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Inslaw and PROMIS

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

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The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reverses two rulings in favor of Inslaw in the dispute over enhanced PROMIS software, following an appeal by the Justice Department (see October 12, 1990). The rulings had been issued by Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia (see September 28, 1987) and the US District Court for the District of Columbia (see November 22, 1989). The reversal is granted on what a House Judiciary Committee report favorable to Inslaw will call “primarily jurisdictional grounds.” The appeal court says the bankruptcy court was the wrong place to litigate the issues it decided and, in any case, the department has not violated automatic stay bankruptcy provisions. However, the appeal court notes that both lower courts found that the department had “fraudulently obtained and then converted Enhanced PROMIS to its own use,” and that “such conduct, if it occurred, is inexcusable.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: House Judiciary Committee, Inslaw, Inc., US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, US Department of Justice

Category Tags: Legal Proceedings

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

Category Tags: Oversight by Congress, Use Outside Justice Department

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

Attorney General Richard Thornburgh informs the House Judiciary Committee that he will not attend a committee hearing the next day, despite previously saying he would. The hearing is to discuss the committee’s access to departmental documents and the Inslaw affair, in which the department had allegedly stolen an enhanced version of the PROMIS application. According to a report by the committee, Thornburgh refuses to appear because a “press release announcing the hearing had been unduly aggressive and contentious and not in keeping with the tenor of an oversight hearing.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: House Judiciary Committee, Richard Thornburgh

Category Tags: Oversight by Congress

The House Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law votes 10 to six to authorize the issuance of a subpoena to the Department of Justice for documents related to the Inslaw affair. The subpoena follows on from a refusal by Attorney General Richard Thornburgh to appear before the House Judiciary Committee (see July 17, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Some of the documents will be forthcoming, but others will be reported missing (see July 31, 1991).

Entity Tags: House Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law, US Department of Justice

Category Tags: Oversight by Congress

Responding to a Congressional subpoena (see July 25, 1991), the Justice Department sends most documents requested about the alleged theft of a version of the enhanced PROMIS software to the House Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law. However, the department says that 51 documents or files are missing and cannot be found. A report issued by the House Judiciary Committee in September 1992 will say that the subcommittee has still not received an adequate explanation on how the documents came to be missing. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: House Judiciary Committee, US Department of Justice, House Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law

Category Tags: Oversight by Congress

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

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

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

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

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]

Entity Tags: William Hamilton, US Department of Justice, House Judiciary Committee, Lois Battistoni, Earl Brian, Hadron, Inc., Edwin Meese

Category Tags: Oversight by Congress, Use Outside Justice Department

Following an adverse ruling in an appeals court, Inslaw files an appeal for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. If the writ were granted, it would mean the Supreme Court agreed to hear a further appeal in the case. The appeals court had reversed bankruptcy and district court rulings favorable to Inslaw in its dispute with the Justice Department over the enhanced PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987, November 22, 1989, and May 7, 1991). The application will be denied (see January 13, 1992). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Supreme Court, US Department of Justice

Category Tags: Legal Proceedings

John Schoolmeester, a former Customs Services program officer, says that Peter Videnieks, a Justice Department official who worked on the implementation of PROMIS software, is linked to a company called Hadron, Inc., owned by Earl Brian, a businessman involved in the PROMIS affair. Schoolmeester makes the claim in two sworn statements provided to the House Judiciary Committee on October 10 and November 6, 1991. Schoolmeester says he has direct knowledge of ties between Videnieks and Hadron, Inc., prior to Videnieks’ employment with the Justice Department. According to Schoolmeester, Videnieks, as a contracting officer for the Customs Service, was involved with several Hadron, Inc. contracts, and he would necessarily have met with Dominic Laiti (a former Hadron chief executive officer) on a regular basis, because that was the way Laiti conducted business. However, Videnieks tells the committee under oath that he does not know and has not had any conversations with Laiti or Brian. Schoolmeester also says that Brian is “the behind-the-scenes guy at Hadron,” but he is not certain whether Videnieks met with him. Finally, he says that Brian is well connected in Washington and had connections with former Attorney General Edwin Meese and several Congressional figures. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: John Schoolmeester, Peter Videnieks, Hadron, Inc., Dominic Laiti, Edwin Meese, House Judiciary Committee

Category Tags: Oversight by Congress

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

A judge hearing the PROMIS case for the Department of Transportation Board of Contract Appeals (DOTBCA) says that findings by the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia and the US District Court for the District of Columbia have left a “cloud” over the Justice Department. The two courts originally found for Inslaw (see September 28, 1987 and November 22, 1989), which is in dispute with the department over an enhanced version of the PROMIS software, but these rulings were overturned on appeal, mostly on jurisdictional grounds (see May 7, 1991). At a hearing, counsel for the department says, “I think those trials speak for themselves, and every order has been vacated.” However, the judge responds: “There is one problem. The fact that a judge or a court doesn’t have jurisdiction doesn’t mean that the court is completely ignorant. True, Mr. Bason [the bankruptcy court judge] and Mr. Bryant [the judge that heard the initial appeal] did not have jurisdiction, but they did make some very serious findings on the basis of sworn testimony. They had been truly vacated, and it may be that all the statutes to run have run and they can’t go anywhere. Those cases may be dead forever. But it has left a cloud over the respondent [the department].” The House Judiciary Committee will comment: “As the DOTBCA judge concluded, there definitely remains a cloud over the department’s handling of Inslaw’s proprietary software. Department officials should not be allowed to avoid accountability through a technicality or a jurisdiction ruling by the Appeals Court.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: idateasiapi, House Judiciary Committee, Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Category Tags: Legal Proceedings

Canada’s ambassador to the US, Derek Burney, writes to the House Judiciary Committee saying that neither the Canadian Royal Mounted Police nor the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) have the PROMIS software developed by Inslaw or derivatives thereof. The statement is in response to an October letter from the committee, which is investigating the alleged theft from Inslaw of a version of the software and its subsequent passage to Canada. According to Burney, both the Mounties and the CSIS told him that not only do they not use Inslaw’s PROMIS or any software believed to be a derivative of it, but that they do not use any case management software at all. The committee will comment: “The ambassador’s conclusory statement did not provide an offer or an opportunity for further verification of the allegations received concerning the government of Canada. Without direct access to [the Mounties], CSIS, and other Canadian officials, the committee has been effectively thwarted in its attempt to support or reject the contention that Inslaw software was transferred to the Canadian government.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Canadian Security Intelligence Service, House Judiciary Committee, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Derek Burney

Category Tags: Use Outside Justice Department, Oversight by Congress

Former Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Lester Coleman submits a sworn affidavit to a court hearing the dispute between Inslaw and the Justice Department about the alleged theft of PROMIS software.
PROMIS Allegedly Provided to Middle Eastern Countries - Coleman says that in spring 1988 he worked with a DEA proprietary company in Nicosia, Cyprus. He found that the DEA was using the company to sell computer software called “PROMISE” or “PROMIS” to drug abuse control agencies in Cyprus, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Turkey. Coleman claims to have seen reels of computer tapes and computer hardware being unpacked at the Nicosia Police Force Narcotics Squad. The boxes allegedly bore the name and red logo of a Canadian corporation with the words “PROMISE” or “PROMIS” and “Ltd.” According to Coleman, the DEA’s objective in aiding the implementation of this system in these countries was to enhance the United States’ ability to access sensitive drug control law enforcement and intelligence files. Coleman adds that a DEA agent was responsible for both the propriety company, Eurame Trading Company, Ltd., and its initiative to sell “PROMIS(E)” computer systems to Middle Eastern countries.
Apparent Link to Case against Michael Riconosciuto - Coleman also says he believed the agent’s reassignment in 1990 to a DEA intelligence position in Washington State prior to the arrest of Michael Riconosciuto in March 1991 on drug charges was more than coincidental. Riconosciuto has also made a number of claims about PROMIS. According to Coleman, the agent was assigned to Riconosciuto’s home state to manufacture a case against him. Coleman says this was done to prevent Riconosciuto from becoming a credible witness concerning the US government’s covert sale of PROMIS to foreign governments.
Meeting with Danny Casolaro - Coleman also says he was contacted by the reporter Danny Casolaro on August 3, 1991. Casolaro apparently told him he had leads and hard information about (1) Justice Department groups operating overseas, (2) the sale of the “PROMIS(E)” software by the US government to foreign governments, (3) the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and (4) the Iran-Contra scandal.
Mentioned by House Committee in Report - These charges will be mentioned in the House Judiciary Committee’s final report on the Inslaw affair, but the committee will not endorse them. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Later Conviction for Perjury - Coleman will later admit fabricating a claim that a secret drug sting enabled terrorists to evade airport security in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Pleading guilty to five counts of perjury, he will say he lied for a variety of reasons: to obtain money, to evade pending federal charges that he filed a false passport application, to enhance his status as a consultant on international security and terrorism, and to get back at the United States Drug Enforcement Administration for firing him. [New York Times, 9/12/1997]

Entity Tags: Lester Coleman, House Judiciary Committee, Daniel Casolaro, Eurame Trading Company, Ltd., Michael Riconosciuto

Category Tags: Legal Proceedings, Oversight by Congress, Use Outside Justice Department

The US Supreme Court denies an application for a writ of certiorari made by Inslaw, meaning that the court will not hear its case. The application had been filed the previous year (see October 9, 1991), as Inslaw wanted to overturn an adverse ruling by an appeals court in its dispute with the Justice Department over the alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software (see May 7, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Supreme Court, US Department of Justice

Category Tags: Legal Proceedings

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

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]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., William Hamilton

Category Tags: Use Outside Justice Department

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

Category Tags: Legal Proceedings, Internal DoJ Investigations

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]

Entity Tags: William Hamilton, Inslaw, Inc.

Category Tags: Use Outside Justice Department

Judge Christine Miller of the Court of Federal Claims rejects allegations by the software firm Inslaw that the Justice Department illegally stole its enhanced PROMIS software and distributed it. The finding is contained in a 186-page opinion issued by Miller that says there is “no merit to the claims.” The decision follows a three-week trial. The matter was sent to the court by Congress, which referred the case as a part of considerations about whether to pass a private bill to compensate Inslaw. The original contract required Inslaw to install in US attorneys’ offices a public domain version of PROMIS owned by the government. But, according to Miller, without notice to the government, Inslaw installed a different version of the software and then asserted that the government could not use the software in other offices. (Note: the contract was signed in March 1982 (see March 1982), and Inslaw notified the department of the enhancements on April 2 (see April 2, 1982).) Miller’s findings are:
bullet Inslaw has not shown it has any ownership rights to the software and that the enhancements it claims are not proprietary to it. Miller says that some of the enhancements do actually exist—12 of the over 100 Inslaw says it made—but Inslaw cannot demonstrate it owns them;
bullet Neither has Inslaw shown that the department acted improperly in any way in connection with the software, as it had unlimited rights to the enhanced software it received and acted in good faith;
bullet Inslaw’s decision to take its case to the bankruptcy court, rather than courts with certain jurisdiction to hear it, was a tactical one (see June 9, 1986);
bullet A panel of independent experts appointed by the judge to review other software applications Inslaw claims are pirated versions of PROMIS found that Inslaw’s allegations were false;
bullet In addition to not having a legal claim against the US, Inslaw does not have an equitable claim either, because it did not own the software and the Justice Department acted properly.
Assistant Attorney General Frank Hunger, head of the civil division, comments: “Both parties benefit from having a decision from a court with authority to resolve the matter—a court that has heard all the evidence. And the public benefits because all the evidence has been aired and they can be confident that the facts have finally been revealed. Certainly, the department benefits from the lifting of the cloud that has hung over it for a decade.” As the court investigated the matter at the request of Congress, the decision will be sent back there, although Inslaw will have the chance to appeal the matter to a three-judge panel at the same court beforehand. [US Department of Justice, 8/4/1997]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Frank Hunger, Christine Miller, Court of Federal Claims, US Department of Justice

Category Tags: Legal Proceedings, Use Outside Justice Department

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]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Daniel Murphy, National Security Agency, William Hamilton

Category Tags: Use Outside Justice Department

According to a former senior Justice Department official, a high-level former national security official working as a senior intelligence analyst for a large domestic law enforcement agency inside the White House accidentally walks into a restricted room, where he finds a computer system logged on to what he recognizes to be the Main Core database. Main Core contains a list of potential enemies of the state for use by the Continuity of Government program (see 1980s or Before). He will refuse to be interviewed about the matter, but will tell the senior Justice Department official about it. The Justice Department official will add that when she mentions the specific name of the top-secret system during a conversation, he turns “white as a sheet.” [Salon, 7/23/2008]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Use Outside Justice Department

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

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

Category Tags: Use Outside Justice Department

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