Operation “Rubicon”/”Minerva” by BND & CIA – The Intelligence Coup of the 20th Century

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In 1970, representatives from the BND (German Federal Intelligence Service) and the CIA signed a highly secretive agreement in Munich, making them partners in an operation that the CIA would later call the “intelligence coup of the century”. The BND referred to the operation as “Rubicon”, while the CIA code-named it “Minerva“. The full story was revealed by the Second German Television (ZDF), the “Washington Post”, and Swiss Television in February 2020.


The subject of the German-American intelligence partnership was the Swiss company Crypto AG, one of the global leaders in encryption technology. It was founded by Boris Hagelein, who had been involved in the art of encryption since the 1930s. Countries all around the world bought their cipher machines in the quaint Alpine town of Zug, equipping their embassies, agencies, and government institutions with them. Up to 200 employees produced and sold the machines in more than 120 countries. They were all to be deceived.

Just like in a movie: Cash handover in an underground garage

Not even the employees knew that their company was owned by two intelligence agencies. The real owners of Crypto AG were disguised through BND contacts to Siemens and a law firm in Liechtenstein. The profits were shared between the BND and CIA, amounting to 51 million Swiss Francs in 1975 alone. BND staff were said to have handed over their share to the CIA during highly secretive meetings in underground garages, in cash.

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