Copyright © 1996 The Washington Weekly ( All Rights Reserved.
Reproduced by special arrangement with Informatics Resource and the Washington Weekly.

By Garrett N. Ray, Contributing Reporter

INSLAW Inc. of Washington will soon return to its spooky, decade-long wrangle with the Department Of Justice in an upcoming May 28 appearance before the U.S. Court Of Federal Claims. The maker of prosecutorial tracking software has had at least three previous legal encounters with the DoJ, charging that the agency stole, modified, and illegally distributed the company's proprietary PROMIS software beginning in 1982 and continuing even today.

INSLAW's attorney C. Neal Pope of Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick & Morrison in Atlanta, told Washington Weekly, "We are seeking to prove that PROMIS was distributed without authorization by the Department of Justice to other agencies, and that each copy resulted in damages to INSLAW and to [INSLAW owners] Nancy and Bill Hamilton."

Federal Bankruptcy judge George F Bateson found in 1987 that the DoJ "stole INSLAW's software by trickery, deceit, and fraud." A 1992 investigation by the Congressional Committee on the Judiciary recommended that the DoJ "remunerate INSLAW for the harm the Department has egregiously caused the company." Despite those rulings, the DoJ continues to maintain that it has an "unlimited use" license for PROMIS.

What won't be argued or even whispered in court, according to parties familiar with the case, is the murkier charges surrounding PROMIS, the DoJ, a variety of intelligence agencies, and the Systematics software subsidiary of Alltel Corp., based in Little Rock.

Rumors persist that an early-1980s version of PROMIS - obtained from DoJ - was modified and distributed by the National Security Agency to monitor Latin American interbank transfers at The World Bank. Other versions with secret "trap doors" are said to have been widely-distributed to foreign intelligence and law enforcement agencies for covert monitoring by the CIA, DIA, and NSA. Another version of PROMIS is said to have been adapted and further modified for the purpose of money laundering by Little Rock banking software company Systematics, Inc., now a subsidiary of Alltel Corp. The banking version allowed "off the books" money transfers between banks. Alltel executives and attorneys have denied the charges.

[Published in the March 25, 1996 issue of The Washington Weekly]