A scandal is unfolding in the intelligence world today, this time connected to the illegal activities of a Swiss company which used encryption technologies for a global wiretap of over a hundred nations.
According to a journalistic investigation conducted by the Swiss TV program Rundschau, the German TV channel ZDF and the The Washington Post, American and German intelligence services gained access to secret correspondence from more than a hundred countries up until 2018 (at least!), through the Swiss company Crypto AG from the canton of Zug.
Rumors about intelligence agencies hiding behind the façade of Zug-based Crypto AG have been circulating for a long time, and now they’ve been proven true. These agencies are the CIA and the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND). With the help of specially modified encryption devices produced by Crypto AG, they’ve been quietly listening to and monitoring global information channels for decades, accessing the secret correspondence of dozens of governments which utilized Crypto AG’s encryption equipment.
In 1970, having gained full control over Crypto AG, US and German special services actively contributed to the creation of a positive international image of Swiss Crypto AG as the top player on the encryption market. This way, they secured a free pass for themselves to obtain classified correspondence of foreign embassies and countless state secrets of political, military and economic nature, which were protected using Crypto AG equipment. Washington would later go on to recommend the company as the leading developer of encryption machines and respective chips and software, leaving out how it conveniently provided the US and German intelligence services with international diplomatic secrets, including those of the Vatican and the USA’s so-called ‘allies.’ As follows from the German investigation into the Crypto AG scam, former BND director Wolbert Smidt complained that the United States ‘wanted to treat its allies as third world countries.’ Another BND employee confirmed Smidt’s words, noting that the Americans ‘have no friends in the intelligence community.’
A secret file of around 280 pages, dubbed Operation Rubicon, came into the possession of Swiss, German and American media. The document gives ample evidence of one of the most daring and scandalous operations in the history of intelligence activities. That is, the CIA and BND, acting through their convenient partner Crypto AG, stole the state secrets of more than a hundred countries that paid billions of dollars for their encryption. And as a result, it turns out that these countries were instead financing the criminal activities of these two secret service agencies!
Classified data were thus flowing right into the intelligence services of the United States and Germany. During the 10-year Iranian-Iraqi war alone, American intelligence services intercepted over 19,000 Iranian messages encoded on Crypto AG machines. According to CIA documents, US intelligence agencies were able to crack 80%—90% of the Iranian encryption code, and this percentage would doubtless be several times lower if Tehran had not used the defective Crypto AG devices.
But as the Washington Post notes, US intelligence services didn’t limit themselves to just using Crypto AG, but have expanded their secret arsenal of encryption companies, turning to Google, Microsoft, Verizon and other American tech giants in order to take advantage of the global scale of their activities, according to former Western spies.
Against the backdrop of this scandal, born from decades of the US intelligence agencies’ tacit control of secret correspondence in various regions of the world, the National Counterintelligence Strategy of the United States 2020-2022, recently released by Washington, looks like a complete farce. This Strategy indicates that it isn’t the US that opposes peace, but China and Russia, which act on a global scale with America’s other rivals — Cuba, Iran and North Korea. But the investigation into Operation Rubicon, its scope and duration, clearly outlines how the United States developed its insatiable thirst for surveillance and monitoring, which was exposed by Edward Snowden back in 2013.
The fallout from the investigation also explains the very suspicious campaign recently launched in the US, involving a number of IT companies allegedly linked to foreign countries. These include the Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky, the text messaging app linked to the United Arab Emirates, and the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. These firms are certainly able to provide the international community with additional evidence of Washington’s corrupt activities.
In addition, another question remains unanswered: who will compensate the affected nations for the damage caused by unauthorized access to their classified information? After all, many of them have suffered not only political consequences, but also commercial and economic ones, losing billions of dollars! And isn’t it time to schedule an International Court hearing to investigate the numerous crimes committed by the CIA and their ‘partners?’
Vladimir Platov, Middle East expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.