The Washington Post recently did a piece on Crypto AG, a company that kept the communication of countries’ spies, soldiers, and diplomats secret. In what was described as the “coup of the century”, Crypto AG willingly worked with the CIA to give it access to other countries’ intelligence data.
Crypto AG originally built code-making machines for American troops during World War II. It capitalized on this moment to become the dominant producer of encryption devices for decades. It has created a wide array “of technology from mechanical gears to electronic circuits and, finally, silicon chips and software.”
The Swiss company made millions of dollars selling equipment to more than 120 countries into the 21st century. Some of its clients include Iran, military juntas in Latin America, India, Pakistan, and the Vatican.
However, none of these clients knew that the CIA secretly owned Crypto AG in an under-the-table partnership with West German intelligence.
These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices in order to break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.
The arrangement was in place for multiple decades and was one of the best kept secrets of the Cold War. The Washington Post and ZDF, a German public broadcaster, joined together in revealing a “classified, comprehensive CIA history of the operation.”
This post identified the CIA officers who lead the program and the company executives tasked with carrying it out. It also traces the origin of the program as well as the internal drama that nearly unraveled it. It also revealed how the U.S. and its allies took advantage of other countries’ gullibility for years, took their money, and stole their secrets.
The operation was first known by the code name “Thesaurus” and later “Rubicon,” is one of the most expansive in CIA history.
“It was the intelligence coup of the century,” the CIA report concluded. “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.”
Indeed, the foreign policy status quo post-World War II has featured a massive intelligence state where agencies like the CIA have operated in the shadows with impunity.
Sadly, many market institutions that we admire, have cooperated with intelligence agencies.
For that reason, there needs to be clear separation of economy and state, as well as a restrained foreign policy that eschews the expansionism of the past.
A more thorough look of this CIA story can be found below: