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Inslaw and PROMIS

Other Events Related to Inslaw and PROMIS

Project: US Civil Liberties
Open-Content project managed by Paul, KJF, mtuck, paxvector

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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]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., William Hamilton

Category Tags: Other Events

A PROMIS oversight committee is formed at the Justice Department to supervise the implementation of the PROMIS software at US attorneys’ offices. The committee’s members are initially Associate Attorney General Rudolph Giuliani, Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley E. Morris, Director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys William P. Tyson, and the Justice management division’s Assistant Attorney General for Administration Kevin D. Rooney. The associate attorney general is the chairman of the committee. The date on which the committee is established is unclear, but it will be mentioned in a memo dated August 13, 1981, so it must be at this date at the latest. Lowell Jensen will also be significantly involved in the committee, first as the associate attorney general for the criminal division until early 1983, and then as associate attorney general, meaning he also chairs the committee. The main official who reports to the committee is PROMIS project manager C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, although he will not be hired by the department until the start of the next year (see April 1982). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Justice Management Division, William P. Tyson, Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), US Department of Justice, Criminal Division (DoJ), Kevin D. Rooney, Stanley E. Morris, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Lowell Jensen

Category Tags: Other Events

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]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Earl Brian, Reagan administration, SCT, William Hamilton, Allen & Co.

Category Tags: Other Events

Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believes to be related, makes several calls to Thomas Gates, an FBI agent. According to sworn testimony Gates will later provide to the House Judiciary Committee, there are several such calls over a four week period that ends when Casolaro is found dead (see August 10, 1991). Although Casolaro’s death will be ruled a suicide, Gates will say that the journalist sounds “upbeat” during the calls. The reason Casolaro contacts Gates is unclear, although Gates may have been investigating Robert Nichols, a source for Casolaro (see Before August 10, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Daniel Casolaro, Thomas Gates

Category Tags: Other Events

Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believes to be related, calls Richard Stavin, a former Department of Justice Organized Crime Strike Force prosecutor, to discuss his research into the matter. In a sworn statement to the House Judiciary Committee, Stavin will later say: “He spoke to me about Inslaw. He spoke to me about a group he called the Octopus. I believe he mentioned Robert Nichols [an important source for Casolaro’s research], and possibly also John Phillip Nichols, in this conversation, and was extremely interested, intrigued, and frustrated in his inability to get a grasp on what he called the Octopus. He had indicated that he had met with—again I believe it was Robert Nichols on several occasions, that Robert Nichols was extremely talkative to a point, but when Mr. Casolaro would ask specific questions, he [Nichols] would become somewhat evasive.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Daniel Casolaro, Robert Booth Nichols, Richard Stavin

Category Tags: Other Events

Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believes to be related, is told to “back off” the story, according to his brother Anthony. In a statement made after Daniel is found dead (see August 10, 1991), Anthony Casolaro will say that on this date his brother tells him, “someone else told me I better back off the story.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Anthony Casolaro, Daniel Casolaro

Category Tags: Other Events

Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believes to be related, reportedly tells his family and friends that, if he were to be found dead, they should not believe he committed suicide. According to the House Judiciary Committee, Casolaro tells “several people” that he is receiving death threats “because he was getting close to concluding his investigation.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Daniel Casolaro

Category Tags: Other Events

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]

Entity Tags: Daniel Casolaro, Michael Riconosciuto, Robert Booth Nichols, William Hamilton

Category Tags: Other Events

The dead body of Daniel Casolaro, a journalist investigating the Inslaw affair and matters he believed to be related, is found in a hotel room in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The body is found in the bathtub with both of its wrists slashed several times. There is no sign of forced entry into the hotel room nor of a struggle. A short suicide note is found. The police initially think the death is a suicide and the scene is not sealed and protected, which, according to the House Judiciary Committee, “potentially allow[s] for the contamination of the possible crime scene.” In addition, the room is reportedly cleaned before a thorough criminal investigation can be conducted. A brief preliminary investigation leads the police to confirm their initial suspicion of suicide. Casolaro’s work on a story about the alleged theft of an enhanced version of PROMIS software by the Justice Department from Inslaw had led him to believe that it was related to other scandals, such as those involving the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and Iran-Contra. Casolaro had told his family and friends that he was going to Martinsburg to meet a source who had important information, although the source’s identity is unknown. Following his death, all Casolaro’s notes and papers disappear. A stack of typed pages that usually sat on top of his desk at home vanish. In addition, notes Casolaro always kept with him disappear. His brother Anthony will later say that he finds the disappearance of all the papers surprising. “Somebody cleaned out his car and his room,” Anthony will say. “If my brother did that [killed himself], it seems as though [his papers] should have been found.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Anthony Casolaro, Daniel Casolaro

Category Tags: Other Events

The body of Daniel Casolaro, a journalist who had investigated the Inslaw affair and matters he believed to be related, is embalmed. This occurs before his family is notified and before a coroner’s investigation. The House Judiciary Committee will later comment that the embalming “may have limited the effectiveness of autopsies or toxicological examinations.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: House Judiciary Committee, Daniel Casolaro

Category Tags: Other Events

Thomas Gates, an FBI agent who had been contacted by recently deceased journalist Daniel Casolaro several times shortly before his death (see (July 13-August 10, 1991)), suspects that Casolaro has been murdered (see August 10, 1991). Gates communicates these suspicions to the local police in Martinsburg, West Virginia, where Casolaro died, and to the local FBI office. According to Gates, Casolaro sounded very “upbeat” and not like a person contemplating suicide in their conversations, even in the days before his death. In addition, Casolaro’s phone book, which had contained a number for Gates, has disappeared. What’s more, the local police tell Gates that the wounds on Casolaro’s wrists were “hacking” wounds, and Gates feels the amount of injury to the arms is not consistent with injuries inflicted by a suicide. Gates will also later share his suspicions with the House Judiciary Committee. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Daniel Casolaro, Thomas Gates

Category Tags: Other Events

Attorney General William Barr appoints Nicholas Bua, a retired federal judge from Chicago, as his special counsel to investigate and advise him on the Inslaw controversy. The affair has been running for nearly a decade and stems from a dispute over a contract signed by the Justice Department and Inslaw in 1982 (see March 1982). However, because Bua does not have independent status, the House Judiciary Committee will comment, “as long as the investigation of wrongdoing by former and current high level Justice officials remains under the ultimate control of the department itself, there will always be serious doubt about the objectivity and thoroughness of the inquiry.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Nicholas Bua, US Department of Justice, House Judiciary Committee, William P. Barr

Category Tags: Internal DoJ Investigations, Other Events

Inslaw counsel Elliot Richardson writes to Justice Department special counsel Judge Nicholas Bua urging further investigation into the death of reporter Daniel Casolaro (see August 10, 1991). Richardson writes: “During the three days preceding his [Casolaro’s] death he told four friends in the course of four different telephone conversations that he was about to go to West Virginia to meet someone from whom he was confident of receiving definitive proof of what had happened to the PROMIS software and to Inslaw. There is no apparent reason why Casolaro would have lied to those four friends, nor is there any apparent reason why his friends would deliberately and concertedly misrepresent what he said to them. It is not likely, on the other hand, that Casolaro had unrealistic expectations either toward the significance of the evidence he anticipated receiving or toward the prospect that it would be delivered. He had, after all, been on the Inslaw case for one year, and he was bound to know as well as any other of the investigative reporters then pursuing it that promises of hard evidence had often been made and just as often disappointed. In the light of these facts, the key question is, with whom was Danny Casolaro expecting to meet and with whom did he meet?” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Elliot Richardson, Nicholas Bua, Inslaw, Inc.

Category Tags: Other Events

Robert Nichols, an apparently significant player in the Inslaw affair and a contact of Daniel Casolaro, a journalist who investigated the matter, provides a telephone interview to the House Judiciary Committee. Nichols was allegedly a key contact of Casolaro’s (see Before August 10, 1991), although the reporter was found dead the previous year (see August 10, 1991). Despite providing the telephone interview, Nichols declines to make a sworn statement. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Robert Booth Nichols, House Judiciary Committee

Category Tags: Other Events

The death of Daniel Casolaro, a journalist who investigated the Inslaw affair and matters he believed to be related, is again ruled a suicide by local authorities in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Casolaro died there in August of the previous year (see August 10, 1991), and his death was initially ruled a suicide. However, the investigation was reopened following numerous inquiries by Casolaro’s brother and others into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. After expending over 1,000 man-hours investigating Casolaro’s death, the local authorities again rule it to be a suicide. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Daniel Casolaro

Category Tags: Other Events

Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, tells a conference of intelligence officials that the government needs new rules about how to balance privacy rights and investigative needs. Since many people routinely post details of their lives on social-networking sites such as MySpace, he says, their identity should not require the same protection as in the past. Instead, only their “essential privacy,” or “what they would wish to protect about their lives and affairs,” should be veiled. Commenting on the speech, the Wall Street Journal will say that this is part of a project by intelligence agencies “to change traditional definitions of how to balance privacy rights against investigative needs.” [Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 10/23/2007 pdf file; Wall Street Journal, 3/10/2008] According to some accounts, the prime repository of information about US citizens that the government has is a database known as Main Core, so if the government collected more information about citizens, the information would be placed in or accessed through this database (see 1980s or Before).

Entity Tags: Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Don Kerr, Wall Street Journal

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Other Events

National security lawyer Suzanne Spaulding says that the constitutional question of whether the US government can examine a large array of information about citizens contained in its databases (see 1980s or Before) without violating an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy “has never really been resolved.” She adds that it is “extremely questionable” to assume Americans do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy for data such as the subject-header of an e-mail or a Web address from an Internet search, because those are more like the content of a communication than a phone number. “These are questions that require discussion and debate,” she says. “This is one of the problems with doing it all [collecting data on citizens] in secret.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/10/2008]

Entity Tags: Suzanne Spaulding

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Other Events

A new investigation modeled on the Church Committee, which investigated government spying (see April, 1976) and led to the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA - see 1978) in the 1970s, is proposed. The proposal follows an amendment to wiretapping laws that immunizes telecommunications companies from prosecution for illegally co-operating with the NSA. A detailed seven-page memo is drafted outlining the proposed inquiry by a former senior member of the original Church Committee.
Congressional Investigative Body Proposed - The idea is to have Congress appoint an investigative body to discover the full extent of what the Bush White House did in the war on terror that may have been illegal and then to implement reforms aimed at preventing future abuses—and perhaps to bring accountability for wrongdoing by Bush officials. Key issues to investigate include:
bullet The NSA’s domestic surveillance activities;
bullet The CIA’s use of rendition and torture against terrorist suspects;
bullet The U.S. government’s use of military assets—including satellites, Pentagon intelligence agencies, and U2 surveillance planes—for a spying apparatus that could be used against people in the US; and
bullet The NSA’s use of databases and how its databases, such as the Main Core list of enemies, mesh with other government lists, such as the no-fly list. A deeper investigation should focus on how these lists feed on each other, as well as the government’s “inexorable trend towards treating everyone as a suspect,” says Barry Steinhardt, the director of the Program on Technology and Liberty for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Proposers - The proposal is a product of talks between civil liberties advocates and aides to Democratic leaders in Congress. People consulted about the committee include aides to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI). The civil liberties organizations include the ACLU, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Common Cause. However, some Democrats, such as Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), and former House Intelligence chairwoman Jane Harman (D-CA), approved the Bush administration’s operations and would be made to look bad by such investigation.
Investigating Bush, Clinton Administrations - In order that the inquiry not be called partisan, it is to have a scope going back beyond the start of the Bush administration to include the administrations of Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan. The memo states that “[t]he rise of the ‘surveillance state’ driven by new technologies and the demands of counter-terrorism did not begin with this administration.” However, the author later says in interviews that the scope of abuse under George W. Bush would likely be an order of magnitude greater than under preceding presidents.
'Imagine What We Don't Know' - Some of the people involved in the discussions comment on the rationale. “If we know this much about torture, rendition, secret prisons, and warrantless wiretapping despite the administration’s attempts to stonewall, then imagine what we don’t know,” says a senior Democratic congressional aide who is familiar with the proposal. Steinhardt says: “You have to go back to the McCarthy era to find this level of abuse. Because the Bush administration has been so opaque, we don’t know [the extent of] what laws have been violated.” “It’s not just the ‘Terrorist Surveillance Program,’” says Gregory Nojeim from the Center for Democracy and Technology. “We need a broad investigation on the way all the moving parts fit together. It seems like we’re always looking at little chunks and missing the big picture.”
Effect on Presidential Race Unknown - It is unknown how the 2008 presidential race may affect whether the investigation ever begins, although some think that Democratic candidate Barack Obama (D-IL), said to favor open government, might be more cooperative with Congress than his Republican opponent John McCain (R-AZ). However, a participant in the discussions casts doubt on this: “It may be the last thing a new president would want to do.” [Salon, 7/23/2008]

Entity Tags: Nancy Pelosi, Gregory Nojeim, Center for Democracy and Technology, American Civil Liberties Union, Barry Steinhardt, Bush administration (43), Common Cause, Jane Harman

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Other Events

Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi is interviewed by journalist Christopher Ketcham about the Main Core database, which apparently contains a list of potential enemies of the US state. Giraldi does not know any definite information about the database, but he speculates that it must be contained within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS): “If a master list is being compiled, it would have to be in a place where there are no legal issues”—the CIA and FBI would be restricted by oversight and accountability laws—“so I suspect it is at DHS, which as far as I know operates with no such restraints.” Giraldi notes that the DHS already maintains a central list of suspected terrorists and says it has been freely adding people who pose no reasonable threat to domestic security. “It’s clear that DHS has the mandate for controlling and owning master lists. The process is not transparent, and the criteria for getting on the list are not clear.” Giraldi continues, “I am certain that the content of such a master list [as Main Core] would not be carefully vetted, and there would be many names on it for many reasons—quite likely including the two of us.” [Radar, 5/2008]

Entity Tags: Philip Giraldi, US Department of Homeland Security

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Other Events

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