PROMIS SOFTWARE SCANDAL – some documents

12 11 2009

Inslaw and PROMIS

Oversight by Congress of the Justice Department in the PROMIS Dispute

Project: Loss of US Civil Liberties
Open-Content project managed by Paul, KJF, PDevlinBuckley, blackmax

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A Canadian government official says that Canada is using the PROMIS software, according to Inslaw owners William and Nancy Hamilton. The Hamiltons pass the information on to the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating allegations that the US Justice Department has misappropriated an enhanced version of the software from Inslaw and passed it on to other governments. The official, Marc Valois of the Canadian Department of Communications, apparently says that PROMIS is being used to support 900 locations around the Canadian government. (US Congress 9/10/1992) Another Canadian official will soon make a similar statement (see January 1991), but both he and Valois will later say they were not referring to Inslaw’s PROMIS, but to a product of the same name from a different company (see March 22, 1991).

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The House Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law holds a hearing about the failure of Attorney General Richard Thornburgh to provide full access to all documents and records about the Inslaw case. At the hearing, Inslaw owner William Hamilton and its attorney Elliot Richardson air their complaints about an alleged criminal conspiracy in the Justice Department’s handling of a contract with Inslaw and its alleged theft of an enhanced version of the PROMIS application. Steven Ross, the general counsel to the clerk of the US House of Representatives, refutes the Justice Department’s rationale for withholding documents related to possible wrongdoing by its officials involved with the Inslaw contract. In addition, Government Accountability Office representatives describe deficiencies in the Justice Department’s Information Resources Management Office and its administration of data processing contracts.
Bason’s Allegations – Judge George Bason, a bankruptcy judge who had found in favor of Inslaw in a dispute with the department (see September 28, 1987), testifies that he believes his failure to be reappointed as bankruptcy judge was the result of improper influence on the court selection process by the department because of his findings. Bason cites information provided to him by a reporter (see May 1988) and negative statements about him by departmental employees (see June 19, 1987 and June 1987 or Shortly After). After investigating these allegations, the committee will find: “The committee could not substantiate Judge Bason’s allegations. If the Department of Justice had influence over the process, it was subtle, to say the least.” Bason will point out that Norma Johnson, the judge who chaired the meeting at which he was not reappointed (see December 15, 1987), had previously worked with departmental official Stuart Schiffer, who was involved in the Inslaw case. However, the committee will comment that it has “no information that Judge Johnson talked to Mr. Schiffer about Inslaw, Judge Bason, or the bankruptcy judge selection process.”
Thornburgh’s Reaction – Following this hearing, Thornburgh agrees to cooperate with the subcommittee, but then fails to provide it with several documents it wants. (US Congress 9/10/1992)

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A second Canadian government official says that Canada is using the PROMIS software, according to Inslaw owners William and Nancy Hamilton. The Hamiltons pass the information on to the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating allegations that the US Justice Department has misappropriated an enhanced version of the software from Inslaw and passed it on to other governments. The official, Denis LaChance of the Canadian Department of Communications, apparently says that PROMIS is being used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to support its field offices. (US Congress 9/10/1992) Another Canadian official had previously made a similar statement (see November 1990), but both he and LaChance will later say they were not referring to Inslaw’s PROMIS, but to a product of the same name from a different company (see March 22, 1991).

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A Canadian government official tells the US House Judiciary Committee that Canada is reluctant to cooperate with the committee’s inquiry into the alleged theft of a version of the PROMIS software by the US Justice Department and its subsequent passage to Canada. This is in response to a letter sent on February 26, 1991, in which the committee asked Canadian Ambassador Derek Burney for help determining what version of the software the Canadian government was using. The official, Jonathan Fried, counselor for congressional and legal affairs at Canada’s Washington embassy, says that “Canadians had been burned once before by Congress,” and imposes conditions on Congressional questioning of Canadian officials. The conditions are that interviews of individuals be conducted only in the presence of lawyers for the relevant departments and their superiors and that no Canadian public servants would be witnesses in any foreign investigative proceedings. The committee accepts these conditions in mid-March, and identifies the two Canadian officials it wants to speak to (see November 1990 and January 1991). (US Congress 9/10/1992)

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Shortly before the US House Judiciary Committee interviews two Canadian officials who have said Canada has the allegedly stolen PROMIS software (see November 1990 and January 1991), the Canadian government contacts the committee and imposes a further condition on the interviews. The Canadians had already insisted the officials be accompanied by minders (see Shortly After February 26, 1991), but now says that, in addition, they will only answer questions specifically related to the software. They will not answer questions about any allegations that four software programs that may have been acquired by the Canadian government may be derivates of the PROMIS software. If the committee wants information about such alleged derivatives, it will have to submit a written request. (US Congress 9/10/1992)

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Two Canadian officials who had previously said that the Canadian government was using Inslaw’s PROMIS software now tell the US House Judiciary Committee that it is not. In an interview with the committee, officials Denis LaChance and Marc Valois of the Canadian Department of Communications say that they had incorrectly identified software used by the Canadians as being Inslaw’s PROMIS (see November 1990 and January 1991), whereas in fact it was actually project management software from a company called the Strategic Software Planning Corporation that is also called PROMIS. Despite an objection by the Canadians to them being asked about PROMIS derivatives in Canada (see Before March 22, 1991), the two officials also say they do not use or know of a derivative of Inslaw’s PROMIS in Canada. The president of the Strategic Software Planning Corporation will later acknowledge in a sworn statement to committee investigators that his company had sold a few copies of his firm’s PROMIS software to the Canadian government in May 1986. (US Congress 9/10/1992)

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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)

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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).

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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)

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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)

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