The RCMP says it's conducting a national security investigation into allegations that computer software used by some federal agencies, including the Mounties themselves, contains a secret "trap door" that gives U.S. and Israeli intelligence services access to sensitive Canadian government data.
The investigation, which has been continuing for "several months," has produced "absolutely nothing to date to indicate national security has been compromised in any way," Staff Sergeant Mike Gaudet, a spokesman for the RCMP, said yesterday.
He said the force has to investigate every allegation of this kind.
The allegations are not new. They were investigated and dismissed nine years ago by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service when reports surfaced in the United States that a computer program called Promis had been pirated and rigged by Israeli and U.S. intelligence services. The allegations were that the altered copies were made available to other countries with a "trap door," allowing the Israeli and U.S. services to hack into the databases of other governments.
The reports said the RCMP and CSIS were among the law-enforcement and intelligence services to which the allegedly altered software was made available.
CSIS spokesman Dan Lambert said yesterday, however, that the service conducted its own in-depth review in 1991 and found that it had no copies of Promis, bootlegged or otherwise, and never had.
The security of CSIS computer hardware and software is always a priority, Mr. Lambert added.
Canadian government officials at that time told U.S. congressional investigators that no government agency in Canada used the Promis software.
The original allegations that the software is used by the United States and Israel to spy on other countries emerge from a long-standing legal battle in Washington being fought by a software company, Inslaw Inc., which first developed the database-management software for the U.S. Justice Department.
Promis was developed to help prosecutors manage complex cases. Inslaw alleges that Justice Department officials in the Ronald Reagan administration pirated copies of Promis and passed copies along to Israel and other countries.
A U.S. government independent counsel in 1993 found no credible evidence to support Inslaw's allegations. The counsel, retired judge Nicholas Bua, said the company relied on witnesses who had credibility problems, including a former computer expert who is serving a sentence on drug charges and an Israeli who changed his story.