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Michelle Malkin: Spy software scandal threatens government's credibility
The Union Leader ^ | 7/11/03 | Michelle Malkin

Posted on 07/11/2003 5:25:38 AM PDT by RJCogburn

DID SADDAM HUSSEIN and Osama bin Laden have access to a U.S. computer tracking program that enabled them to monitor our intelligence-gathering efforts and financial transactions? If so, who is responsible for allowing the program to fall into their hands? And who else among America's enemies might have access to the tracking system?

It's an explosive spy software scandal that no one in official Washington wants to investigate.

This complex, tangled story began two decades ago, when a tiny private company called Inslaw Inc. developed a software package to help U.S. attorneys' offices in large urban districts keep tabs on their criminal prosecutors' caseloads. The program, dubbed the Prosecutor's Management Information System (PROMIS), was effective and popular. It allowed a prosecutor to locate defendants and witnesses, track motions and monitor ongoing investigations. In 1982, Inslaw won a large Justice Department contract to implement the system nationwide.

In the meantime, Inslaw also developed privately owned enhancements to PROMIS. Despite contractual guarantees of Inslaw's proprietary rights to the enhanced version of PROMIS, the Justice Department essentially commandeered the improved program for its own uses without paying for it. Inslaw was forced into bankruptcy and began an endless fight with the Justice Department to recoup its losses.

In the course of their court battles, Inslaw founder Bill Hamilton and his wife innocently stumbled upon shocking national security revelations. Former Attorney General Ed Meese, the Hamiltons concluded, had conspired to force Inslaw into bankruptcy so that an old Meese crony, California businessman Earl Brian, could take over the company's assets. The Hamiltons obtained information through sworn affidavits of several individuals that suggested Meese, Brian, high-ranking Justice Department official Peter Videnieks and others wanted to modify and distribute the enhanced PROMIS software with "back-door" capabilities for covert intelligence operations.

Sound preposterous?

In 1987, a federal judge blasted the Justice Department for stealing PROMIS. The government, Judge George Bason said, stole Inslaw's software through "trickery, fraud, and deceit" with "contempt for both the law and any principle of fair dealing." The House Judiciary Committee also found in 1992 that there was "strong evidence" the Justice Department had conspired to steal the PROMIS program. An internal Justice Department memo made public by the committee revealed that the Justice Department had secretly turned over a copy of PROMIS to the Israeli government.

An extensive four-part series by Insight magazine reporter Kelly Patricia O'Meara retraced a lengthy investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police two years ago, which "uncovered a network involving friend and foe alike that may be using PROMIS and systems like it for a variety of illegal activities worldwide."

In June 2001, Jerry Seper of The Washington Times reported that former FBI agent and convicted spy Robert Hanssen sold an enhanced version of PROMIS for $2 million to Russian crime figures, who in turn are suspected of selling a black-market version of it to Osama bin Laden.

More recently, the International Currency Review, a London-based financial newsletter, reportedly obtained Iraqi intelligence documents alleging that PROMIS came into Saddam Hussein's possession under the Bush I administration. The publication's editor says the documents were owned by Hussein's half-brother, Barzan al Takriti.

And last week, British news outlets suggested that the resignation of top Bush terrorism intelligence official Paul Redmond was tied to his investigation of Hanssen and the PROMIS theft. The Department of Homeland Security claims that Redmond, a legendary spy catcher who came out of retirement to take the Bush administration position and had served only three months, left for "health reasons."

The odor of a cover-up is unmistakable. To this day, the Justice Department, FBI and other government agencies continue to insist that they have never possessed or used any pirated version of PROMIS. Career Justice officials who oversaw the theft of the Hamiltons' software program in the 1980s remain in place today. And according to my sources, the 9-11 Commission created by President Bush has declined to investigate this spy software fiasco and its possible role in facilitating the terrorist attacks on America.

Inslaw deserves to be compensated. More importantly, the American people deserve to know the truth: Did government greed and bureaucratic hubris lead to a wholesale sellout of our national security? The Bush White House's credibility is on the line.

TOPICS: Government
KEYWORDS: barzanaltakriti; cia; fbi; inslaw; inslawinc; jacksonstephens; michellemalkin; paulredmond; promis; redmond; roberthanssen
Did government greed and bureaucratic hubris lead to a wholesale sellout of our national security? The Bush White House's credibility is on the line.

The second sentence may be exaggerated, but the first is fair enough.

1 posted on 07/11/2003 5:25:39 AM PDT by RJCogburn
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To: All

See that good looking dude on the left? He's got FAR BETTER THINGS to do than conduct Freepathons! Come on, let's get this thing over with.

2 posted on 07/11/2003 5:26:56 AM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: RJCogburn
One problem with the PROMIS scenario is the allegation that this 1986-vintage software has somehow kept pace with American technological advancements-- an obvious prerequisite if it is to be a threat in any way that benefits bad guys like Saddam.

Think about it: for starters, in the years in which it was formulated and for much of a decade afterwards, there was no public Internet. Now, how valuable would "tracking" software be if it had no knowledge of this fundamental latter-day communications medium? Or ethernet or LANs or client-server architectures or firewalls or routers or RAID arrays or NAT or ISPs or all the other paraphernalia of computerdom that has emerged in recent years and which it would have to grasp and penetrate to be of value to the bad guys. Or email or web pages or ftp sites or instant messengers or any of the other tools that have been built to facilitate the movement of data, commerce and people. Or... well, you get the picture. Just take a quick look around your desk, den or family room: they're stuffed--stuffed!--with gizmos that would seem like sheerest black magic to the programmers of PROMIS.

So this antique, unsupported software is supposed to be a threat through some "back door" that somehow lets its bad-guy users peek at the good-guys' knowledgebase and movements?

And what of the hardware it is supposed to run on? Anyone try running a copy of Wordstar on their PC lately? It plain won't run--you'll be lucky to escape the attempt without a reboot--and even if you could get it running through some miracle of reconfiguration, it probably wouldn't work with printers sold in the last ten years. And while I haven't researched it, presumably PROMIS is minicomputer--not PC--software, running on something like a DEC PDP-11 or VAX. Try to buy a mini nowadays, or get an old one supported. Or even find the 8" floppy disks, Hollerith cards or hulking Winchester disk-packs used as media for such beasts. The last refurb house for big disk-packs that I'm aware of went out of business over a year ago. Its last customer was the U.S. Government and its creaking air-traffic-control system... I'm sure any other customer for such equipment would have raised much curiosity, especially if it involved support for systems in Kabul or Baghdad.

So this whole tale depends on the wild notion of Saddam et fils taking clandestine possession of a piece of antediluvian software with no connectivity, no support of recent hardware, no compatibility with recent operating systems or network architectures, probably no graphics and with an obscure text-oriented user interface, running on obsolete computers whose makers stopped supporting them years ago and may no longer be in existence.

It's a fascinating story, but more fascinating is the credulity of those who perpetuate it as a scandal without questioning these obvious technical potholes.

Saddam and bin Laden huddling in a bunker using PROMIS in hopes of hacking into our intelligence and financial nets? We should be so lucky. The frustration would kill 'em faster than we could.
3 posted on 07/11/2003 5:30:59 AM PDT by RightOnTheLeftCoast
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To: RightOnTheLeftCoast
Don't forget the Gov always pays twice commercial price for computers that are already antiquated when purchased. This PROMIS may be run on mainframes accessed by dunb terminals.
4 posted on 07/11/2003 5:44:50 AM PDT by steve8714 (American lasts are wider than Euro or Asian.)
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To: Boyd; Uncle Bill; thinden; Nita Nupress; aristeides; rubbertramp; metalbird1
The House Judiciary Committee also found in 1992 that there was "strong evidence" the Justice Department had conspired to steal the PROMIS program.

PROMIS-Inslaw ping!

5 posted on 07/11/2003 5:48:35 AM PDT by Fred Mertz
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To: RightOnTheLeftCoast
It's magic!

Magic software that runs on magic VAX machines...

VAX machines that had as much horsepower as a modern cell phone (without the communications capabilities)...

Saddam and Osama must shop at eBay to keep their super powerful VAX machines up and running so they can spy...

Just think, if it was fully equipped with the most expensive modem available at the time (several thousands dollars) it can communicate at 9600 baud over a conditioned telephone line... Maybe they can connect to some lost and forgotten bulletin board in a Russian basement…
6 posted on 07/11/2003 5:53:00 AM PDT by DB ()
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To: Fred Mertz

I think you will like this article from 7/6. Curious that Michelle would pick up on this story accept for that fact that she seems to understand her audience and appeal.
7 posted on 07/11/2003 6:00:37 AM PDT by JohnGalt (They're All Lying)
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To: RightOnTheLeftCoast
The age factor was the first thing I thought of also; I'm glad I'm not alone on this point. Also, if there was dirt on Ed Meese and other Reagan officials, wouldn't Comrade Xlinton and his lap dog Reno be all over it? Heck, they may have even halted their persecution of Bill Gates and the legal tobacco industry long enough to go after them...
8 posted on 07/11/2003 6:15:17 AM PDT by HenryLeeII
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To: HenryLeeII
Fair question, unless of course you dig a little deeper and see that Hillary did some work for Alltel/Systematics then it starts to look like Iraqgate redux, with Hillary sitting on the board at Lafarge Corporation.
9 posted on 07/11/2003 6:18:50 AM PDT by JohnGalt (They're All Lying)
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To: RJCogburn
The Inslaw/Promise scandal is a blot against Fedgov. The deeper you look at it, the dirtier it gets. It is vivid example of serious corruption in our government.

It will never be admitted to by the government or seriously investigated by the press though, because it would expose the dark side of the finances of both republicans and democrats at the highest levels of our government. The media won't touch it either except very peripherally.

10 posted on 07/11/2003 6:41:48 AM PDT by zeugma (Hate pop-up ads? Here's the fix: Now Version 1.4!)
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To: RightOnTheLeftCoast
From what I understand ,PROMIS was supported and distributed by Systamatics of Little Rock throught the 1990's. THis was/is a large company that supports banking software world-wide. Plenty of resources to modify and keep up with modern technology. Systematics was owned by Jackson Stephens and his brother (sorry forgot his name). These guys were reputed to be Clinton's sugar daddy (oddly, they also heavily supported Dole in 1996). Systematics is now owned by Alltel. Vince Foster was reported to be involved in the legal/financial matters concerning the PROMIS distribution. Other names that pop up in the PROMIS story include Danny Casalaro (dead), Michael Riconosciuto, the security comapny Wackenhut Wackenhut, Jim Keith (dead), BCCI ...
11 posted on 07/11/2003 6:47:08 AM PDT by tang-soo
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To: Fred Mertz; thinden
This story is huge and needs to be followed. The codes for Air Force One were compromised on 9/11. How come?
12 posted on 07/13/2003 5:23:45 AM PDT by rubbertramp
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To: rubbertramp
Not only the codes for Air Force One. NORAD happened to be running a training exercise the morning of 9/11. If somebody leaked to the Islamofascists the timing of that exercise, they could very well have been counting on having it delay reaction to their actions that morning.
13 posted on 07/13/2003 7:23:50 AM PDT by aristeides
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To: aristeides; Fred Mertz
Remember the terrorist at LAX that had worked for I think the name was Mercury?

Supposedly that company did refueling for Air Force One?

And the code was ,some say, stolen?

I sure didnt get very far in searching that one.
14 posted on 07/14/2003 6:35:48 AM PDT by Betty Jo
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To: tang-soo; Uncle Bill; thinden; rdavis; Shermy; The Great Satan; OKCSubmariner; ...
Jackson Stephens!

I was just reading about him and BUSH and Harken and Arbusto and BCCI and Mahfouz and so on.
15 posted on 07/14/2003 6:43:28 AM PDT by Betty Jo
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To: rubbertramp; Betty Jo; aristeides
>>The codes for Air Force One were compromised on 9/11.

MY candidate--- that FBI agent who refused to wear a wire in a couple of cases, including the SamiAlArian and who was subsquently posted to Saudi as chief anti terror liasiion.

"angel is next" was the msg received by the WH on 9.11. Angel being the codeword for AF1.

Funny how all these old names keep popping up -- BCCI, Promis, etc. I'm sure the Saudis would never have dreamed of passing that software on to AQ.
16 posted on 07/14/2003 10:35:57 AM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: archy; All
archy,any connections to any of your strange "Sikh security"

I forget the name of the company.

Sometime I think the web IS a giant conspiracy to make me even crazier!
17 posted on 07/14/2003 1:42:22 PM PDT by Betty Jo
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To: Betty Jo
And don't forget last December's bust of PTECH in Mass.

Just inventory and logistics software, that's all, nothing important.
18 posted on 07/14/2003 1:46:26 PM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: swarthyguy
The bad guys are so embedded in the cyber systems that they know stuff before we do!

I saw on the FOX ticker tonight that America is contemplating reverse 911 calls made to us ,to warn us when the incoming is about to hit the fan.

Does this have anything at all to do with the new opting out of telemarketing calls?

Think of the millions of phone calls that wont be cluttering up the wires, and the "freeing up " of the lines.

19 posted on 07/14/2003 6:55:41 PM PDT by Betty Jo
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