US, Germany utilized second Swiss firm also for spying on govts: report

CIA Encryption Scandal
CIA Encryption Scandal

GENEVA: Swiss politicians have uttered indignation and demanded an inquiry after disclosures that a second Swiss encryption firm was purportedly used by the CIA and its German equivalent to spy on regimes worldwide.

“How can such an incident take place in a country that argues to be impartial like Switzerland?” the co-head of Switzerland’s Socialist Party, Cedric Wermuth, inquired in an interview with Swiss public broadcaster SRF late on Thursday.

He asked for a parliamentary inquiry after an SRF investigation televised on Wednesday found that a second Swiss encryption company had been part of a magnificent spying scheme coordinated by US and German intelligence services.

A first inquiry had revealed back in February an extravagant, years-long set-up, in which the CIA and its German complement clobbered off the secret communications of governments through their secret control of a Swiss encryption firm called Crypto.

SRF’s testimony this week uncovered that a second but tinier Swiss encryption firm, Omnisec, had been used in the same way.

That company, which was separated off from Swiss cryptographic apparatus maker Gretag in 1987, sold voice, fax and information encryption equipment to governments around the globe until it ceased operations two years ago.

SRF’s analytical programme Rundschau determined that like Omnisec, Crypto  had marketed manipulated equipment to overseas governments and militaries.

Omnisec also sold its defective OC-500 series gadgets to numerous federal agencies in Switzerland, involving its own intelligence agencies also, to Switzerland’s major bank, UBS, and other private firms in the country, the SRF investigation showed.

Pakistan amongst 120 countries that bought gadgets from another such Swiss firm

Spying in Switzerland

The results released fresh outrage in Switzerland, which is still staggering from the Crypto revelations.

“This indicates that the dilemma is broader than only one company and we even have no answers on the political responsibility side,” Wermuth said.

What Hans-Peter Portman consented

Hans-Peter Portman, a parliamentarian with the Liberal Party, consented, saying he was very concerned to understand “Swiss businesses are likely implicated and possibly affected”.

“This provokes the question of espionage even within the country,” he told SRF.

An inquiry by the Swiss parliament’s Control Commission into the Crypto case determined earlier that Switzerland’s own intelligence facility had profited from the information collected by its foreign counterparts through the encryption company.

Corresponding to the revelations in February by SRF, The Washington Post and German broadcaster ZDF, Crypto acted for decades as a Trojan horse to snoop on governments internationally.

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The company provided devices for encrypted communications to around 120 countries from after World War II to the start of this century, comprising to Iran, South America, India and Pakistan.

Unfamiliar to those governments, Crypto was covertly acquired in 1970 by the US Central Intelligence Agency jointly with the then West Germany’s BND Federal Intelligence Service.

Collectively they rigged Crypto’s apparatus to be able to certainly crack the codes and understand the government customers’ messages. Quoting a classified core CIA history of what was initially called operation “Thesaurus” and later on “Rubicon”, the statements said that in the 1980’s the yield from the Crypto machines distributed approximately 40% of all the foreign communications US code-breakers managed for intelligence.

Source: Dawn News