Nov 12, 2020 - Technology

Report: Swiss government long in dark over CIA front company

Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Image
Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Image

The Swiss intelligence service has known since at least 1993 that Switzerland-based encryption device maker Crypto AG was actually a front for the CIA and its German counterpart, according to a new report released by the Swiss Parliament, but Swiss leaders were in the dark until last year.

Why it matters: Switzerland’s intra-governmental information gap is unlikely to be welcome news in Europe, which already looks warily upon the U.S.’ expansive surveillance practices. Still, Crypto AG provided information of incalculable value to U.S. policymakers over many decades.

Catch up quick: Crypto AG was controlled from 1970 on by the CIA and the West German BND intelligence agency. It sold encryption devices — often employed in diplomatic communications — that were used by over 120 countries through the 2000s.

  • In an incredible intelligence coup, the U.S. and Germans were therefore able to decrypt these communications at will.

Where it stands: The CIA and BND did not spy on Switzerland using Crypto AG machines, says the new parliamentary findings, but Switzerland did take advantage of the surveillance tech itself, per Swissinfo.

  • The parliamentary report raises questions about why Switzerland’s civilian leadership was not informed for decades about the U.S. and German front company.
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