U.S. Customs agents Thursday raided the offices of a Massachusetts-based software company that does business with the federal government, suspecting the firm has links to the al Qaeda terrorist network.
Ptech Inc., a business software manufacturer in Quincy, Mass., does business with several federal agencies, according to the company's Web site. Agencies listed as users of the software or company's services include the FBI, Federal Aviation Administration, IRS, Naval Air Systems Command, Air Force, Forest Service, the Education, Energy and Veterans Affairs departments, and the Postal Service. The House of Representatives and North Atlantic Treaty Organization are also listed as clients.
As first reported by ABC News, the Customs investigation has been given top priority, and for the last few weeks, agencies have been searching their Ptech software for any hidden vulnerabilities, or "back doors," that might make it easier for hackers to penetrate the systems running those programs.
Ptech is a contractor in the General Services Administration's schedules program, a series of contracts awarded to more then 6,000 companies that agencies use to rapidly procure a variety of products and services. Schedule contractors are put through an approval process to ensure their suitability to work for the government.
ABC also reported that Ptech is allegedly owned by Yassin al Kadi, (also known as Shaykh Yassin Abdullah Kadi), a Saudi Arabian businessman whose assets have been frozen by the U.S. government. Al-Kadi is reportedly on a so-called "dirty dozen" list of Saudis being investigated by the CIA.
Ptech's Web site makes no mention of al Kadi. Oussama Ziade is listed as the company's chairman, chief executive officer and founder. His online biography says he holds a masters degree from Boston University and participated in Harvard University's Ph.D. program in high energy physics.
Ptech did not respond to phone calls for comment.
Most government agencies, including Customs, referred all inquiries about the raid to the U.S. attorney's office in Boston. At press time, officials in that office had not returned phone calls for comment.
A spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration at the Energy Department said that Friday news reports were the first the organization had heard of any raid on Ptech, and that the agency hasn't been searching its software for vulnerabilities.