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John Poindexter

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John Poindexter

John Poindexter
14th United States National Security Advisor
In office
December 4, 1985 – November 25, 1986
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Robert McFarlane
Succeeded by Frank Carlucci
Personal details
Born John Marlan Poindexter
(1936-08-12) August 12, 1936
Odon, Indiana, U.S.
Spouse(s) Linda Poindexter
Children 5 sons, including Alan G. Poindexter
Alma mater United States Naval Academy, BS (1958)
Caltech, MS (1961), PhD (1964)[1]
Profession Military officer
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1958–1987
Rank Rear Admiral
Vice Admiral (temporary)
Commands USS England
Destroyer Squadron 31
Awards Legion of Merit (2)
Presidential Service Badge

John Marlan Poindexter (born August 12, 1936) is a retired Alan G. Poindexter.

Early life and career

Poindexter was born in Washington, Indiana, the son of Ellen (Sommers) and Marlan G. Poindexter.[2] He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958, where he was first in his class,[3] and among his fellow graduates were Bruce McCandless II who graduated second and Senator John McCain. National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane graduated the following year. From 1961 to 1964, Poindexter studied as a graduate student and earned his M.S. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1964 from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Nuclear Physics. For his PhD, he conducted laboratory research to further develop a model for understanding the Mössbauer effect with Nobel Laureate Rudolf Mössbauer.

Senior naval career

While commander of a destroyer squadron, he was surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare commander of battle groups in the Western Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, and he developed new tactics and battle management procedures under the Composite Warfare Commander concept. As the commanding officer of USS England, he pioneered the shipboard use of computers to manage the ship's force portion of yard overhauls.

He was also an executive officer and a chief engineer of destroyers.

As Deputy Commander of the Naval Education and Training Command, his duties included commanding the United States Navy's extensive education and training programs, for which he initiated a project to develop a distributed data management system for more efficient management of training pipelines.

His significant staff assignments included: Executive Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations, Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Special Assistant for Systems Analysis to the Secretary of Defense. He reached the temporary rank of Vice Admiral but was allowed to retire in 1987 at the lower rank of Rear Admiral as a result of his role in the Iran–Contra affair.[4][5]

U.S. Executive branch service

Poindexter went on to serve in the Reagan administration as Military Assistant, from 1981 to 1983, as Deputy National Security Advisor from 1983 to 1985,[3] and as National Security Advisor from 1985 to 1986. From 1983 to 1985, Poindexter was responsible for leading and managing the National Security Council staff as chairman of the Crisis Pre-planning Group. As National Security Advisor, Vice Admiral Poindexter was responsible for providing recommendations to the President on national security, foreign policy and defense policy.

Major events in which he played a significant role for the executive branch included the Strategic Defense Initiative, Operation Urgent Fury, the Achille Lauro incident, Operation El Dorado Canyon (in response to Libyan terrorist attacks), the Reykjavík Summit with the Soviets.

Iran–Contra affair

The Oliver North.

Poindexter and North communicated through a channel, known as the "Private Blank Check," that Poindexter set up on a National Security Council (NSC) computer. Through this system, Poindexter and North were able to send messages back and forth without being intercepted by other NSC staff members. This system was not successful. Even though both Poindexter and North attempted to delete the messages, the White House Communications Agency was able to recover some of them, later used in trying Poindexter and North. On November 25, 1986, after the public disclosure of the Iran-Contra affair, Poindexter was forced to resign from his position as National Security Advisor, [7]

Poindexter was convicted on April 7, 1990, of five counts of lying to Congress and obstructing the Congressional committees investigating the Iran-Contra Affair, which were investigating the Reagan Administration's covert arms sales to Iran and the diversion of proceeds to insurgents fighting the Marxist Government in Nicaragua. The convictions were reversed in 1991 on appeal[8] on the grounds that several witnesses against him had been influenced by his testimony before Congress, even though Congress had given him immunity for that testimony.[9]

Defense contractor work

From 1988 to 1989, Poindexter was senior scientist at Presearch, Inc., which had primarily been involved with defense studies and analysis. Faced with anticipated defense budget reductions, Poindexter joined the firm to develop new commercial enterprises. He designed and developed hardware and software for the prototype of a digital real-time, imaging system to be used for physical security of high value facilities. It was used to obtain a contract for a nuclear power plant security system.

From 1990 to 1996, Poindexter served as co-founder of TP Systems, Inc., a software development firm specializing in commercial software for the IBM PCs and compatibles; Poindexter was the chief designer and programmer. Development included a symbolic debugger for multi-tasking environments, a BBS communications program, and numerous utility programs.

From 1993 to 1996, Poindexter served as a consultant to Elkins Group. Elkins was a business alliance with Electronic Data Systems (EDS), which has developed the Elkins Interactive Training Network (EITN), a satellite based training delivery system. Poindexter was the chairman of the Maritime Advisory Committee and a member of Elkins' board of directors. He also provided advice on strategic planning.

From 1996 to 2002 Poindexter served as senior vice president for SYNTEK Technologies. SYNTEK is a small high technology firm with contracts in domestic and international defense and commercial business. Poindexter was responsible for high-level advice on management and direction of information systems projects (for example Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's Project Genoa).

Currently he serves on the board of Saffron Technology Inc, which he joined in 2000, and Bright Planet Corporation,[10] which he joined in 2007. With Saffron, Poindexter played a role in Iraq, building a tool to run entity analysis on insurgent networks in the struggle against IEDs.[11]

After 2007 Poindexter branched out from National Security and worked to promote Associative Memory Base technology to civilian government agencies such as the IRS for fraud detection.[12]

Recall to public service

Late in 2001, upon the recommendation of Science Applications International Corporation executive Brian Hicks, then Vice President Dick Cheney recommended Admiral Poindexter to head a separate anti-terrorist office and serve under US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Information Awareness Office

From January 2002 to August 2003, Poindexter served as the Director of the DARPA Information Awareness Office (IAO). The mission of the IAO was to imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components, and prototype closed-loop information systems. This aimed to counter asymmetric threats (most notably, terrorist threats) by achieving total information awareness and thus aiding preemption; national security warning; and, national security decision making.[13]

Policy Analysis Market

Poindexter faced criticism from the media and some politicians about the Policy Analysis Market project, a theoretical prediction market that would have rewarded participants for accurately predicting geopolitical trends in the Middle East and elsewhere. This was portrayed in the media as allowing participants to profit from the assassination of heads of state and acts of terrorism due to such events being mentioned on illustrative sample screens showing the interface.[13] The controversy over the proposed futures market led to a Congressional audit of the IAO in general. Funding for the IAO was subsequently cut and Poindexter retired from DARPA on August 12, 2003.


His wife, Linda Poindexter, was an Episcopal priest for 13 years, but retired from the clergy when she converted to Roman Catholicism. They have five children, including the late Alan G. Poindexter, a NASA astronaut, Space Shuttle pilot on the STS-122 mission to the International Space Station, and the commander of STS-131.


  1. ^ Reiss, Spencer (May 2004). "Poindexter Confidential". Wired (12.05). Retrieved February 28, 2009. 
  2. ^ April 17, 2005 (2005-04-17). "Poindexter, Ellen Sommers - Baltimore Sun". Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  3. ^ a b "Appointment of John M. Poindexter as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs". Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. December 4, 1985. Retrieved February 28, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Poindexter Opts for Demotion, to Stay in Navy". Los Angeles Times. March 3, 1987. 
  5. ^ Chang, Kenneth. "New York Times". Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  6. ^ Out of Many. Prentice Hall. pp. 956, 957.  
  7. ^ "Chapter 3: United States v. John M. Poindexter". Federation of American Scientists. 
  8. ^ By LINDA GREENHOUSEPublished: December 08, 1992 (1992-12-08). "Supreme Court Roundup; Iran-Contra Appeal Refused by Court - New York Times". Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  9. ^ Johnson, David (1991-11-16). "Poindexter Wins Iran-Contra Case in Appeals Court". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-26. 
  10. ^ "Board of Directors". Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  11. ^ Harris, Shane (2011). The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State. London: Penguin Group. p. 281.  
  12. ^ Harris, Shane (2010). The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State. London: Penguin Group. p. 321.  
  13. ^ a b Lundin, Leigh (7 July 2013). "Pam, Prism, and Poindexter". Spying. Washington: SleuthSayers. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 

External links

Biographical links

  • "Lightning Rod" in Government Executive
  • – 'Dr. John Poindexter Bio'
  • – 'Episcopal Priest Becomes Catholic Laywoman' (intereview with Linda Poindexter), Stephen Ryan, National Catholic Register (August 1, 2001)
  • – 'John Poindexter, 1964 Ph.D. thesis, California Institute of Technology.'

Iran–Contra links

  • – 'Iran-Contra: White House e-mail'
  • – 'The Iran-Contra Scandal', David Wallechinsky
  • – Report of Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, US Congressional Record (June 30, 1992)
  • – 'John Poindexter, "Outstanding American": Ari Fleischer salutes a mendacious former national security adviser', Timothy Noah (February 25, 2002)

Total Information Awareness links

  • – 'Senator Assails "Total Info Awareness"', Roggie McFadden (January 17, 2003)
  • – Poindexter's resignation letter to DARPA Director Anthony Tether (August 12, 2003)
  • – 'No more Mr. Scrupulous Guy: How one of the two brains behind the Iran-Contra scandal this week became one of America's most powerful men', John Sutherland, The Guardian (February 18, 2002)
  • – 'Meet Big Brother'
  • – 'Too Much Information' (opinion) New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg (December 9, 2002)
  • – 'Transcript of Pentagon briefing on Poindexter's "TIA" program' (November 24, 2002)
  • – 'Poindexter to Leave Pentagon Research Job: Project to Create Futures Market on Events in Middle East Caused Controversy', Bradley Graham, Washington Post (August 1, 2003)
Legal offices
Preceded by
Robert McFarlane
Deputy National Security Advisor
Succeeded by
Donald Fortier
Preceded by
Robert McFarlane
United States National Security Advisor
Succeeded by
Frank Carlucci
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