ZURICH: Switzerland is probing news reports that the US Central Intelligence Agency and West Germany’s spy service used a Swiss company’s encryption technology to covertly crack other nations’ top-secret messages, the Swiss defence ministry said on Tuesday.

The company, called Crypto AG, sold code-making equipment to Iran, Latin American nations, India, Pakistan and dozens of other countries. The technology was modified to let the CIA and Germany’s BND break codes, the Washington Post reported along with German and Swiss broadcasters ZDF and SRF.

The reports cite a classified CIA history to underpin the allegations, some of which date back at least to 1992, when one of Crypto’s employees was arrested and held in Iran for nine months as a suspected spy.

At the time, the company called reports that it was a secret asset of Western intelligence agencies “an unbelievable conspiracy theory,” according to a report in German magazine Focus detailing a 1994 book on the subject.

After being told late last year of fresh research about the company, the Swiss government in January appointed a former Swiss Supreme Court judge to scrutinise Crypto’s activities “to investigate and clarify the facts of the matter”, the defence ministry said in a statement.

“The events under discussion date back to 1945 and are difficult to reconstruct and interpret in the present day context,” it added.

Judge Niklaus Oberholzer is due to report back by the end of June, after which the Swiss cabinet will be briefed.

The reports say at least four countries Israel, Sweden, Britain and neutral Switzerland knew of the operation, known as “Operation Rubicon”, or were in on some of the secrets it unearthed.

According to one document attributed to the CIA history of the operation, the US spy agency and its West German counterparts overcame cultural differences and divergent interests “again and again, to fashion the most profitable intelligence venture of the Cold War”.

The company was liquidated in 2018. A successor company, Crypto International, owned by Swedish national Andreas Linde, said on its website the story was “distressing”. The company was now under new ownership and had no connections to the CIA or German spy agency, it said.

The Post said another successor company, CyOne Security, also denied any involvement with foreign intelligence agencies.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2020

Opinion

Window of opportunity
05 Mar 2021

Window of opportunity

How do we ensure growth revival built on a sustainable, efficient and stable foundation?
March for freedom
Updated 05 Mar 2021

March for freedom

Those demanding ‘azadi’ are moving society forward.
More of the same
Updated 04 Mar 2021

More of the same

Civil society groups and political parties tend to treat their paid employees as casual labour.

Editorial

Ravi project
Updated 05 Mar 2021

Ravi project

THE assault by an enraged group of farmers on a provincial revenue team assigned to acquire land for the...
05 Mar 2021

Climate change

PAKISTAN received much less rainfall in January 2021 as compared to previous years, making it the 17th driest month...
05 Mar 2021

Antimicrobial resistance

WITH the focus on Covid-19, many health issues, though otherwise recognised as serious medical problems, tend to be...
04 Mar 2021

Senate upset

THE Senate election results have delivered a stunning blow to the PTI. While the ruling party has seen an increase ...
ME ‘security pact’
Updated 04 Mar 2021

ME ‘security pact’

THERE has been an overflowing of bonhomie between the Gulf Arabs and Israel over the past few months, much of it...
04 Mar 2021

Students’ protest

A GROUP of university students in Karachi and Hyderabad caught the media’s attention when they announced a...