The US and West German intelligence agencies clandestinely owned the world’s leading manufacturer of encryption devices, Swiss-based Crypto AG, enjoying throughout the Cold War direct access to closely guarded secrets of more than 120 countries, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
“It was the intelligence coup of the century,” the newspaper quoted a CIA report as saying. “Foreign governments were paying good money to the US 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.”
For decades, since World War II and well into the 21st century, Crypto was selling sophisticated equipment for coded correspondence to state clients all over the world, among them Iran, India and Pakistan, countries of Latin America and the Vatican, the report said.
According to the publication, from 1970 the CIA and the National Security Agency together with their German partners controlled nearly every aspect of the company’s operations, including “hiring decisions, designing its technology, sabotaging its algorithms and directing its sales targets.”