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State law enforcement contractor linked drugs { August 3 2003 }

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State law enforcement contractor linked to drugs
The Associated Press

August 3, 2003

TALLAHASSEE A man implicated two decades ago in a Bahamian drug smuggling ring has been hired by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to help create a 13-state anti-terrorism network being launched with $4 million in Justice Department funding.

Millionaire Hank Asher of Boca Raton, a 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.

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

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

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.

Asher has not charged the FDLE for many of his services, McLaughlin said. Technology from his company, Seisint Inc., has been demonstrated for Vice President Dick Cheney and Gov. Jeb Bush.

Documents filed by prosecutors in Chicago identified Asher as a pilot and former smuggler who lived in the Bahamas near a small airport once used by smugglers.

A call for comment Saturday to an FDLE spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

A $1.6 million contract with the FDLE calls on Seisint to participate in Matrix, a pilot program with Justice funding that is designed to allow agencies in 13 states to exchange sensitive information on terrorism and other crime suspects.

Matrix, short for Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, 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.

Seisint President Paul Cameron said he was unaware of Asher's drug-related past. He said Asher was on a fishing trip and could not be reached for comment.

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 FBI issued a commendation to Seisint last year for "exceptional services in the public interest." The Secret Service awarded a certificate of appreciation to the company for its contributions to law enforcement. Supercomputers power its Seisint's Accurint database service, which it says offers "deeper and more comprehensive" searches than its competitors.

Asher has donated more than $735,000 to political parties and candidates in the past five years, including $505,000 to Democrats.
Copyright 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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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