Wednesday, 26 February, 2020

Central Intelligence Agency used encryption company to access top-secrets of countries including India

CIA Encryption Company Image via Flickr
Cecil Davis | 13 February, 2020, 15:25

The CIA and Germany's intelligence agency secretly owned a Swiss company used by governments to send encrypted communications for decades, according to a report published Tuesday.

The Swiss government has initiated an enquiry into Zug-based Crypto AG after revelations the encryption company was a front for USA and German intelligence operations for decades.

Then-President Ronald Reagan raised suspicions about Crypto AG after citing some of these Libyan communications publicly, but the rumors were never confirmed.

"It was the intelligence coup of the century, Foreign governments were paying good money to the USA and West Germany for the privilege of having their most secret communications read by at least two (and possibly as many as five or six) foreign countries." concluded the CIA report according to the Washington Post.

Crypto AG was liquidated in 2018 in a transaction the Washington Post said seemed created to cover for a USA exit. They described a Cold War-era caper in which American spymasters and counterparts from what was then West Germany from 1970 were responsible for almost all Crypto AG operations, from hiring and firing to sales tactics.

The company, called Crypto AG, sold code-making equipment to Iran, India, Pakistan, Latin American nations and dozens of other countries.

Crypto AG was a company founded by Russian-born Swede inventor, Boris Hagelin, that created a portable encryption machine when he fled to the United States during the Nazi occupation of Norway in the 1940s.

Countries that were being spied by the US and West Germany through Crypto AG
Countries that were being spied by the US and West Germany through Crypto AG

Carolina Bohren, a Swiss Defense Ministry spokeswoman, said the government was informed of the Crypto case last November and has named a retired federal judge to investigate. From monitoring Iran's mullahs during the 1979 hostage crisis to listening Libyan officials congratulating themselves on the 1986 Berlin disco bombing, the U.S. and West German spies heard it all.

BND also owned a stack in the company, but they sold their share to Central Intelligence Agency in the early 1990s, thinking that the risk of exposure was too great, and left the operation.

"The events in question began in 1945 and are hard to reconstruct and interpret today", Bohren said.

The operation had a codename "Thesaurus" which was later changed to "Rubicon" in the 1980s in which they added flaws to the widely sold encryption devices. The two companies that bought Crypto's assets have denied any involvement.

Crypto International, called the news reports "very distressing".

Swiss Economy Minister Guy Parmelin has suspended the general export licenses of Crypto International and CyOne Security until "the situation and open questions have been clarified", his office said in an e-mail to Reuters.

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