WaPo: CIA secretly owned Swiss company that sold IT software to >120 countries, allowing it to spy on all communications

chadskin

Member
Oct 27, 2017
10,724
For more than half a century, governments all over the world trusted a single company to keep the communications of their spies, soldiers and diplomats secret.

The company, Crypto AG, got its first break with a contract to build code-making machines for U.S. troops during World War II. Flush with cash, it became a dominant maker of encryption devices for decades, navigating waves of technology from mechanical gears to electronic circuits and, finally, silicon chips and software.
The Swiss firm made millions of dollars selling equipment to more than 120 countries well into the 21st century. Its clients included Iran, military juntas in Latin America, nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, and even the Vatican.

But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence. These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.
The decades-long arrangement, among the most closely guarded secrets of the Cold War, is laid bare in a classified, comprehensive CIA history of the operation obtained by The Washington Post and ZDF, a German public broadcaster, in a joint reporting project.

The account identifies the CIA officers who ran the program and the company executives entrusted to execute it. It traces the origin of the venture as well as the internal conflicts that nearly derailed it. It describes how the United States and its allies exploited other nations’ gullibility for years, taking their money and stealing their secrets.

The operation, known first by the code name “Thesaurus” and later “Rubicon,” ranks among the most audacious in CIA history.
“It was the intelligence coup of the century,” the CIA report concludes. “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.”

From 1970 on, the CIA and its code-breaking sibling, the National Security Agency, controlled nearly every aspect of Crypto’s operations — presiding with their German partners over hiring decisions, designing its technology, sabotaging its algorithms and directing its sales targets.

Then, the U.S. and West German spies sat back and listened.

What a fucking story.
 

Tamanon

Member
Oct 25, 2017
9,148
Honestly, pretty brilliant. Like most spy craft, highly illegal and immoral. But smart as hell.
 

Soap

Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,649
Pretty smart, but also makes the situation with Huiwai even more interesting given that the Americans already have done this. I imagine the US is rightfully scared shitless if you take this story into account.
 

Titik

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,997
It’s also why we are so paranoid about Huawei. Takes one to know one haha

But umm yeah. If you are a country, make sure you properly vet your own spying equipment.
 

Kthulhu

Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,163
The papers largely avoid more unsettling questions, including what the United States knew — and what it did or didn’t do — about countries that used Crypto machines while engaged in assassination plots, ethnic cleansing campaigns and human rights abuses.
Of course not. Why would we ever spy for a good reason?
 

Mivey

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,556
Pretty smart, but also makes the situation with Huiwai even more interesting given that the Americans already have done this. I imagine the US is rightfully scared shitless if you take this story into account.
It's strange that they didnt' continue this strategy well into the future by funding their own "independent" tech companies to produce electronic devices. Huawei didn't appear out of thin air, they exist as such a dominant force today solely because China is pumping billions of dollars into them. What's keeping the US from doing the same?
 

nazgul_hunter

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,885
Pretty smart, but also makes the situation with Huiwai even more interesting given that the Americans already have done this. I imagine the US is rightfully scared shitless if you take this story into account.
Us officials have done everything but scream from the rooftops that this is exactly what Huawei is
 

jelly

Member
Oct 26, 2017
12,552
Does not surprise me. How long did it last? I imagine you couldn't fake it in this day and age without people finding out just by looking at it.
 

absolutbro

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,528
This history of the CIA's rise from the ashes of the Office of Strategic Services is actually really fucking fascinating.
 

Titik

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,997
It’s also the reason why China created their own not-Facebook and not-Twitter.

I won’t be surprised if it’s also the reason why Russia is building its own internet network separate from the current one that we have. They probably think that these US companies and the internet in particular is being watched by the USA.
 

Xando

Member
Oct 28, 2017
7,298
Not sure if if is in the WaPo report but according to ZDF the US and germans also kept quiet about state murder (example is argentina in the 70s where they had evidence the military junta threw people out of planes over the atlantic)they were observing through this.


They also used this tech in chile during the 70s to topple the regime.
They had troop movements of the argentinians during the falkland war and helped the UK.
They used this to extract intel from iran during the hostage crisis.
They also surveiled allies like ireland, portugal or spain. Germans apparently were against this.

Germans left the program during reunification but the CIA kept it going until 2017.
 

WhoTurgled

Banned
Oct 27, 2017
2,052
It's strange that they didnt' continue this strategy well into the future by funding their own "independent" tech companies to produce electronic devices. Huawei didn't appear out of thin air, they exist as such a dominant force today solely because China is pumping billions of dollars into them. What's keeping the US from doing the same?
Well they probably are we just don't know about it
 

Yogi

Member
Nov 10, 2019
1,203
They trusted another countries software with their classified files? :S They couldn't invest in their own software developers for 30 years? Deserved.
 

jelly

Member
Oct 26, 2017
12,552
Us officials have done everything but scream from the rooftops that this is exactly what Huawei is
Huawei bothers them because they may end up being the only company at the forefront of communication tech, I don't think it's necessarily the spying thing because likely they would get caught though that road may lead to anyone but China being innovators in that space and they twist it into whatever they like and nobody has the capital to compete so your basically at the whims of state backed Chinese tech.
 

Kthulhu

Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,163
It's strange that they didnt' continue this strategy well into the future by funding their own "independent" tech companies to produce electronic devices. Huawei didn't appear out of thin air, they exist as such a dominant force today solely because China is pumping billions of dollars into them. What's keeping the US from doing the same?
Why start a front when you can just legally require the monopolistic tech companies to hand over everything?

Nearly every government is using a product from Amazon, Google, Apple, IBM, or Microsoft. All it takes is a warrant or a trip to the FISA courts and they can get whatever they want.
 

Rand a. Thor

Member
Oct 31, 2017
10,159
Greece
So basically the CIA is the boogeyman everyone already thinks it is and has been running the whole shebang since the 70s, carefully maneuvering and manipulating the world based on its intelligence of, well, everything. And its only gonna get swept under the rug like every batshit insane thing of the last year unfortunately.
 

Xando

Member
Oct 28, 2017
7,298
So basically the CIA is the boogeyman everyone already thinks it is and has been running the whole shebang since the 70s, carefully maneuvering and manipulating the world based on its intelligence of, well, everything. And its only gonna get swept under the rug like every batshit insane thing of the last year unfortunately.
What i find more interesting is that the germans were on board with this.
CIA and BND each owned 50% of the company.

Pretty smart, but also makes the situation with Huiwai even more interesting given that the Americans already have done this. I imagine the US is rightfully scared shitless if you take this story into account.
This isn't standard IT tech like Huawei. They actually sold encryption software to these countries.
 

Rand a. Thor

Member
Oct 31, 2017
10,159
Greece
What i find more interesting is that the germans were on board with this.
CIA and BND each owned 50% of the company.



This isn't standard IT tech like Huawei. They actually sold encryption software to these countries.
Who's a little pandering to the New World Order gonna hurt when Soviet Russia is knocking at your door?
Us officials have done everything but scream from the rooftops that this is exactly what Huawei is
Its obvious they are projecting because Huawei didn't let em in like US companies dod.
 

Kyuuji

Member
Nov 8, 2017
9,786
Didn’t realise I was wanting an interesting long form article right now but apparently I was. Thank you.
 

Mivey

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,556
Why start a front when you can just legally require the monopolistic tech companies to hand over everything?

Nearly every government is using a product from Amazon, Google, Apple, IBM, or Microsoft. All it takes is a warrant or a trip to the FISA courts and they can get whatever they want.
That's not the same as actually owning the company, and still being able to sell to others without them knowing the affiliation to the US.
The cooperation you are talking about, PRISM or how the various programs are known, is far less effective in this respect, once it's public knowledge.
Well they probably are we just don't know about it
Wouldn't explain why 5G completely blindsided the US. If they had their own funded manufacturer then this wouldn't be an issue, they'd be pushing this other producer instead.
 

Galactor

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Nov 11, 2017
559
Killing democracy and sustaining neoliberal policies that have destroyed the environment is so cool
 

Nocturne

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Oct 25, 2017
207
replace every instance of ‘CIA’ and ‘america’ with ‘china’ and ‘ccp intelligence’ and see how the reception to this would go lol
 

absolutbro

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,528
It's interesting and badass when put into the context of where this started. Codes and cyphers were a humongous part of how WWII ended up the way it did. Big or small, codes were vital and code-breakers even more so, from Enigma to the Windtalkers. Developing a company that proactively instead of reactively dealt with cryptography issues, and originally didn't do so unilaterally but in full partnership with allies. The sort of cooperation that allies used to really strive for.
 

Powdered Egg

Member
Oct 27, 2017
12,205
"I don't believe this. Too many people knew about this for it to be kept quiet for so long. Someone would have spilled the beans in year two if this was true." /s