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‘Intelligence coup of the century’: CIA secretly owned encryption firm used by other countries to communicate

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The CIA secretly owned a company that sold rigged encryption systems to other countries, allowing the agency to spy on more than 100 nations over several decades while generating millions in profit. 


The agency’s relationship with the company, Crypto AG, was detailed by the Washington Post in an investigation published Tuesday. 

Crypto was the dominant maker of encryption devices for decades, selling the equipment to Iran, India, Egypt, Italy, and dozens of other nations. None of the countries who bought the equipment knew it was owned by the CIA in a secret partnership with West German intelligence. The spy agencies rigged the devices so they could break the codes the countries used to send encrypted messages. 

“It was the intelligence coup of the century,” a classified CIA report on the decadeslong operation concluded. “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.” 

Through the devices, the United States was able to spy on Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis and implicated Libya in the 1986 bombing of a West Berlin disco that was popular with American troops.:snip:

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