlier this year. Less than a week before his death, Wheeler emailed a close friend expressing concern that the United States wasn’t sufficiently prepared for cyber-warfare, suggesting he was involved in one of MITRE’s many cyber-intelligence projects.
To gain insight into what MITRE may be trying to accomplish with its forecasting project, AFP consulted Phillip Giraldi, a former CIA station chief who now serves as executive director of the Council for the National Interest. He is also a respected columnist and television commentator whose works regularly appear on news websites, among other places.
“The U.S. government is fixated with matrixing and mathematical analysis,” said Giraldi. “What they’re trying to do is get a broad database with as many inputs as they can. . . . The theory here is that the unlettered and the unschooled and the unsophisticated—if you take a great mass of them, and pool their perceptions, you will find that their perceptions can be of value.”
But overall, Giraldi doesn’t see much promise in the project. Giraldi said that most in the intelligence community roll their eyes in regard to such programs.
“When I served in the agency, we referred to it as the flavor of the week,” he said. “Every so often, someone would come up with an idea, and if they were high enough in the food chain, that idea would become manifest. Whenever that happened, you just dealt with it until somebody realized the idea was stupid.”
Keith Johnson is an independent journalist and the editor of “Revolt of the Plebs,” an alternative news website that can be found at RevoltofthePlebs.com.
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(Issue # 17, April 25, 2011)