Software Firm's Security Questioned; Senator Wants to Know If Ptech Was Used to Hide Cash

Article excerpt


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. …