The Swiss government has ordered an investigation into the reports of a Zug-based encryption company providing classified documents of several countries, including India, to US and German intelligence services. The Washington Post and the German public broadcaster ZDF reported that the company was owned by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND).
Calling it the ‘intelligence coup of the century’, the Post, in its report, said that Crypto AG added encryption weaknesses to its products and sold it to foreign governments. The encryption company, controlled by CIA and BND, helped its owners to access classified documents of adversaries and allies alike.
According to the investigative report, the foreign governments apparently paid the US and West Germany, part of Western bloc before reunification, “good money” to read their most secret communications. It also claimed that other four to five countries might have also read the internal communications, probably hinting at the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, who have signed Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement with the US.
China and the erstwhile Soviet Union never purchased the encryption devices from Crypto AG, suspecting the company’s origin. However, more than 100 countries bought the device to encrypt their secret communications. For several decades, the CIA used such secret communications to have an edge over the foreign policies of other countries.
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 United States reportedly monitored Iran, its arch-nemesis, for years and especially when fifty-two Americans were held hostage during the famous Iranian revolution that toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi regime.
The CIA and BND reportedly controlled the company together for two decades but the latter sold its share fearing exposure. The Post has claimed that the US continued to use the company for its benefit before selling its assets to two private companies in 2018.