“The Octopus” was researcher Danny Casolaro’s term for the vast series of interlocking conspiracies he believed he had uncovered when investigating the Inslaw case before his death.

The suspicious circumstances of his death (he was found with his wrists slashed in a hotel room on 10 August 1991) and the fact that some of his research notes seemed to be missing just as he had apparently been on the verge of a major breakthrough have led many in the conspiracy research community to believe that Casolaro had indeed uncovered something big.

Casolaro had been investigating the alleged theft by the Justice Department of a software program called PROMIS developed by the Inslaw company. A database software program, PROMIS was originally designed as a tool to aid prosecutors in tracking criminals in the justice system.

According to Casolaro, however, the program had been stolen by members of the Octopus, who first engineered a secret, digital “back door” capacity allowing them undetected access, before selling it to other intelligence agencies in the United States and around the world.

The illegal acquisition and subsequent sale was allegedly masterminded by President Reagan’s attorney general, Edward Meese, and his coconspirator, Earl Brian, as part of the reward to the Ayatolloah Khomeini for the “October Surprise,” the much-rumored but probably untrue story of a plan to delay the release of the U.S. hostages held by Iran in order to aid Reagan’s campaign for the presidency.

The charge of theft was rejected by a federal court, although the revelations in the Iran-Contra hearings seemed to bear out some of Casolaro’s ideas—at the very least, many of the same names and associations came up.

As Casolaro began to investigate further, he saw signs of the Octopus in Hughes Aircraft, in the Wackenhut corporation, which for a time supplied security for Area 51, the secret military base in the Nevada desert, and in a series of murders in the Cabazon tribe of Native Americans in California, which had supposedly been engaged in a joint venture with the Wackenhut corporation.

Many of Casolaro’s leads, however, were supplied by Michael Riconosciuto, who was at the time serving a prison sentence for fraud, but who claimed he had inside knowledge of the PROMIS case.

As with the investigation into the Kennedy assassination, Casolaro believed he had uncovered a pattern of suspicious deaths of anyone who became involved in the story, a factor that led later researchers to consider Casolaro’s own suicide as suspicious.

These later researchers have continued from where Casolaro’s fragmentary notes left off, with claims that the complicated and often contradictory tentacles of the Octopus conspiracy have been connected with the death of Vince Foster (one theory is that banks had got hold of the PROMIS software and had thrown light on secret accounts), the death of Princess Diana (Dodi Fayed’s uncle, an arms dealer, appears in Casolaro’s notes), and September 11 (it is rumored that Osama bin Laden purchased an enhanced version of PROMIS from the Russians that enabled him to evade capture).