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PRISM’s Controversial Forerunner

By Richard L. Fricker | Consortium News | July 11, 2013

Long before Edward Snowden’s claims or revelations that the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency were monitoring and tracking the Internet, cell phones, e-mails and any other electronic communication they could get their hands on using a program known as PRISM, there existed PROMIS [Prosecutors Management Information Systems].

PROMIS was designed in the late 1970s and ‘80s to bring Department of Justice criminal case management from the dark ages into the light of the computer age. In the spring of 1981, the Reagan Administration hailed PROMIS as one of law enforcements greatest assets. By 1983, PROMIS had morphed into the behemoth of intelligence gathering. It was not state of the art – it was the art.

Over the ensuing decades PROMIS is reported to have been used by the DOJ, CIA, NSA, and several foreign intelligence agencies including Israel’s Mossad. The ownership of PROMIS has been the subject of federal court hearings and a congressional investigation.

The capabilities of PROMIS as a data collection and tracking program have never been a secret. But the only discussion of PROMIS has been about theft and black-market sales. Neither the courts nor Congress have ever inquired as to privacy issues or the ethics of the program. There has been no rending of political robes as seen with the Snowden case. In fact, the function of PROMIS has been discussed in open court and various public arenas.

PROMIS is a tracking program with enhancements by Washington, DC-based Inslaw Inc., owned by Bill and Nancy Hamilton. PROMIS was developed under a Law Enforcement Assistance Administration [LEAA] grant. Bill Hamilton was employed by NSA for six years. He left the agency in 1966.

PROMIS was designed to track the vast amount of criminal cases piling up in DOJ offices across the country. Bill Hamilton, in an interview for this story, recounted, “It was always a tracking program. It was designed to keep track of cases in local U.S. Attorneys’ offices, which means street crimes, keep track of the scheduled events in court, what actually takes place, who’s there, witnesses, police officers, conclusions, convictions, acquittals, whatever.”

As the LEAA dissolved in the late days of the Carter Administration, the Hamiltons formed Inslaw and began to make modifications to the public domain PROMIS. The short version of the story: As originally designed, PROMIS ran only on 16-bit computers, but using their own funds, INSLAW converted the program to run on 32-bit VAX computers which were massive for their time.

The Reagan administration was very taken with the Inslaw version of PROMIS. In March 1982 Inslaw was awarded $9.6 million to install the program in 20 U.S. Attorney’s offices, with further installations in the remaining 74 offices, if successful. This would be the last government contact the Hamiltons would receive, not because the system failed – quite the contrary, it was too successful.

Hamilton explained, “We developed it originally just for prosecutors. But some of our users wanted to have it shared with the courts and the police. So, the software was engineered to make it adaptable. In making it highly adaptable, a byproduct was to make it useable for non-prosecutor tracking and that made it adaptable totally outside the criminal justice system.”

It became obvious with the latest round of modifications any data system could be integrated into PROMIS. And those data systems could interact – that is, combine – with each other forming a massive tracking data base of people via government documents such as birth and death certificates, licenses, mortgages, lawsuits or anything else kept in a data base. PROMIS could also track banking transactions, arms shipments, communications, airplane parts – again, anything kept in a data base.

With the discovery of these new capabilities Inslaw’s problems began. Unknowingly, the Hamiltons had embarked on an odyssey winding from the White House and the heart of the Reagan inner circle, bankruptcy court, a congressional investigation, secret informants, the CIA, NSA, and the Mossad.

The odyssey began in February 1983 when Dr. Ben Orr, an Israeli prosecutor, came to Hamilton’s office for a demonstration. He left, never placed an order and was never seen again. This was just one of the many demonstrations the company provided potential customers and the press. There was no shroud of secrecy about PROMIS or its capabilities.

Shortly after Dr. Orr’s visit, DOJ terminated payments to Inslaw, but refused to return the software. The company soon [June 1986] found its way into bankruptcy court. Inslaw put forth the claim that DOJ had stolen their software and made a concerted effort to drive them out of business. Bankruptcy Judge George Bason agreed.

In a 216-page opinion delivered in 1987, Judge Bason wrote that DOJ used “trickery, fraud and deceit” to steal PROMIS. He was later overruled by the DC District Court of Appeals on jurisdictional grounds. A previous district court supported his findings that PROMIS had been stolen. Bason became one of the very few Bankruptcy judges to not be re-appointed.

As the PROMIS odyssey continued, information began to surface that DOJ had provided the NSA and CIA with the enhanced 32-bit PROMIS. Stories began to circulate that friends of the Reagan Administration were selling black-market versions of PROMIS to anyone willing to pay the price.

Time and time again the veracity of government employees was called into question. In 1989, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Texas, launched what would become a three-year investigation into the theft of PROMIS and DOJ efforts to drive INSLAW out of business.

The Brooks report – dated Aug. 11, 1992 – not only agreed with Bason’s findings but went further: “High government officials were involved … individuals testified under oath that Inslaw’s PROMIS software was stolen and distributed internationally in order to provide financial gain and to further intelligence and foreign policy objectives.”

The report includes scathing comments about former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and several ranking DOJ staffers. Brooks recommended a settlement of Inslaw claims for damages and the appointment of a special prosecutor. Neither happened. Brooks said in an interview at the time, “[Inslaw] was ravaged by the Justice Department.” They were, he said, “treated like dogs.”

By this time nothing in the report surprised the Hamiltons. Seven months earlier they had discovered that their 1983 visitor, Dr. Ben Orr, was in fact Rafi Eitan, chief of the Israeli Defense Force’s [IDF] anti-terrorism intelligence unit. They further learned he left Washington carrying a copy of PROMIS.

The DOJ explanation was that he was given the 16-bit version, not the new improved 32-bit VAX version. The question would be: why the subterfuge? And why show off the superior 32-bit VAX version and then only provide the cheaper model? DOJ has never answered the question.

Through all this, Inslaw survived; Ireland installed PROMIS for case management, to track land records and in the bank credit system. Hamilton noted that every credit card transaction is tracked by PROMIS. The Netherlands uses the program to keep track of all the inmates in their prison system. The city of Rome has PROMIS for use in their tax office. In fact PROMIS is being legally used in several countries around the world.

Illegally? Who knows. The Canadian government once wrote Inslaw asking for an operating manual. Inslaw never sold PROMIS to Canada. A similar event popped up with Lithuania when a member of its parliament asked for help with its PROMIS program. In each case, when told they may have a bootleg version, the reply was, it must be a different PROMIS. To date, Inslaw has never received a dime for any government recommended settlements, some as high as $50 million.

Hamilton has declined to suggest that PROMIS was the frontrunner to PRISM. He said flatly in the interview for this article that his only information about PRISM is from news accounts.

Regardless of the Inslaw affair, PROMIS is still out there, still tracking whatever its masters require. And still, to this day, no one in government or otherwise has inquired, not about what PROMIS can do, but rather what is PROMIS doing, for whom and why.

PROMIS has been toiling in the intelligence caverns for nearly 30 years – that’s a lot of data consumption, that’s a lot of tracking. Where is the PROMIS data? Compared to 30 years of information gathering and tracking by PROMIS, PRISM could be considered the equivalent of digital binge drinking.

Richard L. Fricker was based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His last book, The Last Day of the War, is available at https://www.createspace.com/3804081.

September 22, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Prosecutions for Environmental Crimes Decline under Obama

By Steve Straehley | AllGov | September 22, 2014

The Obama administration has been far less aggressive about pursuing criminal prosecutions of environmental crimes than the George W. Bush administration, according to Justice Department figures.

Last year, there were 449 prosecutions for environmental crimes. That’s less than half the 927 prosecutions initiated in 2007, toward the end of the Bush administration. And the trend line is falling; there were 271 prosecutions in the first nine months of this fiscal year. If cases are filed at the current rate, that would result in only 361 for 2014, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

Any violation of environmental laws can result in a criminal prosecution, but according to Graham Kates at The Crime Report, only one-half of one percent do. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says they’re focusing on big cases, but fiscal considerations also play a part in deciding how many cases to prosecute. “The reality of budget cuts and staffing reductions make hard choices necessary across the board,” EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Colaizzi told The Crime Report.

Criminal prosecutions, particularly of large corporations, are simply more difficult. Corporations hire teams of lawyers to fight prosecutors every step of the way and watch closely for government missteps that can give grounds for appeal, dragging out the case for years.

“I think a criminal prosecution will be defended much harder, corporations will take that very seriously, and investors take that very seriously,” Mark Roberts, an attorney and international policy advisor with the Environmental Investigation Agency, told The Crime Report. “If you’re in that tiny percentage that gets charged criminally, you want to win.”

A former EPA criminal investigator pointed out the effort involved in prosecuting a big company: “The typical corporate case can take two to three and a half years. But if you have ‘Joe Schlock the barrel hauler,’ you catch him red-handed and you’re out in two months,” David Wilma said.

Polluters aren’t even the biggest target of environmental prosecutions. Illegally taking fish and wildlife and illegal possession of migratory birds are the top two lead charges in the TRAC database. Water pollution is third and air pollution, ninth.

To Learn More:

Environment Prosecutions Decline Under Obama (TRAC Reports)

The Environmental Prosecution Gap (by Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest)

Environmental Crime: The Prosecution Gap (by Graham Kates, Crime Report)

When Companies Break Environmental Laws, Why are Responsible Individuals not Prosecuted? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

September 22, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Environmentalism, Progressive Hypocrite | , | Leave a comment

‘Anti-nuclear’ Obama plans to spend $1 trillion on nukes

RT | September 22, 2014

Despite campaigning on a platform that endorsed having “a nuclear-free world” in the not so distant future, United States President Barack Obama is overseeing an administration that’s aim has taken another path, the New York Times reported this week.

On Sunday, journalists William Broad and David Sanger wrote for the Times that a half-decade of “political deals and geopolitical crises” have thrown a wrench in the works of Obama’s pre-White House plans, as a result eviscerating his previously stated intentions of putting America’s — and ideally the world’s — nuclear programs on ice.

According to the Times report, an effort to ensure that the antiquated nuclear arsenal being held by the US remains secure has since expanded to the point that upwards of $1 trillion dollars is now expected to be spent on various realms of the project during the next three decades, the likes of which are likely to keep the trove of American nukes intact and do little to discourage other nations from doing likewise.

“The original idea was that modest rebuilding of the nation’s crumbling nuclear complex would speed arms refurbishment, raising confidence in the arsenal’s reliability and paving the way for new treaties that would significantly cut the number of warheads,” the journalists wrote. “Instead, because of political deals and geopolitical crises, the Obama administration is engaging in extensive atomic rebuilding while getting only modest arms reductions in return.”

Shortly after he first entered the oval office in early 2009, the Nobel Peace Prize commission awarded Pres. Obama with its highest award for, among other factors, taking a strong stance against international nuclear procurement.

“I’m not naïve,” Obama said that year. “This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence.”

After speaking with analysts, however, the Times journalists — both Pulitzer winners — now raise doubts that the commander-in-chief’s campaign goals will come to fruition anytime soon.

“With Russia on the warpath, China pressing its own territorial claims and Pakistan expanding its arsenal, the overall chances for Mr. Obama’s legacy of disarmament look increasingly dim, analysts say,” they wrote. “Congress has expressed less interest in atomic reductions than looking tough in Washington’s escalating confrontation with Moscow.”

Indeed, international disputes have without a doubt raised concerns in recent years over the nuclear programs of other nations. The Washington Post reported this week that Pakistan is working towards achieving the capability to launch sea-based, short-range nuclear arms, and concurrently the Kremlin confirmed that Russia is set to renew the country’s strategic nuclear forces by 100 percent, not 70 percent as previously announced.

As those countries ramp up their nuclear programs on their own, the Times report cites a recent study from the Washington, DC-based Government Accountability Office to show that the US is making more than just a minor investment with regards to America’s nukes. According to that report, 21 major upgrades to nuclear facilities have already been approved, yet in the five years since Obama took office, “the modernization push” to upgrade the nukes has been “poorly managed and financially unaccountable.”

“It estimated the total cost of the nuclear enterprise over the next three decades at roughly $900 billion to $1.1 trillion,” the journalists noted. “Policy makers, the [GAO] report said, ‘are only now beginning to appreciate the full scope of these procurement costs.’”

September 22, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | 1 Comment

Israelis frightened of a newborn’s name

By Jonathon Cook | The Blog from Nazareth | September 22, 2014

Israel is a Jewish state, as everyone keeps reminding us. Lots of things Israel would prefer you never hear about flow from that strange characterisation, including a two-tier system of rights conferred by two different citizenship laws, one for Jews and one for non-Jews (that is, mostly Palestinians living inside Israel). Much of my journalism has sought to document the very ugly racism inherent in the Jewish state’s self-definition.

But here’s a revealing little story about how the idea of a Jewish state touches on the most intimate areas of Israelis’ lives, areas that should be inconsequential to a normal kind of state.

A few days ago, Israel’s interior ministry published a list of the most popular boys and girls’ names in time for the Jewish new year. It was publicised as the list of the most popular Israeli names. I was surprised that not one Arab name made it into the top 10, even though a fifth of Israel’s population are Palestinians. I should not have been. In fact, as Haaretz now reports, several Arab names were in the top 10 – including Mohammed, which was actually at number one. Israeli officials simply dropped it and any other Arab-sounding names from the list.

The deep chauvinism at work here is illustrated by the fact that the most popular name listed, Yosef, only came first because the Arabic version (Yusuf), which is spelt the same in Hebrew, was included. So the issue for the interior ministry was simply to prevent Israeli Jews and Jews overseas from seeing any Arab-looking names on the list.

The names of newborns are a contested issue in Israel only because of the deep-seated ethnic insecurities of the Jewish majority. That insecurity looks here to be simply petty. But that very same pettiness also lies behind Israel’s security and demographic obsessions, its profound militarisation, and the systematic oppression of Palestinians.

September 22, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

Israeli occupation authorities demolish Muslim tombs in occupied Jerusalem

MEMO | September 22, 2014

Al-aqsa-Mosque-through-pillarsIsraeli occupation authorities demolished 20 Palestinian tombs on Sunday in Al-Yousefiyeh Cemetery near Al-Asbat Gate of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Al-Resalah news agency reported.

The cemetery is adjacent to the Eastern Wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem. The Israeli authorities demolished the tombs, belonging to Palestinian families from Jerusalem, claiming that they were built on lands appropriated by the state.

Head of the Committee for the Caring of Islamic Cemeteries in Jerusalem Mustafa Abu Zahra strongly criticised the demolition, calling it an “aggression” against the sanctity of dead Muslims.

Abu Zahrah explained that the demolished tombs were recently built in the cemetery, which belongs to the Islamic Waqf and thus Muslims do not have to get permission from anyone to use it.

He noted that hundreds of Palestinian Muslim martyrs are buried at the cemetery, which also has an Islamic memorial inside of it. He said that a group of tombs that had recently been built were being used while another group of them remained empty.

According to Abu Zahrah, the Israeli occupation authorities destroyed both the empty tombs and the ones being used.

September 22, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | 1 Comment

UN plan to ensure reconstruction materials not diverted to Hamas

Palestine Information Center – 22/09/2014

GAZA – The United Nations’ top Mideast envoy, Robert Serry, wants to station hundreds of international monitors in the Gaza Strip to supervise the reconstruction process in Gaza Strip, the Hebrew newspaper Haaretz learned from European diplomats and senior Israeli officials.

The newspaper pointed out that Robert Serry has agreed upon the proposal along with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamallah and Coordinator of the Israeli government in Palestinian territories Yoav Mordechai.

Serry is liaising with the PA and Israel to bring between 250 and 500 UN monitors into the Strip, the sources added.

50 UN monitors are currently in Ramallah and ready to head to Gaza Strip to participate in supervising rebuilding work in the Strip. The monitors’ mission is mainly to supervise big reconstruction projects and safeguard materials and to ensure that nothing would be diverted to Hamas Movement for tunnels digging.

Hamas has yet to comment on the proposal, the Hebrew newspaper said, adding that the Islamic movement realizes that Israel only allows construction materials’ access to the Strip in the presence of UN monitors.

The proposal is expected to be addressed during the Israeli-Palestinian indirect talks on Wednesday.

September 22, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment