How the US and Germany used an encryption firm to spy on Morocco and other nations for decades

Secret documents obtained by the Washington Post revealed that CIA and West German intelligence used an encryption company to spy on 120 countries, including Morocco. The program was one of the longest secret partnerships that showed secret communications to at least four countries, including Israel.

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A secret program that involved the United States, West Germany and a Swiss crypto company and targeted at least 120 countries, including Morocco, has been revealed by major American daily the Washington Post.

The decades-long program, dubbed «the intelligence coup of the century», used Switzerland-based firm Crypto AG, which equipped 120 countries with encryption devices, as part of a spying plan, secretly led by the CIA and West German intelligence.

Crypto AG earned millions of dollars for half a century selling equipment to said countries, with codes that were easy to crack, providing the CIA and West German intelligence with valuable communications about its clients.

The Washington Post which managed to read CIA classified documents on its «successful program» showed that its partnership with West Germany have allowed it to easily read the encrypted messages of Crypto AG’s 120 clients.

Providing Israel with secret communications

The operation, launched in 1950s, was first known as «Thesaurus» and later as «Rubican». «Foreign governments were paying good money to the US 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», the Washington Post explained.

Indeed, the records obtained by the American daily indicate at least four countries, namely Israel, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, knew about the secret operation and were «provided intelligence from it by the United States and West Germany».

The highly classified documents also show that the 120 countries, with only 62 being identified, used Crypto AG’s encryption equipment from the 1950s to the 2000s. It is worth mentioning that the Swiss company, secretly owned by CIA and West German intelligence, sold its assets in 2018.

The countries targeted by the secret program were scattered over five areas, the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the rest of Asia. In Africa, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya among others were spied on.

While Morocco was reportedly a client of Crypto AG, major things were happening in the region, including the Kingdom’s war with Algeria in the 1960s and its war with the Polisario in the 1970s.

By the 1990s, the Kingdom was approached by the United States regarding the Western Sahara question. Previous declassified documents revealed that Washington proposed, in 1999, an initiative that aimed, in particular, to «change the course on how best to solve» the territorial conflict, one of Morocco's main national cause.

This American approach, known as the policy review, was directed at Rabat which was convinced of the idea of conducting a UN-backed referendum in Western Sahara to solve the conflict. 

«The abandonment of the referendum option has been an American policy initiative, not a Moroccan one, and it took a very difficult internal political debate for Morocco to follow the American request to propose an autonomy for the Sahara», read the declassified document.

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