- An October 16 FOX News report by correspondent Carl Cameron
indicating that convicted spy, former FBI Agent Robert Hanssen, had provided
a highly secret computer software program called Promis to Russian organized
crime figures - who in turn reportedly sold it to Osama bin Laden - may
signal a potential intelligence disaster for the United States. Admissions
by the FBI and Justice in the FOX story that they have discontinued use
of the software are most certainly a legal disaster for a government that
has been engaged in a 16-year battle with the software's creator, William
Hamilton, CEO of the Inslaw Corporation. Over those 16 years, in response
to lawsuits filed by Hamilton charging that the government had stolen the
software from Inslaw, the FBI, the CIA and the Department of Justice have
denied, in court and under oath, ever using the software.
- Bin Laden's reported possession of Promis software was
clearly reported in a June 15, 2001 story by Washington Times reporter
Jerry Seper. That story went unnoticed by the major media. In it Seper
wrote, "The software delivered to the Russian handlers and later sent
to bin Laden, according to sources, is believed to be an upgraded version
of a program known as Promis - developed in the 1980s by a Washington firm,
Inslaw, Inc., to give attorneys the ability to keep tabs on their caseloads.
It would give bin Laden the ability to monitor U.S. efforts to track him
down, federal law-enforcement officials say. It also gives him access to
databases on specific targets of his choosing and the ability to monitor
electronic-banking transactions, easing money-laundering operations for
himself or others, according to sources."
- In a series of excellent stories by The Times, and as
confirmed by parts of the FOX broadcast, it appears that Hanssen, who was
arrested in February, in order to escape the death penalty this summer,
agreed to provide the FBI and other intelligence agencies with a full accounting
of his sale of Promis overseas. Reports state that almost until the moment
of his capture, Hanssen was charged with "repairing" and upgrading
versions of the software used by Britain and Germany.
- On October 17, two different spokespersons at the FBI's
Office of Public Affairs told FTW, "The FBI has discontinued use of
the Promis software." The spokespersons declined to give their names.
- On October 24, Department of Justice spokesperson Loren
Pfeifle declined to answer any questions about where, when or how Promis
had been used and would say only, "I can only confirm that the DoJ
has discontinued use of the program."
- Inslaw had two limited contracts to provide Promis to
Justice in 1982 and 1983. Neither application had anything to do with tracking
terrorist activities. Hamilton's suits charged that Reagan Administration
officials, including Edwin Meese, pirated the software, modified it for
intelligence and financial uses and made millions by selling it to the
governments of Israel, Canada, Great Britain, Germany and other friendly
nations. After the installation of a CIA-created "back door"
into the program, Israel, using its lifelong Mossad agent Robert Maxwell,
reportedly sold the software to "unfriendly" nations and then
secretly retrieved priceless intelligence data.
- The statements of FBI and Justice sources in the FOX
story on October 16 have made Hamilton's case. They also give but the barest
hint of the security breaches that may now be helping the most wanted man
in the world. Bin Laden's reported possession of Promis may also explain
the alleged threatening messages that were received by President Bush while
aboard Air Force One on September 11th.
- A mild uproar erupted in the days after the WTC attacks
when Presidential aide Carl Rove indicated that threatening calls had been
placed to Air Force One just hours after the attacks while President Bush
was onboard. Some journalists excoriated Rove for suggested that bin Laden
might have a mole in the White House who could have given bin Laden the
secure codes to reach the aircraft in flight.
- Bin Laden's possession of Promis would provide a possible
explanation. According to Hamilton, under the right circumstances, Promis
could have enabled the threatening calls to be made. "I have no way
of knowing whether any Promis-related base has dial-up access to Air Force
One. But if that happens, and if you have Promis, it's a straightforward
thing to do. But one would still need to have access to the targeting computer.
- "There is a central locator system to track members
of the National Command Authority 24/7. If that is a database created with
Promis and if anyone had access you could do it."
- Such a penetration using Promis might also explain why
Vice President Dick Cheney was hurriedly whisked out of sight and reportedly
taken to a secure underground facility, where he reportedly works to this
day. Cheney's prolonged absences from the public eye would also be explained
by such a breach of security.
- Numerous news stories, books and investigative reports,
including a September 2000 story in FTW (Vol. III, No.7), spanning nearly
two decades, have established that Promis holds unique abilities to track
terrorists. The software has also, according to numerous sources including
Hamilton, been modified with artificial intelligence and developed in parallel
for the world's banking systems to track money movements, stock trades
and other financial dealings. Systematics - since purchased by Alltel -
an Arkansas financial and technical firm headed by billionaire Jackson
Stephens, has often been reported as the primary developer of Promis for
financial intelligence use. Systematics through its various evolutions
had been a primary supplier of software used in inter-bank and international
money transfers for many years. Attorneys who have been connected to Systematics
and Promis include Webster Hubbell, Hillary Clinton and the late Vince
- If true, and if claims by the FBI and the Department
of Justice that they have "recently" discontinued the use of
Promis are accurate, the likelihood than bin Laden may have compromised
the systems the U.S. government and its allies use to track him is high.
Additional information in the FOX broadcast indicating that Britain stopped
using the software just three months ago and that Germany stopped using
the software just weeks ago are equally disturbing. These are mission-critical
systems requiring years of development. What has replaced them? And even
if the U.S. government has replaced the software given to its allies with
newer programs - several of which FTW knows to be in existence - the FOX
report clearly implies that bin Laden and Associates have had ample time
to get highly secret intelligence data from both Britain and Germany. Those
systems might, in turn, have compromised U.S. systems. The WTC attacks
had - by all reckoning - been in the works for years, and bin Laden would
certainly have known that the U.S. would be looking for him afterwards.
- What is Promis and what does it do?
- Promis stands for Prosecutor's Management Information
- In the late 1970s the legal system of the United States
Department of Justice (DoJ) was comprised of more than thirty semi-autonomous
regional U.S. Attorneys (USA) offices. Each had a computer system to track
case management for prosecutions, investigations, and civil litigations.
The problem was that they used as many as seven different programming languages.
This made the transmission and sharing of information between offices virtually
impossible. The computers in the USA's office in San Francisco could not
read files sent from the USA in New York.
- The genius of Hamilton and Inslaw was to create a software
program that could access files in any number of databases and programming
languages and translate and then unify them into one consistent file. Promis
was the Rosetta stone of computer languages.
- Inslaw won a $10 million, three-year contract in March
1982 to install a 16-bit architecture version of Promis, which the government
had the right to use but not the right to modify without paying license
fees to Inslaw, on government computers in the 22 largest U.S. Attorneys'
Offices. In April 1983, the second year of the three-year contract, the
government modified Inslaw's contract in order to obtain delivery of a
32-bit architecture version of Promis, which the government could not even
use without paying license fees. In modifying the contract, the government
promised to pay license fees if it decided to substitute the 32-bit version
for the 16-bit version. In May 1983, the month following Inslaw's delivery
of the 32-bit version of Promis, the government reneged on its contractual
agreement to pay license fees and simultaneously began to find fault with
Inslaw's implementation services as justification for withholding services
- The Justice Department thereafter withheld $1.77 million
in services payments forcing Inslaw to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
in February 1985.
- In January 1988, following several weeks of trial in
1987, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court issued fully litigated findings of fact
that the Justice Department "took, converted, stole" the 32-bit
version of Promis "through trickery, fraud and deceit," implemented
the 32-bit version of Promis in the 44 largest U.S. Attorneys Offices,
and then tried to force INSLAW out of business in order to incapacitate
INSLAW from litigating the Justice Department's theft of Promis. The Bankruptcy
Court imposed a compulsory license on the 44 largest U.S. Attorneys Offices
for the perpetual use of the 32-bit version of Promis and issued a permanent
injunction against any further dissemination of Promis by the government
except under license from Inslaw.
- Subsequent appeals by the government saw the original
rulings overturned on legal, not factual, grounds. Legal actions in the
case continue to this day. Hamilton told FTW that none of the uses described
above had anything to do with any licensing agreements for the software's
use to track terrorists, intelligence matters or worldwide financial transactions.
- The paper tracking of the refinements in Promis after
the legal dispute erupted between INSLAW and the Reagan administration,
verifies that at least one version of Promis was given to Martin Marietta,
now Lockheed-Martin, which is now the nation's second largest defense contractor.
Until late 2000, Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney sat
on Lockheed's board of directors. Research conducted by many investigative
journalists has indicated that Promis has spread widely throughout the
defense contractor network. FTW has received multiple reports of Promis
use by companies and institutions like DynCorp, Raytheon, Boeing, SAIC
and the Harvard Endowment as well as by government agencies such as the
Financial Criminal Enforcement Network (FINCEN) and the U.S. Treasury.
- Here's how powerful the software is.
- Approximately two weeks after the September 11 attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the History Channel aired a
documentary entitled "The History of Terrorism." In that documentary,
a law enforcement officer described some of the methods used to track terrorist
movements. He stated that "computers" were able to track such
things as credit card purchases, entry and exits visas, telephone and utility
usage etc. It was implied that these diverse data base files could be integrated
into one unified table. He gave an example that through the use of such
a system it would be possible to determine that if a suspected terrorist
entered the country and was going to hide out, that by monitoring the water
and electrical consumption of all possible suspects in a given cell, it
would be possible to determine where the terrorist was hiding out by seeing
whose utility use increased.
- Conversely, it would be possible to determine if a terrorist
was on the move if his utility consumption declined or his local shopping
patterns were interrupted. Aren't those "club" cards from your
- This is but the barest glimpse of what Promis can do.
Mated with artificial intelligence it is capable of analyzing not only
an individual's, but also a community's entire life, in real time. It is
also capable of issuing warnings when irregularities appear and of predicting
future movements based upon past behavior.
- In the financial arena Promis is even more formidable.
Not only is it capable of predicting movements in financial markets and
tracking trades in real time. It has been reported, on a number of occasions,
to have been used, via the "back door" to enter secret bank accounts,
including accounts in Switzerland and then remove the money in those accounts
without being traced. Court documents filed in the various INSLAW trials
include documentation of this ability as well as affidavits and declarations
from Israeli intelligence officers and assets.
- The one essential weakness of Promis is that it must
be physically installed on a targeted computer for it to be effective.
Hence, if Osama bin Laden is able to penetrate a U.S. Government system
it must mean that Promis is there.
- FTW has previously reported that the CIA uses Promis
to track stock trades in real time. Thus, as described in FTW stories on
insider trading directly connected to the September 11 attacks, the Agency
had the ability to determine that immediate impending attacks were planned
against both American and United Air Lines. The Israeli Herzliyya Institute
for Counterterrorism was able to publish a detailed accounting of the trades
within days of the attacks and their report underscores the connection
between counterterrorist efforts and the monitoring of financial markets.
[See FTW Vol. IV, No 7 - Oct. 15, 2001] Suspicions of CIA advance knowledge
of the attacks were heightened when FTW disclosed that the current Executive
Director of the CIA, A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard was, until 1998, the
CEO of A.B. Brown, the company which handled many of the suspicious trades.
- All of these abilities were a given when this writer
met with members of the RCMP National Security Investigation Section in
the summer of 2000. Our meetings were reported in the Toronto Star and
are described in the previously referenced issue of FTW. A key question
that lingered after the meetings with the RCMP was how many versions of
the software had the CIA and the U.S. government given out and might they
not have been also using a back door against "friendly" nations
for economic motives to give advantage to U.S. companies. It was not a
question that the RCMP dismissed as unlikely.
- FOX news reported that Osama bin Laden once boasted that
his youth "knew the wrinkles of the world's financial markets like
the back of their hands and that his money would never be frozen."
He may be right. And an administration so lost in covering up criminal
conduct - no less than the conduct of the ones which preceded it -- while
trying to fight a war at the same time -- might find itself doubly wounded
by the software of Bill Hamilton and Inslaw.