- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

A senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday questioned whether the FBI has done enough to investigate a Boston-area software firm to determine if the company was used to hide secret cash diversions to al Qaeda terrorists.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, asked FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III in a letter whether the bureau could ensure that government and private-sector computers and networks using Ptech Software Co. programs were free of "potential vulnerabilities."
"In the case of Ptech and the potential for widespread vulnerability in government computers and systems, I fear some at FBI Headquarters may be suffering from a 'not my job, not my problem' attitude that focuses only on the vulnerability of the FBI itself rather than the federal government at large not to mention the private sector," Mr. Grassley said.
Ptech, a Quincy, Mass., software firm whose clients include the FBI, Air Force and Navy, was raided last month by FBI and U.S. Customs Service agents searching for links to a Saudi businessman believed to be connected to Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorist network.
The agents were looking for information on Yasin al-Qadi, who is on the Treasury Department's terrorist watch list. He has been identified as head of the Saudi-based Muwafaq Foundation, which federal authorities believe was used as a front to funnel millions of dollars to al Qaeda.
No arrests were made but agents seized boxes of evidence during the search.
Ptech provides sophisticated financial tracking and budgeting software to several private companies and to a number of government agencies, including the FBI, Energy Department, Air Force, Navy, NATO and the House.
Mr. Grassley said that while he "appreciates that FBI officials recognized the seriousness" of the Ptech investigation, he is not sure the bureau has done enough to ensure that government and private-sector computers and networks are "free of vulnerabilities which might arise from using Ptech software."
He said until the National Infrastructure and Protection Center moves to the Department of Homeland Security, it was still the FBI's responsibility "to serve as the U.S. government's focal point for threat assessment, warning, investigation, and response for threats or attacks against our critical infrastructures."
Mr. Grassley urged Mr. Mueller to make sure the FBI and NIPC, rather than only the bureau's counterterrorism division, address the Ptech matter in a global way, and to ensure that NIPC's detection, analysis and prevention functions continue during its transfer to Homeland Security.
U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan in Boston has described the Ptech matter as "an ongoing financial crime investigation."
Investigators initially were concerned that Ptech used "back doors" in its software systems to gain access to confidential government data, but federal officials later said agents were unable during a preliminary review to find any software codes that would have allowed the firm to gain the necessary access and had no information that Ptech was involved in classified areas.
They said the company does handle sensitive data, and a probe into the matter is continuing by a Customs Service task force known as "Operation Green Quest," a multiagency group that investigates the financing of global terrorism.
The FBI has used Ptech software to operate its financial-tracking and internal-budgeting systems, authorities said.
Last month, the Saudi government froze Mr. al-Qadi's assets; he is the third person in that country to be subjected to such an order. Mr. al-Qadi denied in an ABC News interview last year that he had provided funding to terrorists.


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