February 15 2020 — 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. This 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”. There are many issues to discuss. I will address them one at the time. In this post, I will review the suspicious circumstances regarding the death of Boris Hagelin Jr. just a few months after the Swiss Company was sold to the CIA. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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UPDATE (Sept. 9 2021) — After a career as an electrical engineer and inventor, author Jon D. Paul now researches, writes, and lectures on the history of digital technology, especially encryption.
In the 1970s he began collecting vintage electronic instruments, such as the Tektronix oscilloscopes and Hewlett-Packard spectrum analyzers.
Jon Paul has managed to restore a HX-63 cipher machine, and that is not a small achievement!
Paul wrote a very interesting story which is posted online: The Scandalous History of the Last Rotor Cipher Machine. Absolutely fascinating!
For now, I will make just two comments.
1 — Paul makes a reference to Boris Hagelin Jr.
“Perhaps partly because of this, in 1966, the relationship among Crypto AG [CAG], the NSA, and the CIA went to the next level. That year, the NSA delivered to its Swiss partner an electronic enciphering system that became the basis of a CAG machine called the H-460. Introduced in 1970, the machine was a failure. However, there were bigger changes afoot at CAG: That same year, the CIA and the German Federal Intelligence Service secretly acquired CAG for US $5.75 million. (Also in 1970, Hagelin’s son Bo, who was the company’s sales manager for the Americas and who had opposed the transaction, died in a car crash near Washington, D.C.)”
Paul provides a link to this post and, although he does not say, I would think that he is not fully convinced that the death of Hagelin Jr. was an accident…
[62% of Intel Today readers believe that Hagelin Jr. was assassinated by the CIA. 38% believe that it is plausible. See Poll below.]
2 — The article is so great that one may easily underestimate the importance of the final ‘small’ postscript… Paul ends the article with a very important information.
“And there’s even a postscript. I recently discovered that my contact at Crypto AG, whom I’ll call ‘C,’ was also a security officer at the Swiss intelligence agencies. And so for decades, while working at the top levels of Crypto AG, “C” was a back channel to the CIA and Swiss intelligence agencies, and even had a CIA code name. My wry old Swiss friend had known everything all along!”
To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that someone makes it very clear that the Swiss intelligence agencies were involved all along with the American NSA, the CIA, and the German BND.
END of UPDATE
Over the last two decades, I have noticed that, more often than not, the very same facts are understood and reported very differently in the US and in Europe. The Crypto AG scandal is no exception.
Let us consider the story of Boris “Bo” Hagelin Jr. who died in rather suspicious circumstances.
The Washington Post barely mentions the event and summarily dismisses any doubt regarding the official version of his death.
“Hagelin had once hoped to turn control over to his son, Bo. But U.S. intelligence officials regarded him as a “wild card” and worked to conceal the partnership from him. Bo Hagelin was killed in a car crash on Washington’s Beltway in 1970. There were no indications of foul play.”
That paragraph is about half a percent of the entire piece… On the other hand, SRF Rundschau covers the subject more extensively, discussing the background of this event from about 9′ to 12′. That is about 5% of the entire documentary.
And if no evidence of “foul play” is reported, the documentary makes it clear that the BND assumed that Bo had been assassinated.
On 29/12/2007, I wrote the following in a piece titled The NSA-CRYPTO AG Sting:
” (…) while stranded in Buenos Aires, Boris Hagelin Jr. confided that he thought his father had been wrong to accept rigging the Crypto AG machines.
Stunned by the revelation, the engineer decided to take this matter directly to the head of Crypto AG. Boris Hagelin confirmed that the encryption methods were unsafe.
‘Different countries need different levels of security. The United States and other leading Western countries required completely secure communications. Such security would not be appropriate for the Third World countries that were Crypto’s customers,’ Boris Hagelin explained to the baffled engineer.”
On that day, Bo had crossed the Rubicon.
His father felt betrayed. Boris Hagelin never forgave and he never talked to his son again.
To the CIA, he was now a “wild card”.
There is no doubt that the CIA decided to get rid of him — at least from a legal point of view — and decided to take over the company knowing that their old partnership with Crypto AG could not survive with Bo at the helm.
On January 15 2012, Sixten Svensson — Brother-in-law of the late Boris Hagelin — told me the following:
“Boris Hagelin Junior was killed in Washington DC and died 17.11.1970. He lived 3 weeks in hospital before, but brain-dead.”
Like many, Svensson initially suspected foul play. But after years of research, he now believes that Bo may have actually committed suicide as the result of the dispute with his father and the sale of Crypto AG.
One thing is certain. Prior to his death, Bo made certain arrangements regarding his twin daughters that appear to imply that he did not expect to live much longer…
Near the end of the 1960s, Boris Hagelin (Born July 2, 1892) is finally considering retirement.
The big question for the CIA and the BND is how they will keep their secret deal with the new management.
Clearly, Boris Hagelin Jr. was the natural successor. However, he made it very clear that the company would not continue his father’s dirty business with the spooks.
A CIA document puts it rather bluntly:
“He [Boris Hagelin Jr.] was viewed (…) as a wild card in the deck who, if he discovered the true arrangements, might try to derail them.”
Against the will of his son, Boris Hagelin decided to sell Crypto AG. The CIA and the BND bought the company on June 4 1970 for 25 million Swiss francs.
Hagelin Sr. then resigned from the board. Beside himself, only Boris Jr. and Sture Nyberg — to whom Hagelin had turned over day-to-day management — knew the CIA and the BND had acquired Crypto AG.
(Neither the Washington Post nor ZDF could locate Nyberg or determine if he is still alive.)
In November 1970, Boris Hagelin Jr. was killed in a car accident in Washington DC.
Boris Hagelin tried for many years to uncover the truth… Unsuccessfully.
While discussing the case of US Army bio-weapons expert Frank Olson, legendary American journalist Seymour Hersh famously said:
“He was letting them know that he was marching to a different drummer and you couldn’t do it back then. He was a man who was profoundly, profoundly distressed about what he was learning……..and he was dangerous.
Back then, if you thought somebody was detrimental to the cold war, you had no problem dealing with them.”
The words, it seems, apply perfectly to Boris Hagelin Jr. as well.
So, did the CIA assassinate Boris Hagelin Jr. ? Although there is — yet — no evidence, one thing is certain.
The CIA must have felt immensely relieved upon hearing the news of his death.
PS — Following the reports this week by Swiss public broadcaster SRF, German broadcaster ZDF and The Washington Post, the Swiss government has finally opened an investigation into the spying affair involving Crypto AG. Why did it take so long? They do not trust me? Hopefully, they will also open an investigation into the death of Bo Hagelin.
What do you think?
Intel Today would like to know what you think. Do you believe that Boris Hagelin Jr was murdered by the CIA?
The CRYPTO AG Affair — Documentary
The documentary ends with an interesting quote from Boris
Hagelin himself: “I am the 20th century’s greatest spy.”
Until this week, that quote was posted on the Intel Today blog…
And nowhere else!
Hagelin’s memoirs are expected to be published in 2033.
NB: If your German is a bit rusty, you can use the auto-translate feature to your preferred language. The ‘German to English’ option does a fairly good job.
 — Erich Schmidt-Eenboom is a well-known secret service expert and has published numerous books and articles on that matter. He is head of the Research Institute for Peace Policy in Bavaria.
Crypto AG — Was Boris Hagelin Jr Murdered by the CIA?
Crypto AG — Was Boris Hagelin Jr. Murdered by the CIA? [UPDATE : The Scandalous History of the Last Rotor Cipher Machine]