Nov. 13, 1991
Former U.S. Attorney General Demands Special Prosecutor In Inslaw Software
By Paul DeRienzo
The piracy of a compute program coveted by spies the mysterious death
of an Indian dissident on a reservation that’s alleged to be controlled
by intelligence agents and the Mafia, and shadowy figures involved in
the Iran-contra and BCCI scandals who are seen in capitols from Baghdad
to Tel-Aviv. This isn’t the latest Tom Clancey thriller, this is
real-life America today. The story of the Inslaw scandal.
Deeper Than Watergate
Former Attorney General Elliot L Richardson, now a lawyer with a private
practice in Washington, is probably best remembered for resigning as Attorney
General under former President Richard Nixon during the famous "Saturday
Night Massacre." Richardson had refused orders by Nixon to fire Special
Prosecutor Archibald Cox whose investigation into the Watergate scandal
would eventually lead to Nixon’s 1974 resignation.
Seventeen years later Richardson is again calling for a special prosecutor
"to maintain the integrity" of a decade long investigation into
the alleged theft by the United States justice Department of a software
system called PROMIS (PROsecution Management Information Systems) designed
o use by public prosecution agencies. An investigation, Richardson says,
already indicates stronger presidential involvement than the early days
of the Watergate investigation.
Richardson is now the legal counsel for Inslaw, the company formed to
develop PROMIS software in the early ’80s. The president of Inslaw,
Bill Hamilton, has charged that the justice Department purposely withheld
millions of dollars in payments due Inslaw and made illegal copies of
the software in order to drive Inslaw into bankruptcy. In 1987 Hamilton’s
charges were upheld by then federal bankruptcy judge, George Bason, who
accused the justice department of using "trickery, fraud and deceit"
to take the software,
The next year Bason was denied reappointment to the bankruptcy court and
was replaced by an attorney who had argued the case against Inslaw,
In a recent interview on Undercurrents, a New York based investigative
radio program, Richardson described the PROMIS software as capable of
tracking thousands of individuals whose cases are winding through the
Courts. Richardson Aso claims that the significance of the PROMIS software
is that it has "capabilities that would lend themselves very well
to keeping track of the same kind of information in context of intelligence
gathering and espionage."
According to Richardson this makes it plausible" that the PROMIS
software was in fact sold to the intelligence agencies of several foreign
countries as several informants have charged. Richardson says that "people
I’ve talked to in the world of intelligence have confirmed the allegation
of the informants."
Testimony in the Inslaw case provided by Art Ben Menashe, a former Israeli
intelligence operative, Iranian arms dealer Richard Babayan and imprisoned
computer scientist Michael Riconoscitito claim that the software was sold
to the governments of 88 countries. According to Riconosciuto the software-as
modified for use by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian
Security and intelligence Service
Hamilton, the president of Inslaw told the Guardian that the Canadian
government initially admitted to him that they had installed PROMIS at
more than 900 sites in Canada but when he tried later to get confirmation
Canadian officials said the software was actually from another vendor.
Ben-Menashe says he attended 2 meeting in Tel-Aviv in 1997 where Dr. Earl
Brian, a long-time associate of former President Ronald Reagan, allegedly
made a sales pitch for PROMIS to Israel. According to Richard Babayan,
Brian was involved with Iran-contra figure retired General Richard Secord
in sales of PROMIS to Iraq and South Korea. Brian, who is a much decorated
Vietnam veteran, and heads the recently bankrupt Infotechnology financial
holding company, which in turn controls United Press international, has
called the charges a "tissue of lies."
Richardson says that there would be a valuable motive for providing PROMIS
to other countries. He maintains that his intelligence sources say that
the United States would be able to use their intimate knowledge of PROMIS
and knowledge of which countries were using the software to better "interpret
the electronic signals picked up from those intelligence agencies."
However, Richardson also admits that he holds no direct evidence beyond
the testimony of the informants that PROMIS was sold to other countries.
He says, "we have never yet seen a tape which conclusively established
that another country has it."
I Despite the lack of a so-called "smoking gun," or incontrovertible
proof that PROMIS was provided to other countries, Richard says the allegations
are "plausible enough that they should be the Subject of a focused,
impartial and thorough investigation of a kind that nobody can make without
the resources that only a special prosecutor can have."
Murder On The Reservation
Among the investigations that are keeping the allegations of scandal in
the Inslaw case alive are events at a Southern California Indian reservation.
Near the town of Indio the tiny tribe of3O Cabazon Indians share a 1700-acre
reservation where Michael Riconosciuto says that under the direction of
Dr. Earl Brian he modified the PROMIS software for sale to foreign intelligence
In Early September, Robert Litmann, a reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle
wrote about a joint venture between the Cabazons and the Wackenhut Corporation,
a private security firm known for Its connections to the U.S. intelligence
community, for the purpose of veiling the development of high technology
military projects behind the exemption to state laws conferred by the
sovereign status of the tribe.
The Cabazon tribe has been administered since 1978 by a self-proclaimed
intelligence operative, John P. Nichols, whose connections to the failed
Colorado based Silverado Savings and Loan, which included President Bush’s
son Neil on its Board of Directors were documented in the book Inside
Job by Stephen Pizza. In 1995 Nichols was sentenced to 18 months in prism
for attempting to arrange a contract killing.
According to the Chronicle story Nichols met with the Saudi royal family
to draft a security plan for Crown Prince Fahd’s palace, met with
the U.S. army to propose manufacturing artillery shells and put forward
a plan to develop biological weapons on the reservation. The reservation
which sports a huge gambling casino, power plant and medical waste incinerator
was also the site of night vision goggle demonstrations for Nicaraguan
contra leader Eden Pastora.
However, the most alarming occurrence on the Cabazon reservation was the
June, 1981 execution style murder of Fred Alvarez, a Cabazon Indian leader
who opposed Nichols.
While Nichols denies any involvement with the still unsolved killings,
Alex Ewen, the editor of Native Nations wrote in 1987 that Cabazon Indians
opposed to Nichols experienced "force and threats to intimidate"
and that Nichols had "illegal padded the tribal membership roll with
new, previously unheard of Cabazons." Ewen also quoted charges that
Nichols hired his three sons and a mob enforcer to maintain control of
Speaking to Pacifica radio in late August, Michael Riconosciuto maintained
that Alvarez was involved in the October Surprise, an alleged plot by
the Reagan presidential campaign to steal the 1980 Presidential election
that Riconosciuto claims was hatched on the Cab2zon reservation, but that
he became disillusioned and began to publicly speak out against Nichols’
control of the reservation.
A Cabazon opponent of the Nichols family control of the reservation is
Linda Streeter-Dukic. She says its time that the Cabazons begin questioning
the use of the tribe’s sovereign status and the exemptions from
state and local laws that come with it. Streeter-Dukic told the Chronicle
that if Nichols and his sons lost control of the tribe "they would
lose their sovereignty, and that’s everything."
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