The CIA: Shadow owner of company that sold encryption devices in worldwide intelligence coup

Military Tech
cybersecurity encryption

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MYSTERY WIRE — When Latin America was whispering secrets, the US intelligence community was listening — for decades, according to Wednesday reports by the Washington Post and German television’s ZDF.

The revelation comes in a report that more than 100 countries bought encryption equipment from a company secretly co-owned by the CIA. Crypto AG sold machines that were rigged by US and German intelligence so they could be easily hacked, leaving encrypted messages visible to agents monitoring the transmissions. The code name for Crypto AG was “Minerva.”

Crypto AG was the leading manufacturer of encryption devices in 1970, building a client list that prompted the Washington Post to title its article: “The Intelligence Coup of the Century.”

In the 1970s, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay were known targets as intelligence watched military regimes that conducted “regional and international acts of repression and terrorism” against political opponents. The regimes had a formal agreement known as “Operation Condor,” according to the National Security Archive. They coordinated efforts to “liquidate” their opposition.

READ: The CIA’s ‘Minerva’ Secret

The CIA worked behind the scenes as Crypto AG co-owner with German intelligence, but bought out the Germans in 1995 for $17 million, according to the National Security Archive.

The Latin American nations most affected:

  • Mexico
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Uruguay
  • Peru
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Nicaragua

Other nations listed in Wednesday’s report:

  • Iran
  • Egypt
  • Pakistan
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Italy

NSA’s report gives an inside look at other operations that were likely exposed because of the Minerva surveillance, and indicates there may be more historic secrets to be revealed as more surveillance logs are examined.

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