The Swiss role in a global spy game
Switzerland’s role in “one of the largest espionage operations in history” has been revealed, says Thomas Knellwolf—and the country is reeling. From 1970 into the 2000s, the Swiss security-technology company Crypto AG sold encryption machines to more than 120 nations. But all along, the firm was secretly owned and controlled by America’s CIA and its German equivalent, the BND. The spy agencies had deliberately rigged the machines, allowing them to read the secret messages sent by friends and foes. For the CIA, it was “the intelligence coup of the century.” The encryption machines reportedly let the Americans eavesdrop on Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis and supply Britain with intelligence about Argentina during the 1982 Falklands War. This “brazen” operation was possible because the Americans and Germans could hide behind Switzerland’s “neutrality” and good name. The worst part? The Swiss government knew all along—its own equipment was never tampered with—but it failed to stop the spy scheme. The story came out only because of the efforts of a German reporter. Switzerland must immediately investigate this scandal with radical transparency, disclosing everything it finds and prosecuting officials who violated the law. If we don’t, no country that was duped will trust us again.