US and German intelligence services raked in the top secret communications of governments around the world for decades through their hidden control of a top encryption company, Crypto AG, U.S., German and Swiss media reported Tuesday.
The Swiss company was a top supplier of devices for encoding communications to some 120 countries from after World War II to the beginning of this century, including Iran, South American governments, and India and Pakistan.
Unknown to those governments, Crypto was secretly owned by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency together with Germany’s BND Federal Intelligence Service.
Together they rigged Crypto’s equipment to be able to easily break the codes and read the government’s messages, according to reports by the Washington Post, German television ZTE and Swiss state media SRF.
‘Coup of the century’
Citing a classified internal CIA history of what was originally called operation “Thesaurus” and later “Rubicon,” the reports said that in the 1980s the harvest from the Crypto machines supplied roughly 40 percent of all the foreign communications U.S. codebreakers processed for intelligence.
Meanwhile, the company took in millions of dollars in profits that went to the CIA and BND.
“It was the intelligence coup of the century,” the history says, according to the Washington Post.
“Foreign governments were paying good money to the U.S. 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.”
The BND had no immediate reaction to the story. CIA spokesperson Timothy Barrett declined to comment on it.