The INSLAW Affair
The story behind the theft of the PROMIS software
Institute for Law and Social Research
Inslaw, Inc. is a small, Washington, D.C.-based, information technology company. In the mid-1970s, Inslaw developed for the United States Department of Justice a highly efficient, people-tracking, software 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.
During ensuing investigations, the Department of Justice was accused of deliberately attempting to drive Inslaw into Chapter 7 liquidation; and of distributing and selling stolen software for covert intelligence operations of foreign governments such as Canada, Israel, Singapore, Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan; and of becoming directly involved in murder.
Later developments implied that derivative versions of Enhanced Promis sold on the black market may have become the high-tech tools of worldwide terrorists such as Osama Bin Laden and international money launderers and thieves.