Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 9 Num. 55

("Quid coniuratio est?")


The book from which the following is excerpted, The Octopus: Secret Government and the Death of Danny Casolaro, by Kenn Thomas and Jim Keith, will be available in late November from Feral House, POB 3466, Portland, OR 97208.

One person who might have had a view of how PROMIS works was Charles Hayes. Newspapers identified Hayes as a salvage dealer in Pulaski County, Kentucky, near the temporary home of Ari BenMenashe in Lexington, who purchased $45 worth of surplus computer equipment from the government in July 1990. The equipment included 13 terminals, nine printers, two cartridge module drives, 19 backup cartridges and two central memory units--equipment that had been used by the US Attorney's office since 1983 to maintain information via PROMIS on the witness protection program, informants, office employees, and outstanding grand jury cases. In August, when federal officials discovered that a weak magnetic screwdriver had failed to purge this information from the equipment adequately, two FBI agents dispatched to make inquiries of Hayes were kicked out.(1) Three days later, Hayes began to cooperate with the US Attorney's office, denied that he had possession of any information that might have been on the equipment, and invited an inspection. Inspectors discovered that the serial numbers of the two cartridge modules that Hayes claimed were the ones he bought did not match the numbers of the modules the Justice Department had sold. (2) Hayes then claimed he had sold the modules, but did not name the purchasers until after federal officials filed a lawsuit.(3) Justice Department attorneys later claimed that Hayes had indeed tried to sell the secret information to an undercover informant, but criminal charges were never filed. (4) The case led to a congressional investigation of computer security; the Justice Department now tosses rather than sells its extra data storage devices.

(1) Baker, David L., "Computer Records Accidentally Sold," Lexington Herald-Leader, September 1, 1990. (2) Baker, David L., "Buyer Says Agents Didn't Find Computer With Secrets," Lexington Herald-Leader, September 5, 1990. (3) "Buyer of US Computer Files To Be Disclosed," Lexington Herald-Leader, September 6, 1990.
(4) Baker, David L., "US Says Pulaski Man Tried To Sell Secrets," Lexington Herald-Leader, September 22, 1990.


With the help of Wackenhut and the Cabazons, according to Ari Ben-Menashe, the US developed its own version of the back-door and the US and Israel began looking for a neutral company through which it could sell the program to foreign intelligence services. The company chosen for the task was Degem, a computer firm with offices in Israel, Guatemala and the South African Bantustan homeland. It had been taken over for the purpose by Robert Maxwell, the publishing mogul who drowned under mysterious circumstances in 1991. Through Maxwell's Degem, working in tandem with Brian's Hadron, the software found a home with the military regime in Guatemala, where it tracked leftist insurgents. "Even if they traveled under a false name, various characteristics, such as height, hair color, age, were fed into roadside terminals and PROMIS searched through its database looking for a common denominator. It would be able to tell an army commander that a certain dissident who was in the north three days before had caught a train, then a bus, stayed at a friend's house, and was now on the road under a different name. That's how frightening the system was." According to Ben-Menashe, PROMIS was used in South Africa to track and squelch the organizers of a strike among the black coal miners via their mandatory identity cards (5). Degem also sold PROMIS to the Soviet Union and the system was utilized by its GRU intelligence service at least until the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. (6)

(5) Oddly, a member of a congressional delegation sent on a factfinding tour to Johannesburg at the exact moment the world's second largest platinum mine fired 20,000 black workers to end a walk-out in January 1986, was Charles Hayes of Chicago. The mine was located in the homeland of Bophuthatswana, northwest of Johannesburg ("South African Platinum Mine Fires 20,000 Blacks Over Strike," Lexington Herald Leader, January 7, 1986.) In December of that year, the Charles Hayes, who would later buy the loaded Justice Department computers but identified then as an attorney, was involved with a gemstone smuggling operation in Brazil with links to Kentucky. He represented one of the Brazilian corporations indicted by the US over the smuggling. (White, Jim, Courier-Journal, September 6, 1990.) (6) Ben-Menashe, Profits of War, p. 141.

Kenn Thomas publishes Steamshovel Press, a journal that regularly examines conspiracy theories. Singles issues: $5.50 in USA; US$6.50 foreign. SUbscriptions: $22.00 in USA; US$26 foreign. Send to Steamshovel Press, POB 23715, St. Louis, MO 63121. On the web, Steamshovel can be found at:

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