The USA’s Central Intelligence Agency spied on several countries including India for decades through its secretly owned Switzerland based company that is trusted by the governments from all over the world for keeping the information of spies, soldiers and diplomats secret, according to reports.
The company Crypto AG was founded in 1940, which specializes in communication and information security as an independent firm. It entered into a deal with the CIA in 1951 and finally, the CIA owned the company in association with West German Intelligence in the 1970s, according to a joint report by Washington Post and German Public Broadcaster ZDF.
The Crypto AG supplied encoding devices to more than 120 countries from the era of the cold war to the 2000s. The CIA sleuths rigged the devices so that they’ll be able to get information to crack the codes. This way they harvested secret information from several countries, including India and Pakistan. BND, the spy agency in Germany (West Germany before the cold war ended) had also access to this data.
BND also owned a stack in the company, but they sold their share to CIA in the early 1990s, thinking that the risk of exposure was too great, and left the operation. But the CIA continued using the company for espionage up to 2018, when they sold the company’s assets.
For more than five decades, the company was trusted by the governments of all over the world regarding the privacy they expected to be safe. The company had an impressive clientele from all across the world.
“It was the intelligence coup of the century, 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.” concluded the CIA report according to the Washington Post.
The report states, “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.” After that, the U.S. and West German spies just sat back and listened.
The customers of the Swiss firm Crypto AG never knew about the secret ownership of CIA in association with West German Intelligence over it, neither they doubted the devices being rigged so that they can easily break the codes the countries used to send.
The US could not benefit from the operation against their main rivals Soviet Russia and China, as they were not customers of Crypto AG.