America’s Spy Software Scandal,
Courtesy of the U.S. DOJ
By Michelle Malkin
July 16, 2003
Montgomery County, PA Vol. XXIV, NO. 9
Summary: Inslaw deserves to be compensated. More importantly,
the American people deserve to know the truth: Did government greed and bureaucratic
hubris lead to a wholesale sellout of our national security? Did Saddam Hussein
and Osama bin Laden have access to a U.S. computer tracking program that enabled
them to monitor our intelligence-gathering efforts and financial transactions?
If so, who is responsible for allowing the program to fall into their hands?
And who else among America’s enemies might have access to the tracking
It’s an explosive spy software scandal that no one in
official Washington wants to investigate.
This complex, tangled story began two decades ago, when a tiny
private company called Inslaw Inc. developed a software package to help U.S.
attorneys’ offices in large urban districts keep tabs on their criminal
prosecutors’ caseloads. The program, dubbed the Prosecutor’s Management
Information System (PROMIS), was effective and popular. It allowed a prosecutor
to locate defendants and witnesses, track motions and monitor ongoing investigations.
In 1982, Inslaw won a large Justice Department contract to implement the system
In the meantime, Inslaw also developed privately owned enhancements
to PROMIS. Despite contractural guarantees of Inslaw’s proprietary rights
to the enhanced version of PROMIS, the Justice Department essentially commandeered
the improved program for its own uses without paying for it. Inslaw was forced
into bankruptcy and began an endless fight with the Justice Department to
recoup its losses.
In the course of their court battles, Inslaw founder Bill Hamilton
and his wife innocently stumbled upon shocking national security revelations.
Former Attorney General Ed Meese, the Hamiltons concluded, had conspired to
force Inslaw into bankruptcy so that an old Meese crony, California businessman
Earl Brian, could take over the company’s assets. The Hamilton’s
obtained information through sworn affidavits of several individuals that
suggested Meese, Brian, high-ranking Justice Department official Peter Videnieke
and others wanted to modify and distribute the enhanced PROMIS software with
‘back-door’ capabilities for covert intelligence operations.
In 1987, a federal judge blasted the Justice Department for
stealing PROMIS. The government, Judge George Bason said, stole Inslaw’s
software through “trickery, fraud, and deceit” with contempt for
both the law and any principle of fair dealing.” The House Judiciary
Committee also found in 1992 that there was “strong evidence”
the Justice Department had conspired to steal the PROMIS program. An internal
Justice Department memo made public by the committee revealed that the Justice
Department had secretly turned over a copy of PROMIS to the Israeli government.
An extensive four-part series by Insight magazine reporter Kelly
Patricia O’Meara retraced a lengthy investigation by the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police two years ago, which “uncovered a network involving friend
and foe alike that may be using PROMIS and systems like it for a variety of
illegal activities worldwide.”
In June 2001, Jerry Seper of the Washington Times reported that
former FBI agent and convicted spy Robert Hanssen sold an enhanced version
of PROMIS for $2 million to Russian crime figures, who in turn are suspected
of selling a black-market version of it to Osama bin Laden.
More recently, the International Currency Review, a London-based
financial newsletter , reportedly obtained Iraqi intelligence documents alleging
that PROMIS came into Saddam Hussein’s possission under the Bush I administrations.
The publication’s editor says the documents were owned by Hussein’s
half-brother, Barzan al Takritil
And last week, British news outlets suggested that the resignation
of top Bush terrorism intelligence official Paul Redmond was tied to his investigation
of Hanssen and the PROMIS theft. The Department of Homeland Security claims
that Redmond, a legendary spy catcher who came out off retirement to take
the Bush administration position and had served only three months, left for
The odor of a cover-up is unmistakable. To this day, the Justice
Department, FBI and other government agencies continue to insist that they
have never possessed or used any pirated version of PROMIS. Career Justice
officials who oversaw the theft of the Hamilton’s software program in
the 1980’s remain in place today. And according to my sources, the 9-11
Commission created by President Bush had declined to investigate this spy
software fiasco and its possible role in facilitating the terrorist attacks
Inslaw deserves to be compensated. More importantly, the American
people deserve to know the truth: Did government greed and bureaucratic hubris
lead to a wholesale sellout of our national security? The Bush White House’s
credibility is on the line.
Malkin is a graduate of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. She
lives with her husband in North Bethesda, Md.
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