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Monday September 10, 2001
Five hundred websites - many of them with an Arab or Muslim connection - crashed last Wednesday when an anti-terrorism taskforce raided InfoCom Corporation in Texas.
The 80-strong taskforce that descended upon the IT company included FBI agents, Secret Service agents, Diplomatic Security agents, tax inspectors, immigration officials, customs officials, department of commerce officials and computer experts.
Three days later, they were still busy inside the building, reportedly copying every hard disc they could find. InfoCom hosts websites for numerous clients in the Middle East, including al-Jazeera (the satellite TV station), al-Sharq (a daily newspaper in Qatar), and Birzeit (the Palestinian university on the West Bank).
In addition, InfoCom is the registered owner of ".iq" - the internet country code for Iraq.
The FBI, meanwhile, insisted the search had nothing to do with religion or Middle East politics. "This is a criminal investigation, not a political investigation," a spokeswoman said. "We're hoping to find evidence of criminal activity."
n 1995, after the Oklahoma bombing (for which former war hero Timothy McVeigh was eventually executed) Pipes wasted no time in pinning the blame on Muslim extremists. He told USA Today: "People need to understand that this is just the beginning. The fundamentalists are on the upsurge, and they make it very clear that they are targeting us. They are absolutely obsessed with us."
It is unlikely, however, that the FBI could have obtained a warrant to search InfoCom on the basis of Daniel Pipes's remarks in the Wall Street Journal. They would have to demonstrate "probable cause" to a judge, but in this case the reasons may never be known because the judge ordered the warrant to be sealed.
InfoCom's lawyer, Mark Enoch, said that whatever the company was suspected of, the FBI had "bad information"; InfoCom was innocent of any wrongdoing.
To avoid any trouble over sanctions, InfoCom informed the state department that it had registered ".iq", Elashi said. The state department replied with a "ridiculous" list of restrictions which mean that the company has never been able to make use of the Iraqi domain.