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the inslaw case

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  • the inslaw case

    Inslaw, Inc. is a software company which enhanced a software package it had developed for the United States Government, calling it the Prosecutor's Management Information System (PROMIS). The government modified its contract with INSLAW to obtain the modified version of PROMIS but refused to pay for it after once delivered. This allegation of software piracy led to trials in three different federal courts and congressional investigations that generally ruled in Inslaw's favor. However, as of 2006, the company has not recovered any monies or royalties.

    PROMIS contract and allegations of theft

    In March 1982, the Department of Justice awarded INSLAW Inc. a $10 million, 3-year contract to implement a version of PROMIS in the 22 largest United States Attorneys Offices.

    While the PROMIS software could have gone a long way toward correcting the Department's longstanding need for a standardized case management system, the contract between INSLAW and Justice quickly became embroiled in bitterness and controversy which has lasted for over two decades. The conflict centered on the question of whether INSLAW had ownership of its privately-funded "Enhanced PROMIS," a different version of the software, for which the government had never obtained a license. Enhanced PROMIS was eventually installed at numerous U.S. Attorneys Offices following an April 1983 modification to the contract.

    In his court cases, William Hamilton was represented by lawyer Elliot Richardson, formerly the U.S. Attorney General under President Nixon.

    Federal investigations

    Two different federal courts made fully litigated findings in the late 1980s that the Justice Department "took, converted, stole" the Enhanced PROMIS installed in U.S. Attorneys Offices "through trickery, fraud, and deceit," and then attempted "unlawfully and without justification" to force INSLAW out of business so that it would be unable to seek restitution through the courts. These courts ruled that the Justice Department used the contract modification to steal a version of PROMIS for which it had no license.

    Leigh Ratiner (of Dickstein, Shapiro and Morin, which was the 10th largest firm in Washington at the time) was the lawyer who obtained a favorable ruling for INSLAW. He was fired in October 1986, reportedly after the Mossad arranged a payment of $600,000 to his former firm, which was used as a separation settlement. See "Who Fired Inslaw's Lawyer?" [1]

    In September 1992, the House Judiciary Committee issued an Investigative Report confirming the Justice Department's theft of PROMIS. This report was issued after the Justice Department had already convinced a federal appellate court to set aside the decisions of the first two federal courts on a jurisdictional technicality, without addressing the merits of their rulings. The Committee also reported investigative leads indicating that friends of the Reagan White House had been allowed to sell and distribute PROMIS domestically and overseas for their personal financial gain and in support of the intelligence and foreign policy objectives of the United States.

    In May 1995, the Senate ordered the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to determine if the United States owes INSLAW compensation for the government's use of PROMIS. In August 1998, the Chief Judge of the court sent an Advisory Report to the Senate stating that INSLAW owns the copyright rights to PROMIS and never granted the government a license to modify PROMIS to create derivative works, and that the United States would be liable to INSLAW for copyright infringement damages if the government had created any unauthorized derivatives from PROMIS.

    The government flatly denied during the court proceedings what it later admitted, i.e., that agencies such as the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies used PROMIS to keep track of their classified information. The U.S. Government has never paid INSLAW for any of these unauthorized uses of PROMIS, despite legal rulings in favor of Inslaw.

    Later developments

    In early 1999, the British journalist and author, Gordon Thomas, published an authorized history of the Israeli Mossad entitled "Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad". The book quotes detailed admissions by the former long-time deputy director of the Mossad about the partnersip between Israeli and U.S. intelligence in selling in excess of $500 million worth of licenses to a Trojan horse version of PROMIS to foreign intelligence agencies in order to spy on them.

    In 2001, the Washington Times and Fox News each quoted federal law enforcement and/or intelligence officials familiar with the debriefing of former FBI Agent Robert Hanssen as claiming that Hanssen had stolen for the Soviet KGB copies of PROMIS-derivative software used within the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies to track the intelligence information they produce, and used by U.S. intelligence within banks to track financial transactions. These reports further stated that Osama bin Laden later bought copies of the same PROMIS-derivative software on the Russian black market for $2 million and al Qaeda used the software to penetrate U.S. intelligence database systems so that it could move its funds through the banking system and evade detection and monitoring by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

    [edit] Deaths allegedly related to the Inslaw case

    While investigating elements of this story, journalist Danny Casolaro died in what was twice ruled a suicide. Casolaro had warned friends prior to his death if they were ever told he had committed suicide not to believe it, and to know he had been murdered.[2] Many have argued that the death was curious, deserving closer scrutiny; some have argued further, believing the death was a murder, committed to hide whatever Casolaro had uncovered. Kenn Thomas and Jim Keith discuss this in their book, The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro (The Octopus was the name that Casolaro had intended to give his book). A United States House of Representatives report on the Inslaw affair thought that the circumstances of Casolaro's death were suspicious: "As long as the possibility exists that Danny Casolaro died as a result of his investigation into the INSLAW matter, it is imperative that further investigation be conducted."[3]

    There were a number of other suspicious deaths or disappearances connected to the Inslaw case:

    * An unsolved triple homicide involving Fred Alvarez, Ralph Boger, and Patricia Castro in late June/early July 1981. Alvarez was the Deputy Tribal Chairman of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, and had become outspoken regarding corruption and shadowy government ties to the Cabazon tribe. He expressed some of these views to the press before meeting his fate. Alvarez and Boger were scheduled to meet with an unknown party to present proof of many of the alleged misuses of tribal land the day after their bodies, along with the body of Alvarez's girlfriend Patricia Castro, were discovered. They allegedly had information regarding arms deals, weapons testing, and illegal modifications made to PROMIS software, all taking place on tribal land. The daughter of Ralph Boger continues to look for justice in the case and has documents on her website[4] relating the Cabazon Indian Tribe to arms manufacture and export. She explains the bizarre circumstances surrounding her father's murder; the police never notified her family of the murders, which they learned about from watching the local news. Furthermore, authorities refused to show the family Boger's body and allegedly had him cremated without their consent. The house in which the murders occurred was bulldozed within two days, and mysterious "guys in black suits" are said to have appeared at the funeral.
    * The shooting death of Anson Ng (a reporter and friend of Casolaro). According to a 1991 issue of the TC Technical Consultant story, "In July, Anson Ng, a reporter for the Financial Times of London was shot and killed in Guatemala. He had reportedly been trying to interview an American there named Jimmy Hughes, a one- time director of security for the Cabazon Indian Reservation secret projects."[5]
    * The shooting death of Dennis Eisman (Michael Riconosciuto's attorney). According to the same TC Technical Consultant story, "In April, a Philadelphia attorney named Dennis Eisman was found dead, killed by a single bullet in his chest. According to a former federal official who worked with Eisman, the attorney was found dead in the parking lot where he had been due to meet with a woman who had crucial evidence to share substantiating Riconosciuto's claims [regarding Inslaw]."
    * The poisoning death of Ian Spiro, who was supposedly a Casolaro informant and was allegedly involved in the Inslaw affair; Spiro's wife and children had been killed a few days before Spiro's body was found. In 1995, Kevin Brass reported in San Diego magazine that Spiro's brother-in-law Greg Quarton suspected the Mossad was involved in Spiro's death, while "Ex-hostage Peter Jacobsen confirmed to the media that Spiro was indeed involved in the release of hostages in the Middle East," referring to the October Surprise scandal. Brass further notes that "According to court documents filed shortly after the murders, Spiro was holding computer equipment essential . . . to prove a Justice Department conspiracy to steal sophisticated computer software."[6]
    * The mysterious death of Bill McCoy, a retired Chief Warrant Officer from the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Division, who had been involved in the investigation of the PROMIS software saga. He died at home in 1997, and his body was cremated within 48 hours, despite his saying several times over the previous years that he wanted to be buried next to his wife, and in less than four days all of McCoy's furniture, records and personal belongings had been removed from his home by his son, a full Colonel in the Army. The house had been sanitized and repainted and, aside from the Zen garden in the back yard, there was no trace that McCoy had ever lived there.

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      One of the biggest problems plaguing the employees of today is the possibility of an Unfair Dismissal. Whilst the law has been changed to ensure that employers who fire their staff without due cause are punished accordingly, there are a still a number of cases constantly going through the court system in which an employee claims they have been wrongly dismissed.