Background


PROMIS is
believed by some to be the forefunner to the now infamous “Prism” program by
the National Security Agency (NSA).  The “Prism” program was brought to
light by leaker Edward Snowden, yet it is now coming to light, that a program
has existed long before this new revelation.  It was known as PROMIS.


PROMIS is
also the name for a Department of Justice computer software program.  In
the mid-1970s, Inslaw, Inc., a small Washington D.C. software development
company, created for the a highly efficient, people-tracking, computer program
known as Prosecutor’s Management Information System (Promis). Inslaw’s
principal owners, William Anthony Hamilton and his wife, Nancy Burke Hamilton,
later sued the United States Government (acting as principal to the Department
of Justice) for not complying with the terms of the Promis contract and for
refusing to pay for an enhanced version of Promis once delivered. This
allegation of software piracy led to three trials in separate federal courts
and two congressional hearings.


The
following article excerpt is used to best explain the program as connected to
the NSA – while the FOIA documents follow below.




PRISM’s Controversial Forerunner

By Richard
L. Fricker

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.”

Continue reading this article…


The FOIA Documents


Department of Justice (DOJ)


 Report
of Special Counsel Nicholas J. Bua to the Attorney General of the United States
Regarding the Allegations of INSLAW, Inc., March 1993, and the 1994 DOJ Report
on INSLAW/PROMIS matter, released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of
Information Policy (OIP)
 [465 Pages, 11MB] – Special thanks to GovernmentAttic.org
for this record.


National Security Agency (NSA)


 Letter
regarding the NSA use of the PROMIS System
[4 Pages, 1.1MB] – The NSA did
find a considerable amount of documents, however, they are requiring a payment
of $440 for the release of the material. This is a bit too high for me to
afford, but if you are interested in sponsoring the release of these documents,
you can CONTACT
The Black Vault and let me know!



Please note: Additional
FOIA requests have been filed about PROMIS and will be added here.

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