“Eine Person, die den Bericht gesehen haben will, spricht von einer «Sprache, die in Groschenromanen zu lesen ist». Zudem seien auffällig viele Ausrufezeichen verwendet worden. Beides sei ungewöhnlich in einem Geheimdienstpapier.”
[A person, who claims to have seen the report, speaks of a «language that can be read in cheap novels». In addition, a striking number of exclamation marks were used. Both are unusual in a secret service paper.]
NZZ am Sonntag (February 16 2020)
“It was the intelligence coup of the century. 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.”
“MINERVA A History” — CIA report (WP February 11 2020)
“It may be the greatest intelligence scam of the century: For decades, the US has routinely intercepted and deciphered top secret encrypted messages of 120 countries. These nations had bought the world’s most sophisticated and supposedly secure commercial encryption technology from Crypto AG, a Swiss company that staked its reputation and the security concerns of its clients on its neutrality.”
CRYPTO AG: The NSA’s Trojan Whore? — Covert Action Quarterly (1998)
A decade ago, I argued that Crypto AG had rigged the equipment used by diplomats around the world allowing US Intelligence Agencies to decode in real-time their messages. Last week, Swiss Media Group SRF Rundschau, German public broadcaster ZDF and the Washington Post have confirmed many details of the story after gaining access to a classified, comprehensive CIA history of the operation codenamed “Thesaurus” and later “Rubicon”. What do we actually know about this “CIA document”? Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
RELATED POST: Crypto AG — Was Boris Hagelin Jr. Murdered by the CIA?
In my last post, I reviewed the suspicious circumstances regarding the death of Boris Hagelin Jr. just a few months after the Swiss Company was sold to the CIA.
Before discussing additional issues, I would like to raise an obvious question. What do we actually know about this “CIA document”?
Everyone is talking about the Minerva report, but very few people have seen it.
According to his own statements, German journalist Peter F. Müller received the paper from people inside the Intelligence Community.
Of course, Müller does not name his sources.
Müller passed the report to ZDF, the Washington Post and the SRF broadcast Rundschau.
These editors were able to view — at least in part — the document.
Other media were denied access. Upon request, Müller merely replied that: “No further information will be made available at this time”.
The few statements described in the media reports raise serious questions. The language of this “CIA Report” is not at all what you would expect from an intelligence document.
The title of the paper — “Minerva A History” — is rather dubious English. “A History of Minerva”, or a similar title, would be more appropriate.
As noted by NZZ, in one of the few published sentences, the verbs “ensure” and “insure” are confused.
In his piece ‘The intelligence coup of the century” published by the Washinton Post on February 11 2020, Greg Miller writes:
“The Swiss government this month (February 2020) revoked Crypto International’s export license.
The timing of the decision by Swiss authorities was curious.
The CIA and BND documents indicate that Swiss officials must have known for decades about Crypto’s ties to the U.S. and German spy services, but intervened only after learning that news organizations were about to expose the arrangement.”
This is certainly not true.
The current Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter submitted documents to the government last December (2019), which indicated that former justice minister Arnold Koller was aware of federal police investigations into the Zug-based company in the 1990s.
The title of Greg Miller’s piece — “The intelligence coup of the century”– comes directly from the so-called “CIA report”:
“It was the intelligence coup of the century. 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.” [“MINERVA A History” — CIA report]
By luck, I remember that I had read those words before… Here it is:
“It may be the greatest intelligence scam of the century: For decades, the US has routinely intercepted and deciphered top secret encrypted messages of 120 countries. These nations had bought the world’s most sophisticated and supposedly secure commercial encryption technology from Crypto AG, a Swiss company that staked its reputation and the security concerns of its clients on its neutrality.” [CRYPTO AG: The NSA’s Trojan Whore? — Covert Action Quarterly (1998)]
How strange that CIA historians would describe this operation with almost the very exact words published by an organization they despise. God works in mysterious ways…
Conclusions & Working Hypothesis
Intel Today believes that the document ” MINERVA A History” may not be a authentic CIA document.
A few hints suggest that it may not even have been written by a native speaker of English.
Moreover, the style is hardly suitable for an Intelligence report.
So, what is going on?
I will suggest one plausible scenario.
Last year, the Swiss government opened an investigation on the activity of Crypto AG and there is no doubt that the report of this investigation will be highly damaging.
Knowing that the cat is out of the bag, the BND and the CIA decided to leaked some information — the very minimum — in a way that makes the story as favourable as possible to their reputation.
Using the Hagelin CX-52
In this video, Marc Simons, co-founder of cryptomuseum.com, explains how secret messages were created using the Hagelin CX-52.
Der Informant, der aus der Deckung kommt — NZZ am Sonntag
CRYPTO AG — “MINERVA A History” : A Genuine CIA Report or a Piece of Disinformation?