Gov't Probes Software Company's Ties to U.S. House

U.S. House officials have been asked to probe the relationship of that chamber with the software firm that was raided by federal officials late Thursday night for possible ties to terrorists and Usama bin Laden, congressional lawmakers told Fox News.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Administration Committee, told Fox that the House Inspector General has been asked to look into, and issue a report on the specifics of the relationship between the Quincy, Mass.-based Ptech company that provides critical software to major U.S. agencies and the House of Representatives.

Ptech's clients include the House, FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Energy Department, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Naval air systems, the U.S. Air Force, NATO, 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.

Ney said the House investigation is a "precautionary" measure and that he believes, based on just an initial review of the situation, that Ptech employees didn’t have access to any classified or sensitive House information.

Ptech has done "small amounts" of work, Ney said, for the House Information Resources office -- the on-campus group that maintains all House computers. The House is still awaiting a licensing agreement from Ptech regarding a specific "mapping tool" software program. The nature of that program will be reviewed by the IG.

Ney said the IG investigation is precautionary and a "double check" to make sure House computers are safe.

Federal agents searched the Ptech offices and the company's computers during the night raid, which was consented to by company officials. No arrests were made but agents did recover evidence in what the Justice Department is calling an "ongoing financial investigation."

But the government later said company's software was safe and that it didn't allow company insiders to read or steal sensitive data. The White House was satisfied it hadn't been used inappropriately in any sensitive government systems.

Officials had suspected "back doors" may have been built into Ptech software that could enable terrorists to access federal computers.

"The software in no way jeopardizes the security of our country," Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said Friday. But he added, "there is a nexus there that led to this law enforcement action."

Ptech CEO Oussama Ziade e-mailed Fox News, saying the search was not a "raid," since the company was happy to allow the search. Ziade said the company isn't controlled by Al Qaeda sympathizers, "and if I know of any Al Qaeda sympathizers, I will turn them myself to the authority. Ptech has been injured as result of Sept. 11 terrorist attack, and as a good corporate citizen extended its hand immediately to see what it can do to help. "

Ziade said his company and software has been instrumental in the technology world and both have the support of Washington.

"Our work with the government was derived from patriotism and effort to help our government and no other motive," he wrote.

The investigation is currently focusing on one man.

Fox News has learned that when Qassin Al-Kadi's name was added to a list of people whose assets were being frozen by the United States in October 2001 and he was being investigated by the CIA for financing terrorists, Ptech employees called the FBI saying Al-Kadi ran the company. That presumably is what triggered the investigation.

Sources say the Thursday night search was simply to get records and documentation to find out more about Al-Kadi's financing of terrorism.

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. He has repeatedly denied any connection to bin Laden.

Al-Kadi apparently has been a secret owner or key investor in Ptech. Investigators want to know whether he still is involved with the company and whether information from the search could lead them to other people or groups he was involved with.

American officials say Al-Kadi and the other businessmen on the CIA list all have business and personal connections to the Saudi royal family.

Ptech released a statement late Friday that said it was assisting the government in its investigation and that is has no ties to terrorists.

Company official Joseph Johnson 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.

"There's absolutely nothing there" in terms of a link to Al Qaeda, James Cerrato, the company's chief product officer, said Friday. "I think as soon as the investigation concludes, that will put a light on things."

Other Ptech officials like Ziade, who is well-known in the Quincy community, are in the clear.

The Justice Department released a statement late Friday that the search was conducted "without incident" by investigators from U.S. Customs, FBI, IRS, Secret Service, INS and the Massachusetts State Police.

"Media characterizations of this as a terrorist investigation are premature," the statement said.

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 was charge. The White House's cyber-security office did play a part, however, in maintaining the integrity of the company software, according to some administration officials.

"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."

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 terror groups.

In recent months, there has been squabbling between the FBI and Customs Service over who should control these investigations.

"It would be a big catch" if it turns out the suspicions about terror ties are true, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, told Fox News Saturday. "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."

Fox News' Jim Mills, Carl Cameron, Molly Henneberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.