Now the scandal-ridden PROMIS software has reared its head again. This time, it looks like former FBI agent-turned-spy Richard Hanssen was responsible for getting PROMIS into the hands of Osama bin Landen:
FOX SPECIAL REPORT WITH BRIT HUME eMediaMillWorks, Inc
Date: October 16, 2001
Time: 18:00 Tran: 101601cb.254 Type: Show Head: Political Headlines Sect: News; Domestic Byline: Brit Hume, Bret Baier, Carl Cameron, Brian Wilson, Jim Angle Spec: Terrorism; Military; Afghanistan; Diseases; Government; World Affairs BRIT HUME, FOX ANCHOR: Welcome to Washington. I'm Brit Hume. The Pentagon now says the Taliban has been, in effect, gutted as a fighting force, as the war over Afghanistan has clearly entered a new phase. The bombing over the last 24 hours has been up close and powerful, with lethal weapons not previously used, brought into play.
. . .
. . . HUME: All right, Bret, thanks very much.
There's now a disturbing indication that Robert Hanssen, the FBI man accused of spying for the Russians in what officials said at the time of his arrest was a massive security breach, ended up helping Osama bin Laden.
As correspondent Carl Cameron reports, Hanssen sold the Russians an extremely sensitive piece of U.S. technology, and the indications are that they, in turn, sold it to bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network -- Car.
CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT
(voice-over): Fox News has learned that government officials suspect Osama bin Laden may have highly sophisticated U.S. government software, that has been used by several governments, including the United States, for classified intelligence and law enforcement information.
Bin Laden allegedly purchased it from Russian sources, after Russia got it from convicted spy and former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was nabbed earlier this year.
Hanssen lived in a quiet Virginia neighborhood outside Washington until his arrest. Sources say to avoid the death penalty, for what some have described as the worst U.S. intelligence breach in decades, he confessed to giving Russia vast amounts of information, including, sources say, a software program developed by the Inslaw company in Washington.
The software program is called Promis. Sources tell Fox that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have used and constantly modified Promis software to manage caseloads, track and store classified information, and keep it secure for decades.
But the concern is that bin Laden or Al Qaeda could get on-line and use it to monitor the worldwide criminal investigation and hide themselves, to monitor the worldwide financial investigation and hide their money, or monitor government operations of the governments that use the software.
As a senior agent in the FBI's counterterrorism bureau, sources say Hanssen was tasked with helping allies like Germany and England with the installation and use of their versions of the Promis program. Numerous countries now, however, are tightening their cyber security. Germany stopped using Promis software just last week. Great Britain began closing it down just a few months ago. Canada has actually investigated potential tampering with its Promis programs, and Israel has used it on and off for years, too.
CAMERON: And the United States has been constantly updating the encryption and coding of its software for a number of months. And after the Hanssen case, the FBI, the Justice Department and various different intelligence operations all say, Brit, that they took a wide array of steps in order to improve the security of the information.
It's interesting to note that shortly after the attacks, when the U.S. crackdown on bin Laden's finances began, bin Laden in Afghanistan granted an interview to a near eastern journalist, and he was talking about the efforts to freeze his money. And he said -- quote -- "Al Qaeda's youths are highly educated and are as aware of the cracks in the financial and the computer systems of the world as they are in the lines in their hands."
HUME: What does that mean?
CAMERON: Well, it means that bin Laden is believed to have access to his money, even with the international effort to freeze it. And as for U.S. intelligence information, all we can get from the U.S. government is that they are no longer using Promis software. But they won't not say exactly when they stopped it, though it's presumed, right after the Hanssen case.
HUME: Well, in order for al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden to do anything with this software, they have to have some sort of an Internet connection, and they have to be able to hack their way into U.S. government and other databases, in order to get contemporary data for the software to be of any value, correct?
CAMERON: So as soon as the U.S. government stopped using Promis, presumably, that made it virtually impenetrable by bin Laden. But the idea that he would be in a cave and not able to log on doesn't necessarily apply, because we know that there are al Qaeda operatives around the world who could log on.
HUME: All right, Carl. Thanks very much.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects