Michael Riconosciuto In ‘The Octopus Murders’: What Is PROMIS App?

American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders, the brand-new documentary on Netflix, was not only about the Octopus Conspiracy but also about many characters that were voluntarily and involuntarily involved in it. Many wanted to expose the scam and present the truth to the world. Apart from Daniel Casolaro, who was going after the intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice, there were men like Michael Riconosciuto who were willing to help Daniel but were bound by many obstacles. 


Michael Riconosciuto was one of the key players in the Octopus Conspiracy, which allegedly involved many wrongdoings carried out by several high-profile government agencies. As per the documentary, the agencies that were involved in these were the CIA, NSA, NSC, and the Department of Justice. The New York Times journalist Christian Hansen had resurrected the subject of the deceased freelance journalist Daniel Casolaro, who was found dead inside the bathtub of a hotel. Though the police dubbed his death suicide, countless people, including Daniel’s brother, claimed he was killed for working on a project that could jeopardize the American government on a national as well as global stage. This was set during the 1990s, but the alleged incident surrounding the conspiracy has been brewing since the 1970s in America. 

The 1970s were a time when America was engrossed in the Vietnam War. The Cold War between the Americans and the Russians was also at its peak when Michael Riconosciuto came into the picture as a highly intelligent kid, and his work was extensively covered by the media back then.  At his peak, he was arrested for developing synthetic drugs illegally, but the intelligence agencies had made note of the man and his expertise in the subjects of computer science, chemistry, and physics. Michael was one of the first people to make Daniel aware of the Octopus, a conspiracy included many alleged crimes and scams carried out by American agencies. Michael was one of the few strong and influential men who were aware of the stories from the inside and was willing to get Daniel to understand the repercussions of their actions.


Daniel was more than elated to have received data from Michael, but there was no indication of his job profile or his real identity. There were speculations about whether he was a scientist or a spy working for an American intelligence agency. Michael, as Daniel described him, was ‘a dangerous man,’. As Daniel further investigated there were many paper trails and proof that indicated Michael was the man who knew a lot about the workings of the government. His knowledge of key science-related subjects allowed him to become one of the top men in intelligence. 

Michael played a key role in modifying the state-of-the-art software “PROMIS” developed by Bill Hamilton for the Department of Justice. The said department forced Bill into bankruptcy through the nonpayment of their retainer. The alleged real reason behind Bill having to give up on “PROMIS” and his company, Inslaw Inc., was the intelligence agencies’ interest in tweaking the software as per their requirements. The plan was to sell the software to the intelligence agencies of several countries around the world, including their allies, and spy on them using this device. Michael was aware of this alleged conspiracy, and so was Daniel, who never ceased his work on the expose. 


Michael was briefly aware of the Cabazons mafia syndicate, which involved John Philip Nichols. Michael and John Philip Nichols were aware of the strong firearms-related work that was being carried out at the Cabazon Indian Reservation. The same land was being utilized by John Philip Nichols for a casino and a cigarette factory. A venture that only benefited John Philip Nichols and not the locals. Michael’s father had worked in intelligence, and this connection allowed him to retain contacts with the agencies for the work assigned to him. 

Michael eventually decided to come clean about his role in pirating the “PROMIS” software and his role in promoting Wackenhut. This was regarding the Inslaw Inc. lawsuit, and Michael was willing to speak on behalf of Bill Hamilton’s company. Wackenhut, on the other hand, was a government-backed enterprise of which John Philip Nichols was a part. They were involved in several illegal activities, and Michael was tired of being in a circle that was not concerned about ethics. He made the mistake of making his intentions public, which led to his arrest. Michael was not arrested by the local police or the FBI; he was detained by the Drug Enforcement Administration, also known as the DEA. As per the officials speaking in the documentary, Michael was given a maximum sentence, which was bizarre for drug charges. 


Michael tried to free Daniel Casolaro from prison but was unsuccessful. The man was constantly worried that the people who got him arrested were keeping an eye on his movements and phone calls, which forced him to remain quiet during his time in prison. This was the second time Michael was sent to prison on drug charges. The people in power demonstrated their influence, which was an expected move. Michael had many contacts, but his one-step cost him his freedom. Christian Hansen, the journalist, wrote a letter to Michael and, he responded. Christian picked up Michael from the prison in 2017, and the latter was keen to leave the town quickly for his parole hearing at the Washington State Court, which was due in seventy hours. His absence would have him serve jail time for the next eleven years. 

Christian was keen on hearing the truth from Michael, but the man was too terrified to take names. He did not hesitate to mention Daniel’s hunger to get to the bottom of the conspiracy and reveal the truth to the world. He believes this cost not just Daniel’s, but the lives of many others who decided to stand up to the administration. Even though Michael was the key person, Christian could not get the aging man to talk on tape about the reality of what went down twenty-five years ago. His prison time probably made him wary of whom to trust, and he kept many details to himself instead of endangering his life yet again and possibly facing a future in prison. 


The documentary ended with Michael Riconosciuto’s frantic phone call to Christian. He was desperate to talk about Daniel and the Octopus conspiracy. Michael was horrified at the thought of more people dying if the truth about the scam was not brought to the public’s attention. Sadly, Michael did not dare speak the truth on camera. He strongly felt everyone involved in the documentary would be eliminated, just like Daniel was. Michael had spent more than half of his life in prison. He refused to go on record with his details only because he was afraid of being thrown in federal prison for speaking the truth. Michael was in no condition to leave the country either because of his criminal past. He was left with no choice but to give a statement off the record and prevent Christian from facing the fate of Daniel.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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