!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of 'February 6, 1991: Former Israeli Intelligence Agent Requests Visa Help, Immunity for PROMIS Testimony'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event February 6, 1991: Former Israeli Intelligence Agent Requests Visa Help, Immunity for PROMIS Testimony. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

The PROMIS database application is used for a program called “Follow the Money” to track loans made by Western banks to the Soviet Union and its allies. The top-secret program is run for the National Security Council (NSC) by Norman Bailey, who uses NSA signals intelligence to track the loans. Bailey will later say that the PROMIS application is “the principal software element” used by the NSA and the Treasury Department in their electronic surveillance programs that track financial flows to the Soviet bloc, organized crime, and terrorist groups. According to Bailey, this program marks a significant shift in resources from human spying to electronic surveillance, as a way to track money flows to suspected criminals and American enemies. [Salon, 7/23/2008]

Entity Tags: National Security Agency, US Department of the Treasury, National Security Council, Norman Bailey

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A Justice Department official writes a memo saying he will soon provide the PROMIS application to an Israeli government representative. The official is Jack Rugh, the acting assistant director of the Office of Management Information Systems Support at the Executive Office of US Attorneys. The memo states that “Reference my memorandum to file dated April 22, 1983, on the same subject. [C. Madison] Brick Brewer [PROMIS project manager at the Justice Department] recently instructed me to make a copy of an LEAA version of PROMIS [a version wholly owned by the Justice Department] available to Dr. Ben Orr, a representative of the government of Israel. Dr. Orr called me to discuss that request after my earlier memorandum was written. I have made a copy of the LEM DEC version of PROMIS and will provide it along with the corresponding documentation, to Dr. Orr before he leaves the United States for Israel on May 16.”
High Officials Possibly Involved - The House Judiciary Committee will comment: “Given the international dimensions to the decisions, it is difficult to accept the notion that a group of low-level Department personnel decided independently to get in touch with the government of Israel to arrange for transfer of the PROMIS software. At the very least, it is unlikely that such a transaction occurred without the approval of high-level Department officials, including those on the PROMIS Oversight Committee.”
Actual Version of PROMIS Unclear - The committee will also later speculate that a version whose ownership is under dispute was also given to the Israelis, saying: “[I]t is uncertain what version actually was transferred. Department managers believed that all versions of the Enhanced PROMIS software were the Department’s property. The lack of detailed documentation on the transfer, therefore, only creates new questions surrounding allegations that Enhanced PROMIS may have been sold or transferred to Israel and other foreign governments.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Rugh will pass the application to Brewer for handing over to Orr six days later (see May 12, 1983).

Entity Tags: Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, US Department of Justice, Office of Management Information Systems Support, Benjamin Orr, Jack Rugh

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Jack Rugh, the acting assistant director of the Office of Management Information Systems Support at the Justice Department’s Executive Office for US Attorneys, writes a memo turning over the PROMIS application to a colleague, C. Madison Brewer. The application is for passage to the government of Israel, a transfer already discussed by Brewer and Rugh (see May 6, 1983). Rugh writes: “Enclosed are the PROMIS materials that you asked me to produce for Dr. Ben Orr of the government of Israel. These materials consist of the LEM DEC PDP 11/70 version of PROMIS on magnetic tape along with the printed specifications for that tape, as well as two printed volumes of PROMIS documentation for the LEAA version of the system.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Office of Management Information Systems Support, Jack Rugh, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Benjamin Orr, Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ)

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Judge George Bason of the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia issues an oral finding that the Justice Department “took, converted, and stole” the enhanced version of Inslaw’s PROMIS software by “trickery, fraud, and deceit.” The ruling is issued at the end of a trial that lasts over two weeks and involves sworn statements from over 40 witnesses and thousands of pages of documentary evidence. Bason finds that a key departmental official, project manager C. Madison Brewer, was biased against Inslaw (see April 1982, April 14, 1982, and April 19, 1982). In addition, Brewer’s boss Lowell Jensen (see December 29, 1983 and February 1984) is said to have “a previously developed negative attitude about PROMIS and Inslaw,” because he had been associated with the development of a rival case management system while he was a district attorney in California, and this affected his judgment throughout his oversight of the contract. Further, the department violated bankruptcy protection legislation that applied to Inslaw by using and exercising control over Inslaw’s property—the enhanced PROMIS software—without negotiating a license fee. This oral finding is confirmed in a written opinion issued on January 25, 1988. In the written finding, Bason adds, “[T]his court finds and concludes that the department never intended to meet its commitment and that once the department had received enhanced PROMIS pursuant to Modification 12 (see April 11, 1983), the department thereafter refused to bargain in good faith with Inslaw and instead engaged in an outrageous, deceitful, fraudulent game of ‘cat and mouse,’ demonstrating contempt for both the law and any principle of fair dealing.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Lowell Jensen, George Bason, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

An official written report is drafted for the panel considering the appointment of a judge to the Bankruptcy Court to the District of Columbia. The two-page report briefly assesses the final four candidates, including the incumbent George Bason, who is, however, at loggerheads with the Justice Department over his handling of the Inslaw case (see June 19, 1987 and September 28, 1987). However, another—longer but unofficial—report will be drafted two weeks later and will be critical of Bason (see December 8, 1987). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, George Bason

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

An apparently unofficial, confidential memo marked “read and destroy” is drafted about the four final candidates for the position of judge at the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia. The memo is clearly critical of the incumbent, George Bason, who is up for reappointment. Bason recently displeased the Justice Department by ruling against it in the Inslaw affair over the alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987). The memo states that “its purpose is to ‘help’ elucidate in particular our reasoning in ranking the candidates as we did,” and describes each of the four. The House Judiciary Committee will comment: “What is striking about the memorandum is that the description of each candidate except Judge Bason begins with positive commentary about the individual. The section describing Judge Bason begins, ‘I could not conclude that Judge Bason was incompetent.’ Other phrases used to describe Judge Bason include ‘he is inclined to make mountains out of molehills,’ ‘Judge Bason seems to have developed a pronounced and unrelenting reputation for favoring debtors,’ and finally, ‘Judge Bason evidenced no inclination to come to grips personally with the management challenge posed by the terrible shortcomings of the Office of the Clerk of our Bankruptcy Court.’” The memo is addressed to Judge Norma Johnson, who Bason will allege may have been an instrument of a campaign waged against him by the Justice Department (see May 1988). The panel appointing the bankruptcy court judge will meet a week later and decide not to give the position to Bason, but to a Justice Department lawyer who represented the government in the Inslaw case (see December 15, 1987). After Bason asks appeals court judges to reconsider his non-reappointment (see January 12, 1988), the memo will be circulated to them. The memo is unsigned, but an appeals court judge who later provides the memo to the House Judiciary Committee investigating the Inslaw affair will say another judge on the appointment panel drafted it. However, this judge will deny having done so. When, some years later, several members of the panel are asked by the committee whether they saw this memo, they will say they do not recognize it. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Norma Johnson, George Bason, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

George Bason, a bankruptcy judge who recently found in favor of Inslaw in a dispute over the Justice Department’s alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987), is not reappointed to the bench. Bason had been appointed in February 1984 instead of another judge who had resigned mid-term, but a decision is now taken to replace him with a Justice Department attorney named Martin Teel, who had appeared before him in the Inslaw case. Although the official report for the appointments panel about the candidates did not criticize Bason (see November 24, 1987), a subsequent unofficial report addressed to Norma Johnson, the head of the panel, did (see December 8, 1987). The unofficial report claimed that there were shortcomings in Bason’s administration of the clerk’s office, although the office appears to be running smoothly by this time (see Second Half of 1987). Several judges on the selection council will later say they did not know much about the candidates, and therefore relied on Johnson and her interpretation of reports prepared about them. The House Judiciary Committee will find that Johnson’s oral presentation “played a large role in the selection,” that Johnson ran the panel “firmly,” and that the other members “relied on her judgment.” Overall, it will call the selection process “largely informal, undocumented, and highly subjective.” Bason learns he will not be reappointed from Chief Judge Patricia Wald, of the US Court of Appeals, on December 28. Bason will later say that Teel was not qualified for the position (see January 12, 1988) and that the department had influenced the selection process in order to have him removed from the bench (see December 5, 1990). In this context, Bason will point out to the House committee that Johnson had previously worked with a departmental official named Stuart Schiffer, so he could have influenced her against Bason (see May 1988). Bason will also note that Johnson worked with Judge Tim Murphy for 10 years from 1970, and that Murphy had later worked as the assistant director on the implementation of PROMIS at the Justice Department. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Tim Murphy, Stuart Schiffer, Norma Johnson, Martin Teel, Jr., George Bason, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

George Bason, a bankruptcy judge who ruled in favor of Inslaw in a dispute with the Justice Department over the alleged theft of PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987) and was subsequently not reappointed to the bench (see December 15, 1987), requests a hearing on his non-reappointment before the Judicial Council of the District of Columbia. Bason criticizes the other candidate, Justice Department official Martin Teel, who was given the position, saying he has “a considerably shorter total period of legal experience,” as he has mostly worked on taxation matters, not bankruptcy, and for the last few years has worked as a reviewer and then manager, without doing his own independent work. Teel will dispute this characterization in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, saying he was qualified and, when appointed, had “six years of fairly extensive bankruptcy experience.” The request for a hearing will not change the decision to not reappoint Bason. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, George Bason, Judicial Council of the District of Columbia, Martin Teel, Jr.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A Canadian government official says that Canada is using the PROMIS software, according to Inslaw owners William and Nancy Hamilton. The Hamiltons pass the information on to the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating allegations that the US Justice Department has misappropriated an enhanced version of the software from Inslaw and passed it on to other governments. The official, Marc Valois of the Canadian Department of Communications, apparently says that PROMIS is being used to support 900 locations around the Canadian government. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Another Canadian official will soon make a similar statement (see January 1991), but both he and Valois will later say they were not referring to Inslaw’s PROMIS, but to a product of the same name from a different company (see March 22, 1991).

Entity Tags: William Hamilton, Nancy Hamilton, House Judiciary Committee, Department of Communications (Canada), Marc Valois

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The CIA says that it does not have the PROMIS database and search application (see Mid-1970s). The statement is made in response to a letter sent to CIA Director William Webster by the House Judiciary Committee on November 20 asking him to help them “by determining whether the CIA has the PROMIS software.” In response the CIA states, “We have checked with Agency components that track data processing procurement or that would be likely users of PROMIS, and we have been unable to find any indication that the [CIA] ever obtained PROMIS software.” However, information contradicting this will subsequently emerge. For example, a retired CIA official whose job it is to investigate the Inslaw allegations internally will tell Wired magazine that the Justice Department gave PROMIS to the CIA: “Well, the Congressional committees were after us to look into allegations that somehow the agency had been culpable of what would have been, in essence, taking advantage of, like stealing, the technology [PROMIS]. We looked into it and there was enough to it, the agency had been involved.” However, the official will say that when the CIA accepted PROMIS, it did not know that there was a serious dispute about the Justice Department’s ownership of the software. [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: William H. Webster, House Judiciary Committee, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A second Canadian government official says that Canada is using the PROMIS software, according to Inslaw owners William and Nancy Hamilton. The Hamiltons pass the information on to the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating allegations that the US Justice Department has misappropriated an enhanced version of the software from Inslaw and passed it on to other governments. The official, Denis LaChance of the Canadian Department of Communications, apparently says that PROMIS is being used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to support its field offices. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Another Canadian official had previously made a similar statement (see November 1990), but both he and LaChance will later say they were not referring to Inslaw’s PROMIS, but to a product of the same name from a different company (see March 22, 1991).

Entity Tags: Nancy Hamilton, Denis LaChance, House Judiciary Committee, William Hamilton, Department of Communications (Canada)

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Ari Ben-Menashe, a former employee of an Israeli intelligence agency, says he is willing to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in its investigation into the alleged theft of PROMIS software. In return, however, he asks the committee to arrange an extension for his US visa, which is about to expire, and to provide him with immunity from any prosecution. The immunity is to relate to information and documents he allegedly possesses regarding the illegal distribution and sale of an enhanced version of the software by businessman Earl Brian to the Israeli government. However, the committee refuses the request, and Ben-Menashe will later provide a sworn statement with no conditions (see May 29, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: House Judiciary Committee, Ari Ben-Menashe

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli intelligence employee, provides a sworn statement to the House Judiciary Committee on the PROMIS affair. He had previously said he would only tell what he knows under conditions (see February 6, 1991), but now waives this demand. Ben-Menashe says under oath that, in 1982, businessman Earl Brian and Robert McFarland, a former director of the National Security Council, provided the public domain version of PROMIS software to the Israeli government’s special intelligence operation Defense Forces. (This version was owned by the Justice Department; correspondence indicates the department provided a version of the software to Israel in 1983—see May 6, 1983 and May 12, 1983). Ben-Menashe also alleges he was present in 1987 when Brian sold an enhanced version of the software (which would have been owned by Inslaw) to the Israeli intelligence community and the Singapore armed forces and that, after these sales were completed, approximately $5.5 million was placed in a foreign bank account to which Brian had access. He also says that Brian sold the public domain version of PROMIS to military intelligence organizations in Jordan in 1983 and to the Iraqi government in 1987, a transaction brokered by a businessman named Carlos Cardoen. Ben-Menashe further claims that he has information about the sale of a public domain version of PROMIS by Israel to the Soviet Union in 1986, and the sale of the enhanced version to the Canadian government coordinated by Brian. Ben-Menashe states that various unnamed Israeli officials would corroborate his statements, but refuses to identify these officials or provide evidence to corroborate his statements unless he is called as an official witness for the committee under a grant of immunity. The committee decides not to grant immunity and will include these claims in a section of its report that merely states what witnesses told it, without endorsing their claims. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Ben-Menashe will go on to be involved in numerous major and minor international scandals, picking up a chequered reputation for honesty. [New Statesman, 2/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Ari Ben-Menashe, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Justice Department issues a 187-page report clearing department officials of wrongdoing in the Inslaw affair, which concerned the alleged misappropriation of an enhanced version of PROMIS software. According to a department press release, “there is no credible evidence that department officials conspired to steal computer software developed by Inslaw, Inc. or that the company is entitled to additional government payments.” This concurs with a previous report by Nicolas Bua, a special counsel appointed by the department. The main points of the report are:
bullet The use of PROMIS by the Executive Office of United States Attorneys and in US attorneys’ offices conforms with contractual agreements, and Inslaw is not entitled to additional compensation for the use of its PROMIS software;
bullet No independent counsel should be appointed and the matter should be closed;
bullet The investigative journalist Danny Casolaro, who died while investigating the Inslaw affair and other issues, committed suicide;
bullet MIT professor Dr. Randall Davis was hired to compare the computer code in Inslaw’s PROMIS software with the code in the FBI’s FOIMS software, which Inslaw claimed was a pirated version of PROMIS. Davis concluded that there was no relation between FOIMS and PROMIS;
bullet Two of the people who made allegations about the distribution of PROMIS outside the Justice Department, Michael Riconosciuto and Ari Ben-Menashe, are untrustworthy. The departmental press release calls them “primary sources relied on by Inslaw”;
bullet None of the anonymous sources that had previously been reported to have made statements supportive of Inslaw came forward, despite assurances from Attorney General Janet Reno that they would be protected from reprisals. The press release says, “Individuals who were identified as sources denied making the statements attributed to them by Inslaw”;
bullet The department did not obstruct the reappointment of bankruptcy Judge George Bason, who ruled in favour of Inslaw (see September 28, 1987, November 24, 1987, December 8, 1987, December 15, 1987, and January 12, 1988);
bullet No documents related to the matter have been destroyed by the Justice Department command center;
bullet There is no credible evidence that Inslaw’s PROMIS is being used elsewhere in the government (see 1982-1984, December 11, 1990, and May 2008), or has been improperly distributed to a foreign government or entity (see May 6, 1983, May 12, 1983, November 1990, and January 1991);
bullet PROMIS was not stolen to raise money to reward people working for the release of American hostages in Iran, to penetrate foreign intelligence agencies, as part of a US-Israeli slush fund connected with the late British publisher Robert Maxwell, or in aid of a secret US intelligence agency concealed within the Office of Special Investigations Nazi-hunting unit. [US Department of Justice, 9/27/1994]

Entity Tags: George Bason, Daniel Casolaro, Inslaw, Inc., Randall Davis, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Former national security official Norman Bailey admits publicly and on the record that the PROMIS database and search application has been given to the NSA. As Salon magazine points out: “His admission is the first public acknowledgement by a former US intelligence official that the NSA used the PROMIS software.” Bailey also says that the application was given to the Treasury Department for a financial tracking project in the early 1980s that also involved the National Security Council (see 1982-1984). Bailey worked for US governments from the Ronald Reagan era until the George W. Bush administration and, in addition to the 1980s tracking program, he headed a special unit within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence focused on financial intelligence on Cuba and Venezuela in 2006 and 2007. [Salon, 7/23/2008]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Treasury, National Security Agency, Norman Bailey

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike