More than 100 countries, including Portugal, resorted to a company specialized in data encryption that was secretly controlled by the American and German secret services. A journalistic investigation revealed how the two countries had access to various state secrets.
After World War II, during which he worked in communications for the US army, the Swiss company Crypto AG became a leader in the area of encryption equipment (conversion or transmission of data into code), executing contracts worth “millions of dollars” with more than 120 countries. The company was tasked with ensuring that each country’s communications remained completely confidential and secure, but for decades, the American information agency CIA and German counterpart BND had privileged access to the data, revealed a joint investigation by the “Washington Post”, German ZDF television and Swiss station SRF.
The media in question consulted confidential documentation, which details how intelligence agencies consulted secret information from other states, using it to their advantage. The list of 120 target countries includes 12 European nations, including Portugal and Spain.
Through a secret transaction carried out in the 1970s and in the context of a “highly confidential partnership” with the now defunct BND, the CIA acquired Crypto AG, having come to control all of its decisions. The investigation advances that the secret services “manipulated the equipment of the company so that they could easily decipher the codes that the countries [clientes] used to send encrypted messages “.
Through the control of the company, details the article, the CIA and the BND managed, for example, monitor the hostage crisis at the United States Embassy in Tehran (1979), give information about the Argentine army to the United Kingdom during the Falklands War (1982), follow up on the assassination campaigns of South American dictators and intercept messages of rejoicing from Libyan officials after an attack on a nightclub in West Berlin (1986), who killed two American soldiers. It was the intelligence coup of the century, “concluded a 2004 CIA report, quoted by The Washington Post.
According to the investigation now released, the now defunct Soviet Union and China were never customers of Crypto AG, because they suspected that it would have close ties with the US, keeping its communications out of the reach of the American rival. The CIA only abandoned the project in 2018, when it sold the company’s assets (BND had already departed in the early 1990s).
The CIA and the German secret services declined to comment on the content of the journalistic investigation, but did not deny the authenticity of the documents consulted. Crypto International, which bought Crypto AG, admitted that the data disclosed was “very alarming”, while ensuring that the current company “has no connection with the CIA or the BND”.