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[infowar.de] FBI durchsucht Softwarefirma wg. angeblicher Bin Laden-Verbindung
Feds Raid Software Company Suspected of Terror Ties
Fox News Channel, Friday, December 06, 2002
BOSTON ? Federal agents late Thursday night raided a Quincy, Mass.,
company that provides critical software to major U.S. agencies and is
suspected of having ties to Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda terrorists.
But shortly before noon Friday, the government said Ptech Inc.'s
software was safe, after studying its code for evidence it might do
anything other than advertised, such as allowing insiders to read or
steal sensitive data.
Ptech's clients include the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Energy
Department, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Naval air systems, the
U.S. Air Force, NATO, the U.S. House of Representatives, the Department
of Energy and the agency that handles nuclear weapons security,
according to its Web site.
The FBI, for example, has used Ptech's software for financial tracking
and internal budgeting, officials said.
No arrests were made but agents did recover evidence from Ptech, which
consented to the search. Officials declined to specify what was found.
U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan of Boston said the search involved "an
ongoing financial crime investigation" but said an affidavit supporting
the search warrant used by investigators was sealed by court order.
Officials had suspected "back doors" may have been built into Ptech
software that could enable terrorists to access federal computers.
"That wouldn't surprise any of us today," Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.,
chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, told Fox News on
Friday morning. "That is a problem we'll have to deal with in the
But later in the day, the White House was satisfied that the software
never had been used in any sensitive government systems, a law
enforcement official said.
Another official said there was no evidence of any compromise of
government computers that would benefit terrorists.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, appearing at the White House on
another matter, said investigators know when and to whom the software
was provided and that "the software in no way jeopardizes the security
of our country."
"It has been scrutinized by the best, and it poses no strategic threat
or operational threat to this country," he said. "There is a nexus there
that led to this law enforcement action, and that's all I can tell you."
What apparently triggered the investigation was the suspicion that a
businessman named Qassin al-Kadi may still has ties to Ptech. Al-Kadi,
who is from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, heads the Saudi-based Muwafaq (Blessed
Relief) Foundation, which Treasury officials allege is an Al Qaeda front
used to funnel millions of dollars to the terrorist organization.
Al-Kadi has repeatedly denied any connection to bin Laden, but he is on
the U.S. government's so-called "dirty dozen" list of leading terror
financiers who are being investigated by the CIA. His accounts have been
frozen by the United States.
Federal law enforcement officials say al-Kadi once was a key investor in
Ptech. They want to know whether al-Kadi still has a relationship with
the company and whether information obtained in the search could lead
them to other entities with which he was involved, a law enforcement
official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Joseph Johnson, vice president of professional services at Ptech, said
al-Kadi has no ties to the company now but "may have had something to do
with it nine years ago" when the company started.
American officials say al-Kadi and the other businessmen on the CIA list
all have business and personal connections to the Saudi royal family.
"It would be a big catch" if it turns out the suspicions are true,
Shelby said. "I think it points out that anybody that's in the software
business and especially dealing with sensitive agencies of all kinds -
we've got to know who owns these businesses. It just can't be somebody
overseas, an absentee owner. It's too important for that."
Ptech's CEO, Oussama Ziade, who is well-known in the Quincy community,
agreed to the Thursday night search and is not the focus of the
"There was no veneer there at all" from Ziade, said John Estrella,
business editor for the Patriot Ledger in the area. "He was out there in
front and didn't have anything to hide."
Estrella said Ptech has won local awards for being a high-growth tech
company that could provide many jobs.
"There's absolutely nothing there" in terms of a link to Al Qaeda, James
Cerrato, the company's chief product officer, said as he walked into the
office Friday morning. "I think as soon as the investigation concludes,
that will put a light on things."
ABC News, which first reported the raid, said it was the culmination of
a top-secret investigation coordinated with the White House.
But White House officials on Friday denied they had directed the search
and said the FBI had coordinated the raid. The White House's
cyber-security office did play a part, however, in maintaining the
integrity of the company software, according to some administration
The network showed footage of agents inside the Ptech headquarters,
searching the offices and going through the company's computers.
The agents brought their own computers with them to download files from
the firm's computers.
"What we have to do now is a damage assessment" of what computer systems
and software may have been compromised to prevent further loss, former
FBI terrorism expert David Cid told Fox News. "Even the most innocent of
information can be exploited."
Cid said seemingly mundane information such as how many FBI employees
are on vacation during Christmas can be used against the United States
by a good intelligence analyst.
"I think it reminds us of the sophistication and reach of our
adversary," Cid said.
The raid was part of Operation Greenquest, a federal counter-terrorism
financial crimes task force, and was carried out by agents from various
federal agencies including the IRS, FBI and Secret Service. The
operation is run by Treasury and has been investigating the funding of
In recent months, there has been squabbling between the FBI and Customs
Service over who should control these investigations.
Although the investigation is currently the responsibility of the
Treasury Department, sources told Fox News that if the terrorism
allegations are serious enough, the matter will be turned over to the
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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