John Marlan Poindexter is a retired American naval officer and Department of Defense official. He was Deputy National Security Advisor and National Security Advisor for the Reagan administration. He was convicted in April 1990 of multiple felonies as a result of his actions in the Iran-Contra scandal. His convictions were eventually reversed on appeal in 1991. More recently, he served a brief stint as the Director of the DARPA Information Awareness Office for the administration of George W. Bush.
He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958, where he was first in his class, and among his fellow graduates was 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 PHD at Caltech, where he conducted laboratory research to further develop a model for understanding the Mossbauer Effect with Nobel Laureate Rudolph Mossbauer.
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 US 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 rank of Vice Admiral, but was retired as a Rear Admiral in 1987.
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, 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 Reykjavik Summit with the Soviets.
Poindexter was convicted on multiple felony counts on April 7, 1990 for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury, defrauding the government, and the alteration and destruction of evidence pertaining to the Iran-Contra Affair. The convictions were reversed in 1991 on the technical grounds that the prosecution's evidence may have been tainted by exposure to Poindexter's testimony before the joint House-Senate committee investigating the matter, in which Poindexter's testimony was compelled by a grant of 'use immunity'. The prosecution was not able to re-try the case.
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).
From December 2002, to August 2003, Poindexter served as the Director of the DARPA Information Awareness Office (IAO). The controversial mission of the IAO was to imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components, and prototype closed-loop information systems that will counter asymmetric threats (most notably, terrorist threats) by achieving total information awareness: enabling preemption; national security warning; and, national security decision making.
Poindexter also faced immense criticism from the media and politicians about the Policy Analysis Market project, a prediction market that would have rewarded participants for accurately predicting geopolitical trends in the Middle East. This was portrayed in the media as profiting from the assassination of heads of state and acts of terrorism due to such events being mentioned on illustrative sample screens showing the interface. The controversy over the futures market led to a Congressional audit of the IAO in general, which revealed a fundamental lack of privacy protection for American citizens. Funding for the IAO was subsequently cut and Poindexter retired from DARPA on August 12, 2003.