The head of a computer firm wants the independent commission named to investigate September 11 intelligence failures to review accusations that his software-tracking program, which he says the Justice Department stole, was diverted to Osama bin Laden.
William H. Hamilton, president of Inslaw Inc., said the commission — headed by former New Jersey Gov. David H. Kean — should focus on the validity of published reports saying bin Laden penetrated classified computer files before the attacks to evade detection and monitor the activities of US law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
The 10-member Commission on Terrorist Attacks will have the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents in an effort to determine whether intelligence lapses by the FBI, CIA and other agencies contributed to the deadly success of the September 11 attacks.
“Bin Laden reportedly bought the US intelligence community’s version of the Promis database software on the Russian black market, after former FBI Agent Robert P. Hanssen had stolen it for the Russians, and used Promis in computer-based espionage against the United States,” Mr Hamilton said in a two-page fact sheet.
“The national commission may wish to examine whether the Justice Department’s misappropriation of Promis was, at a minimum, linked indirectly to pre-September 11 performance problems of US intelligence,” he said.
Law enforcement authorities said Hanssen gave secret US software to his Russian handlers that later went to bin Laden, allowing him to monitor US investigations of his al Qaeda terrorist network.
The Washington Times reported last year that an upgraded version of the Promis software was routed to bin Laden after Hanssen, who is now serving life in prison for his espionage activities, had sold it to Russia for $2 million.
The software not only would have given bin Laden the ability to monitor US efforts to track him down, the authorities said, but also could have given 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.
The government has denied using the Promis software or that Hanssen delivered it to the Russians, but charged in a criminal complaint against the former FBI agent that he made extensive use of the bureau’s computerized case management systems — Field Office Information Management Systems (FOIMS) and Community On-Line Intelligence Systems (COINS) — as part of his activities.
The government also said Hanssen gave his handlers a technical manual on the US intelligence community’s secure network for online access to intelligence databases. Law enforcement authorities said FOIMS and COINS are believed to be upgraded versions of the Promis software.
Mr Hamilton said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III acknowledged to Inslaw attorney C. Boyden Gray in late 2001 that the FBI system was based on “the Inslaw software,” a fact the bureau had vigorously denied for more than a decade. He said Mr Mueller referred further inquiries to the Justice Department, although a requested meeting never was scheduled.
“The national commission will need to overcome resistance from the Justice Department, remarkable for both its ferocity and tenacity, to any inquiry that might even imply the existence of the department’s improprieties regarding Promis,” Mr Hamilton said.
He said federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the FBI, later denied under oath that they had used the program, but the government did “an abrupt about face” a month after the September 11 attacks following news reports that bin Laden might have used the Promis program.
Mr Hamilton said the FBI confirmed on Oct. 16, 2001, that the government had used Promis to track classified information in federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Inslaw battled the Justice Department for more than a decade over a $10 million, three-year contract to install the Promis program. A federal court initially ruled the department had used “trickery, fraud and deceit” to steal the Promis program, but that ruling later was overturned in the government’s favor. The House Judiciary Committee, after a three-year investigation, also found in 1992 that there was “strong evidence” the Justice Department had conspired to steal the Promis program.