!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Profile: William Hamilton
William Hamilton was a participant or observer in the following events:
An application known as PROMIS, the Prosecutor’s Management Information System, is developed. [Wired News, 3/1993] It is designed to be used to keep track of criminal investigations through a powerful search engine that can quickly access all data items stored about a case. [Salon, 7/23/2008] William Hamilton, one of the application’s developers, will describe what it can be used to do: “Every use of PROMIS in the court system is tracking people. You can rotate the file by case, defendant, arresting officer, judge, defence lawyer, and it’s tracking all the names of all the people in all the cases.” Wired magazine will describe its significance: “What this means is that PROMIS can provide a complete rundown of all federal cases in which a lawyer has been involved, or all the cases in which a lawyer has represented defendant A, or all the cases in which a lawyer has represented white-collar criminals, at which stage in each of the cases the lawyer agreed to a plea bargain, and so on. Based on this information, PROMIS can help a prosecutor determine when a plea will be taken in a particular type of case.” In addition, PROMIS can integrate several databases without requiring any reprogramming, meaning it can “turn blind data into information.” PROMIS is developed by a private business entity that will later become the company Inslaw, Inc. Although there will later be a series of disputes over the application’s use by the US government and others, this version of PROMIS is funded by a Law Enforcement Assistance Administration grant and is therefore in the public domain. [Wired News, 3/1993]
C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, the general counsel of the Institute for Law and Social Research, leaves his position. The circumstances of his departure from the institute, which will later be transformed into the company Inslaw, will later be disputed. The departure is significant because Brewer will later be hired by the Justice Department to manage a contract with Inslaw (see April 1982), and will adopt a combative approach to his former employer (see April 14, 1982 and April 19, 1982).
Hamilton's Account - Inslaw owner William Hamilton will later say that Brewer is asked to leave because he is unable to perform his duties, but is given sufficient time to find another job instead of being forced out. Inslaw vice president John Gizarelli will corroborate Hamilton’s account, telling the House Judiciary Committee under oath that Hamilton told him Brewer had been asked to resign.
Contradictory Statements by Brewer - Brewer will give different accounts of his departure. He will tell investigators from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR): “At no time did he [Hamilton] ever say you are fired and at no time did he [Hamilton] ever indicate great dissatisfaction with my performance.… I never felt that I was discharged, let alone wrongfully discharged.” He will repeat this line to investigators from the House committee: “I never thought that he asked me to leave. It has always been my understanding that I was not asked to leave. I have never viewed my departure from the institute as either being a discharge, or forced.” However, another statement he will make puts a different slant on this; he tells the OPR: “[I]t has been my view that Mr. Hamilton obviously wanted me gone. He had been sending these signals, if not directly indicating a job dissatisfaction, since April, and it was now February, almost one year later, and I was still extricating myself.” In addition, Brewer will say in a court appearance: “On one occasion Mr. Hamilton came and said to me, ‘can you go to lunch?’ I explained that I couldn’t. And he said, ‘Well, what I have to say over lunch I can say right now. I think you ought to find [an] alternative—that you ought to leave the Institute.’”
Impact - The committee will comment, “The circumstances surrounding Mr. Brewer’s departure from the institute appear to have had a major influence over his views about Inslaw and its president, Mr. Hamilton.” Gizarelli will say that he had occasional contact with Brewer before his departure, and: “[H]e thought that Mr. Hamilton was insane. And I think he meant that literally. He did make comments about his rationality, his sanity, thought he wasn’t capable of leading an organization. The tenor of his remarks were to me very startling.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Inslaw wins a $9.6 million contract from the Justice Department to install the public domain vesion of PROMIS application in 20 US attorneys’ offices as a pilot program. PROMIS is an application designed to be used by prosecutors to keep track of case records (see Mid-1970s). If the trial installation is successful, the company will install PROMIS in the remaining 74 federal prosecutors’ offices around the country. The contract is also for the necessary training, maintenance, and support for three years. According to William Hamilton, one of Inslaw’s owners, the eventual market for complete automation of the Federal court system is worth up to $3 billion. However, this is the last contract Inslaw receives from the Justice Department for PROMIS, as the deal becomes mired in a series of disputes. [US Congress, 9/10/1992; Wired News, 3/1993]
A lawyer acting for Inslaw writes to the Justice Department telling it that Inslaw intends to market a version of the PROMIS software commercially. The lawyer, Roderick M. Hills of Latham & Watkins, tells Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley E. Morris, who is also a member of the committee overseeing PROMIS, that, even though the software was initially developed with government money (see Mid-1970s), private enhancements to it mean that Inslaw can sell the improved version for a fee. The letter is accompanied by a memorandum from Inslaw owner William Hamilton explaining the situation. Inslaw and the department have just signed a contract for Inslaw to implement the public domain version of the software at US attorneys’ offices for the department (see March 1982). However, the privately-funded enhancements mean that if the department chose to use the latest version, it would have to pay for the actual software, as well as installation and maintenance costs. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Inslaw asks the Justice Department to appoint a manager other than C. Madison “Brick” Brewer to run the PROMIS project that Inslaw is working on for the department. Brewer had formerly worked for Inslaw, but had left under a cloud (see 1976), and later been hired by the department to supervise the contract between it and Inslaw (see April 1982). Following initial problems with Brewer (see April 14, 1982 and April 19, 1982), Inslaw asks Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley E. Morris to replace him, as Inslaw owner William Hamilton thinks he has antagonistic feelings toward Inslaw due to their past. However, departmental officials say that Brewer’s skills and prior employment with Inslaw were important factors in his hiring by the department. Laurence McWhorter, deputy director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys, will later say that Brewer’s employment by Inslaw qualified him to “run the implementation of a case tracking system for US attorneys” and “to basically direct the implementation of a case tracking system in US attorneys offices.” The House Judiciary Committee will comment, “It is difficult to understand, however, how… McWhorter could make this statement” because Brewer himself admitted that at the time he left Inslaw, “he had very little, if any, experience in managing computer projects and government ADP [automated data processing] procurement law,” and he also “admitted to a lack of experience or detailed understanding of computers or software.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
In an internal memo, Inslaw employee John Gizarelli outlines a problem concerning the PROMIS project with the Justice Department official handling the contract, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer (see April 14, 1982, April 19, 1982, and Mid-April 1982). Brewer had left Inslaw under a cloud in the mid-1970s (see 1976), but is now overseeing the PROMIS implementation project at the Justice Department. Gizarelli writes to Inslaw vice president Dean Merrill that Brewer “has made no secret of his dislike of [Inslaw president] Bill Hamilton.” He adds: “In his present job, he is in a position to demonstrate his dislike. Bill, however, has kept his distance from the project and probably will continue to do so, until and unless there are large problems which Bill—in his role as president—must deal with personally. It is entirely possible—and I believe likely—that Brick will escalate the level of controversy until he draws Bill into the project, at which time he will be able to ‘lord it over him’ and show who’s boss. I don’t think Brick will ever be at peace with his feelings about Bill and therefore, with us.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley Morris writes to James Rogers, an attorney acting for Inslaw, and admits that the company owns privately funded improvements to the PROMIS software. Morris first points out that part of the software was financed by the government: “We agree that the original PROMIS, as defined in your letter of May 26, 1982 (see May 26, 1982), is in the public domain. We also agree that the printed inquiry enhancement is in the public domain.” This means that Inslaw could never charge the department for the use of software comprising only the original application and the printed inquiry enhancement (although it could of course charge for installation and maintenance). However, Morris adds, “To the extent that any other enhancements to the system were privately funded by Inslaw and not specified to be delivered to the Department of Justice under any contract or other arrangement, Inslaw may assert whatever proprietary rights it may have.” This means the department agrees that Inslaw can sell a version of the software with privately-funded enhancements. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] This statement is made in response to a letter sent by lawyers acting for Inslaw founder William Hamilton, informing the department that Inslaw intends to become a private company, and asking it to waive any proprietary rights it might claim to the enhanced version. Clarification will be provided in a 1988 deposition in which Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns will say, “Our lawyers were satisfied that Inslaw’s lawyers could sustain the claim in court, that we had waived those [proprietary] rights.” [Wired News, 3/1993]
Justice Department procurement counsel William Snider issues a legal opinion stating that the department lacks legal justification to terminate part of a contract on the installation of PROMIS software for default. The department’s PROMIS Oversight Committee had decided on this course of action in December (see December 29, 1983), as it said that Inslaw, the company installing PROMIS, was not performing the contract properly. However, the committee decides to terminate the portion of the contract anyway, but for convenience—meaning Inslaw may receive some compensation—not default. PROMIS project manager C. Madison Brewer then notifies INSLAW owner William Hamilton that Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen has decided on partial termination. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
A company called SCT attempts to purchase Inslaw, which designed the PROMIS database and search application. SCT is assisted by the New York investment bank Allen & Co., which helps with the finance for the proposed deal. The attempt fails, but, according to Inslaw’s founder William Hamilton, in the process a number of Inslaw’s customers are warned by SCT that Inslaw will soon go bankrupt and will not survive reorganization. Wired magazine will say that Allen & Co. has “close business ties” to Earl Brian, a businessman who is said to be interested in PROMIS software and who is well-connected inside the Ronald Reagan administration. [Wired News, 3/1993]
Inslaw complains about additional installations of enhanced PROMIS software by the Justice Department. Inslaw and the department had a contract for the company to install the software in 20 large US attorneys’ offices and then dozens of smaller ones (see March 1982), but the portion of the contract for the smaller offices was terminated (see February 1984), and the department is installing an enhanced version of the software Inslaw says it owns in these smaller offices (see Between June 24, 1985 and September 2, 1987). The complaint is made in a letter by Inslaw president William Hamilton to H. Lawrence Wallace, the assistant attorney general for administration. “I am extremely disturbed and disappointed to learn that the Executive Office for US Attorneys has begun to manufacture copies of the PROMIS software for customization and installation in additional US attorneys offices, specifically those in St. Louis, Missouri, and Sacramento, California,” Hamilton writes. “This action occurs at the very time that the Department of Justice and Inslaw are attempting to resolve, by negotiation, Inslaw’s claim that the US attorneys version of PROMIS contains millions of dollars of privately-financed enhancements that are proprietary products of Inslaw and for which Inslaw has, to date, received no compensation.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Charles Hayes, a surplus computer dealer, claims he has purchased computers with PROMIS software installed on them from the US Attorneys’ Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Hayes, who the House Judiciary Committee will say has “alleged ties to both United States and foreign intelligence communities,” says that the Harris-Lanier word processing equipment he purchased came with 5 1/4-inch computer disks and he believes these disks contain the enhanced version of the PROMIS software. When the committee investigates, the Justice Department refuses to provide some computer equipment related to these allegations (see February 12, 1991), but the disks turn out not to contain the software (see February 13, 1991). (However, the computer equipment Hayes purchased does contain sensitive information that should not have been disclosed, including grand jury material and information regarding confidential informants.) Hayes will also make a number of other allegations about PROMIS. According to an October 1990 memo drafted by William Hamilton, owner of the company that developed PROMIS, Hayes told him he can identify 300 locations where the software has been installed illegally by the government. In addition, a businessman named Earl Brian allegedly sold the software to the CIA in 1983 for implementation on computers purchased from Floating Point Systems and what the CIA called PROMIS Datapoint. Brian has supposedly sold about $20 million of PROMIS licenses to the government. Hayes will later make the same claims in person to the committee on numerous occasions, adding that he has received information from unnamed sources within the Canadian government saying that Brian sold the PROMIS software to the Canadian government in 1987. The committee will say that he makes “numerous promises” that confirming documentation will be provided by unnamed Canadian officials. However, on August 16, 1991, Hayes will say the Canadian officials have decided not to cooperate with the committee. In its final report, the committee will call the allegations “intriguing,” but point out that Hayes “has not provided any corroborating documentation.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
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).
The House Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law holds a hearing about the failure of Attorney General Richard Thornburgh to provide full access to all documents and records about the Inslaw case. At the hearing, Inslaw owner William Hamilton and its attorney Elliot Richardson air their complaints about an alleged criminal conspiracy in the Justice Department’s handling of a contract with Inslaw and its alleged theft of an enhanced version of the PROMIS application. Steven Ross, the general counsel to the clerk of the US House of Representatives, refutes the Justice Department’s rationale for withholding documents related to possible wrongdoing by its officials involved with the Inslaw contract. In addition, Government Accountability Office representatives describe deficiencies in the Justice Department’s Information Resources Management Office and its administration of data processing contracts.
Bason's Allegations - Judge George Bason, a bankruptcy judge who had found in favor of Inslaw in a dispute with the department (see September 28, 1987), testifies that he believes his failure to be reappointed as bankruptcy judge was the result of improper influence on the court selection process by the department because of his findings. Bason cites information provided to him by a reporter (see May 1988) and negative statements about him by departmental employees (see June 19, 1987 and June 1987 or Shortly After). After investigating these allegations, the committee will find: “The committee could not substantiate Judge Bason’s allegations. If the Department of Justice had influence over the process, it was subtle, to say the least.” Bason will point out that Norma Johnson, the judge who chaired the meeting at which he was not reappointed (see December 15, 1987), had previously worked with departmental official Stuart Schiffer, who was involved in the Inslaw case. However, the committee will comment that it has “no information that Judge Johnson talked to Mr. Schiffer about Inslaw, Judge Bason, or the bankruptcy judge selection process.”
Thornburgh's Reaction - Following this hearing, Thornburgh agrees to cooperate with the subcommittee, but then fails to provide it with several documents it wants. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
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).
Charles Hayes, a computer dealer who claims a US attorney’s office has mistakenly given him a copy of the PROMIS application (see August 1990), hands over to the House Judiciary Committee disks he says contain the software. Hayes also makes a sworn statement about his assertions, saying he thinks PROMIS was copied onto the disks from the original media by personnel at the attorney’s office. However, when the committee examines the disks, it finds only training programs for the computers. In addition, William Hamilton, the owner of the company that developed the application, tells the committee it is “highly implausible” that the 5 1/4-inch disks could contain the enhanced version of the software. He adds that if PROMIS was being used on the computers Hayes purchased, it would have to be the public domain version, which is owned by the Justice Department, not the enhanced version owned by Inslaw. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Robert Nichols, a businessman who is of interest to the FBI, provides information to Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believes to be related. There is some dispute about the significance of this information. According to Inslaw owner William Hamilton and Michael Riconosciuto, another figure who becomes involved in the Inslaw affair, Nichols is Casolaro’s primary source of information in his investigation into the alleged theft of the PROMIS software. However, in a later telephone interview with investigators for the House Judiciary Committee, Nichols will say that he was acting as a sounding board for Casolaro, and providing direction and insight for his investigation into the Inslaw affair. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Lois Battistoni, a former employee of the Justice Department’s criminal division, says that the PROMIS application may have been transferred from the department to a private business. She makes the claim in a sworn statement for the House Judiciary Committee in October 1991, and again in an interview in February of the next year. According to Battistoni, a criminal division employee had previously told her that there was a company chosen to take over PROMIS implementation contracts served by Inslaw at that time. This company was apparently connected to a top department official through a California relationship. Inslaw owner William Hamilton will speculate that this company is Hadron, Inc., as it was owned by businessman Earl Brian, who was linked to former Attorney General Edwin Meese. However, Battistoni says that she has little firsthand knowledge of the facts surrounding these allegations, and does not provide the committee with the name of the criminal division employee who made the claim to her, indicating department employees are afraid to cooperate with Congress for fear of reprisal. She also makes a number of allegations about the involvement of department employees in the destruction of documents related to the affair. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
An unnamed US intelligence official tells businessman William Hamilton that there is a connection between the PROMIS database and search program and the Main Core database. Hamilton is a former NSA official who helped developed PROMIS, but is now involved in a series of disputes with the government over money he says it owes his company, Inslaw. Main Core is a database that is said to collect sensitive information, including about US persons. The specific type of connection is not certain. This is one of three times officials will tell Hamilton about the link (see 1995 and July 2001). [Salon, 7/23/2008]
A former NSA official tells businessman William Hamilton that there is a connection between the PROMIS database and search program and the Main Core database. Hamilton is a former NSA official who helped developed PROMIS, but is now involved in a series of disputes with the government over money he says it owes his company, Inslaw. Main Core is a database that is said to collect sensitive information, including about US persons. The specific type of connection is not certain. This is one of three times officials will tell Hamilton about the link (see Spring 1992 and July 2001). [Salon, 7/23/2008]
Retired Admiral Dan Murphy, a former deputy director of the CIA, indicates to businessman William Hamilton that there is a connection between the PROMIS database and search program and the Main Core database. Hamilton is a former NSA official who helped develop PROMIS, but is now involved in a series of disputes with the government over money he says it owes his company, Inslaw. Main Core is a database that is said to collect sensitive information, including about US persons. The specific type of connection is not certain and Murphy does not specifically mention Main Core, but says that the NSA’s use of PROMIS involves something “so seriously wrong that money alone cannot cure the problem.” Hamilton will later say, “I believe in retrospect that Murphy was alluding to Main Core.” This is one of three times officials will tell Hamilton about the link (see Spring 1992 and 1995). [Salon, 7/23/2008]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
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.