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Florida contracts with drug smuggler { August 2 2003 }

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Florida contracts with company founded by man linked to drug smuggling

Saturday, August 2, 2003
2003 Associated Press

(08-02) 16:14 PDT TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) --

A man implicated two decades ago in a Bahamian drug smuggling ring has been hired to help create a 13-state anti-terrorism network, a newspaper reported Saturday.

Hank Asher is the founder of Seisint Inc., an information technology company with a $1.6 million contract with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to work on a pilot program for the Matrix network, through which sensitive information on terrorism and other crime suspects would be exchanged.

The Boca Raton millionaire, a member of Seisint's board of directors, friend of recently retired FDLE director James "Tim" Moore and a major political contributor, was never charged with drug smuggling. He served as an informant and witness in several trials, and was identified by other FDLE informants as someone who provided police protection for smuggling operations, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Asher's first company, DBT Online Inc., bought him out for $147 million in 1999 after the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration suspended its contracts over Asher's past and concerns that the company could potentially monitor targets of investigations, the Times reported.

Interim FDLE head Daryl McLaughlin called Friday for a complete assessment of Asher's background, saying previous checks were inadequate.

"You have told me stuff we didn't know," McLaughlin told the Times for its Saturday editions. "We should know more about a company we are doing business with."

The Times quoted Moore, however, as dismissing questions about Asher's past.

Seisint president Paul Cameron told the Times he was unaware of Asher's alleged smuggling connections. He said Asher was on a fishing trip and could not be reached for comment.

Seisint has earned accolades from the FBI and the Secret Service for its contributions to law enforcement. Its products are designed to quickly sift through massive amounts of information for areas including law enforcement, fraud detection and legal research.

Martha Barnett, former president of the American Bar Association and a member of Seisint's board of directors, said she had heard of past allegations about Asher but called him "a creative genius" in information technology.

"The truth is it's not about Hank Asher any more," she said. "He's come up with a terribly important product."

The FDLE contract with Seisint calls on the company to participate in Matrix, short for Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange. The project, being launched with $4 million in Justice Department funding, is intended to improve the exchange of information among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

The participating states are Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio and Utah.

Asher has donated more than $735,000 to political parties and candidates in the past five years, including $505,000 to Democrats.

On the Net:

Seisint Inc.:

2003 Associated Press

13 states create terror database { September 24 2003 }
Concerns about citizen privacy
Connecting the dots after 911
Database conceived by former smuggler
Database raises privacy concerns { September 24 2003 }
Florida contracts with drug smuggler { August 2 2003 }
Florida law enforcement hires drug smuggler { August 2 2003 }
Hank asher connected 2000 florida voting { December 10 2000 }
Matrix database measured terrorism quotient
Matrix system endanger privacy
New york wisconsin opt out of anti crime database
Police database called intrusive by rights group
Privacy advocates fear matrix { September 24 2003 }
State law enforcement contractor linked drugs { August 3 2003 }
States build anti terror database
Tennessee officials applied to matrix

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