spy `trap' scandal
RCMP cast wider net in
software spy probe
Cast of characters deepens intrigue
in Promis case
By Allan Thompson and Valerie
Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau
first time that there has been the
possibility of a credible criminal
investigation of this.'
- Inslaw Inc. co-founder
OTTAWA - RCMP officers have travelled across
North America to interview former Israeli spies,
a convicted drug dealer, financiers and
conspiracy theorists, probing claims that foreign
agents used rigged software to hack into secret
Canadian computer files.
The Mounties are tight-lipped about their
mysterious investigation, code-named ``Project
Abbreviation,'' and will confirm only that
they're looking into an alleged breach of
information obtained by The Star indicates that
RCMP officers have waded into the mire of a
tangled conspiracy theory.
have opened a Pandora's box,'' said one player in
the intelligence community familiar with the
Star first revealed on Aug. 25 that the RCMP's
national security section is probing claims the
computer software program known as Promis was
sold to the RCMP and CSIS in the early 1980s, and
then used by U.S. and Israeli agents to eavesdrop
RCMP reluctantly confirmed the existence of the
investigation, but have refused to comment
allegations were at the centre of a political
scandal that first made headlines in the U.S. in
the early 1990s and has never been resolved.
is impossible to ascertain with certainty what
prompted the RCMP to launch an investigation
details of the probe so far show that RCMP
officers have already gone to considerable
lengths visiting the stations of the cross of one
of the longest-running conspiracy theories in
Hamilton, co-founder of Washington-based Inslaw
Inc., alleges the U.S. government stole Promis
from him, and then - along with the Israelis -
sold pirated versions to intelligence agencies
around the world.
also believes those stolen versions were equipped
with a hidden ``trap door'' that allowed spies to
peek into top-secret databases and download any
information they wanted. Their intent was
allegedly to line their own pockets and finance
such covert operations as the arming of
1987, an American bankruptcy court ruled there
was evidence the U.S. justice department used
``trickery, fraud and deceit'' to steal Promis
ruling was later overturned on procedural
three-year investigation by the U.S. House
judiciary committee said some justice department
officials had acted to ``misappropriate'' the
software and called for an independent counsel to
look at the case.
later report by a retired judge hired to probe
the matter said there was no credible evidence
the software had been stolen by the U.S. justice
The Star revealed last month that the RCMP was
conducting an investigation, the Promis software
story hadn't made headlines for nearly a decade.
weeks ago, RCMP investigator Sean McDade
cautioned The Star to be wary of the web of
intrigue surrounding the affair and the wild-eyed
stories told by some of those involved.
guarantee you that a lot of information that's
being circulated out there, there are people who
should just shut up because they don't know what
they're talking about,'' McDade said.
that doesn't explain the wide-ranging list of
informants that have been interviewed in recent
months by McDade and partner Randy Buffam:
Riconoscuito, now imprisoned in Allenwood, Pa.,
on drug charges, was interviewed by an RCMP
investigator who told Riconoscuito's lawyer he
was probing a possible breach of Canada's
national security. Riconoscuito, a computer
wizard with connections to the intelligence
community, said in a 1991 affidavit that he
helped modify Promis software for use by the RCMP
also seems to be the tenuous link between the
RCMP's software probe and the investigation of a
three-year-old double homicide in California.)
Seymour, a researcher and writer who lives in
California, confirmed that an RCMP investigator
has interviewed her twice, the first time in
February and most recently in early August.
has written a manuscript entitled The Last
Circle, which detail her findings on alleged drug
smuggling, money laundering and covert operations
linked to the Promis software sales.
said RCMP investigator McDade spent three days in
February at her home poring over documents she
says she obtained from file boxes belonging to
RCMP, said Seymour, ``walked into something that
was way beyond what they originally
Aviv, a former Israeli intelligence agent who is
now a New York-based investigator, said several
RCMP officers have questioned him in recent
months about the Promis affair. Aviv said RCMP
investigators asked him to keep quiet about the
details of their probe. But he said it does
involve allegations that British media tycoon
Robert Maxwell - who died in 1991 - arranged for
the Promis software to be sold to Canada.
Belton, a former Ontario stockbroker who has been
obsessively gathering information on the Promis
affair for years, said the RCMP have interviewed
him numerous times over the last 18 months at his
home outside Ottawa. Belton said other executives
at the brokerage firm where he once worked got
involved in shady financial dealings that were
linked to the Promis software sale in Canada.
journalist Mike Ruppert, a former Los Angeles
police officer who now runs a Web site that seeks
to expose CIA covert operations, said he met with
RCMP investigator McDade on Aug. 3 in L.A.
Ruppert said the RCMP officer was anxious to see
documents he received three years ago from a
shadowy Green Beret named Bill Tyre detailing the
sale of rigged Promis software to Canada.
founder Hamilton told The Star the Mounties first
called him earlier this year. He has spoken with
McDade ``probably dozens'' of times since then.
who refused to talk about exactly what the
Mounties want to know from him, has a lot at
stake in the probe and doesn't want to jeopardize
the first time that there has been the
possibility of a credible criminal investigation
of this,'' Hamilton said.