LANGLEY, VIRGINIA – Dubbed the most successful “intelligence heists” in the history of the CIA, operation RUBICON began officially in June1970, when the National Security Agency (NSA), the CIA and West-Germany’s federal intelligence service, BND, furtively took ownership of the Switzerland-based machine encryption manufacturer, Crypto AG.
Founded in the 1950s, Crypto AG established itself as the premier coding equipment maker in the world, supplying cypher machines to 120 countries and international organizations, which eventually came to include the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication or SWIFT, through subsidiaries in the early 1990s.
But Crypto AG’s machines, which produced encrypted messages for the national militaries of countries like Egypt, Greece, India, Italy, Iran, and Libya, to name just a few, were compromised from the very beginning. Boris Hagelin, Crypto AG’s owner, had concluded a “gentleman’s agreement” with the father of modern American cryptography, William Friedman, in the 1950s to restrict the supply of the company’s machines, and leave some backdoors for Washington’s cryptanalysts.
Friedman is an important figure in the history of cryptography and is considered the putative founder of the NSA. His development of statistical cryptographic methods not only revolutionized signals intelligence, but also laid the groundwork for modern computer-based encryption technologies like blockchain. Together with his wife, Elizabeth, the couple would become the most influential cryptographers in America.
In the 1940s, Elizabeth began working for the recently created International Monetary Fund after stints at Treasury, and the Department of the Navy. As one of the two organizations established by the Bretton Woods agreement, the IMF plays a crucial role in maintaining Dollar hegemony, and as a “lender of last resort”, regularly assumes the role of knee-cap breaker of the Western-controlled international financial order through the imposition of structural adjustment programs and other conditions for accessing critical financial resources.
While most articles published about RUBICON focus on the most tantalizing historical events tied to the intercepted intelligence, such as the Suez Canal Crisis, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and others, detailed access by the CIA and its partners to the movement of money across the global banking industry through SWIFT is perhaps the most significant in terms of the power to influence world events by these entities and their host governments.
The full breadth and scope of operation RUBICON has not been revealed as of yet, and it is unlikely to happen any time soon. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to imagine how it played a seminal role in the execution of the Cold War and subsequent world-changing events.
A decade of negotiations during the 1950s and 1960s between Crypto AG, the CIA, and the NSA codenamed “Minerva”, led to the eventual “joint purchase” of the cipher machine manufacturer in 1969. The West-German intelligence agency was included in the deal as a result of the participation of Wilhelm Göing – a German intelligence officer who was about to take the reigns of the German Federal Cryptographic Authority (ZfCh) the following year.
Although the NSA had previously exited the negotiations and had left Minerva in the hands of the CIA, RUBICON’s technical aspects would be undertaken by the national cryptographic intelligence agency once the purchase had been completed. Along with the NSA, private companies like Motorola and Siemens offered their expertise to facilitate the interception of signals intelligence and private financial information.
In 1991, the CIA recruited AT&T to purchase Gretacoder Data Systems (Gretag), Crypto AG’s competitor and the company that provided SWIFT with its crypto algorithms and encoder hardware, thereby gaining control of the international banking messaging network. Although Gretag’s SWIFT-specific business had been sold to another company, Omnisec, just before the acquisition, the latter was also controlled by the CIA.
Germany’s involvement in the spying operation ceased in 1994, when the BND sold its share in the company. The break was ostensibly motivated by the Central European country’s integration into the European Community, but the CIA continued operating RUBICON long after this time, and may very well have lasted until 2018, when Crypto AG’s assets were liquidated and sold once more.
RUBICON completely shatters Switzerland’s image as a neutral country and Crypto AG’s contract to supply SWIFT with its message encryption machines makes a mockery of its banking secrecy laws.
SWIFT’s near-monopoly on interbank communications systems since the consortium’s founding in 1973, and its direct ties to the central banking cartel, makes the decades-long existence of this operation a critical piece of the jigsaw puzzle of international finance, which is currently transitioning into a digital paradigm.
Considering the NSA’s part in RUBICON, and its foundational role in the development of cryptocurrency technology – the hash function used by the Bitcoin protocol was created by the agency –, and the worldwide push to build the “trustless” data economy, flanked by the total surveillance technologies being deployed for smart city implementations, it becomes imperative to recognize the true nature of these “innovations”, and start treating them as the real threat to freedom and self-determination they actually are.