Encryption machines that were supposed to keep secrets secretly leaving the back door open for the CIA and West German Federal Intelligence Service exposes foundational cracks in a country built on a high ground of neutrality.
The recent expose on Crypto AG is all but reaffirming of the so called alliance of the “free world”. The Washington Post’s protracted report based on declassified documents from the CIA might have many readers feeling applaud, bewildered, and betrayed. But what about Bloomberg’s The Big Hack? When the term hardware hack became a buzzword. And of course the ongoing crusade against Huawei. Yes, this all makes me want to duck tape the camera on my laptop, too.
The idea of privacy, security of the individual’s secret personal space, those things go right out the window when national security is at stake. Sorry no, not all nations though. The real deal that the revelation of Crypto AG brings to the table is that the ones with power didn’t get to power and maintained power by playing by the book. No, the book is just a ploy for the coy. They wrote the book. And in Crypto AG’s case, they wrote the algorithms.
For decades the CIA and it’s west German counterpart the BND, exploited the intelligent booties, as well as raking in millions and millions worth of profit from the sales of the tainted encryption machines being sold to ally nations, as well as nations deemed as threats to the free world. All the while keeping detailed accounts of the biggest intelligence swindle of the twentieth century in their archives. The nerves.
As for the Swiss’s neutrality high ground, that did not come without a price. Switzerland was too smack in the middle of it all during WWII to be left neutral for the sake of respecting neutrality. Switzerland made sure that they were too hard to be invaded, and that their banks remained open for business regardless of where the money was coming from. The Swiss army may not be the biggest or the most advanced, but their natural fortifications, and well preparedness proved to have tipped the risk over reward scale towards the Swiss’s favor. Furthermore, the Swiss banks were one of the very few channels, if not the only reliable channel for any international transactions. Even the Nazi needed support from bankers.
The righteous facade of neutrality has been seen through by no one else other than the Swiss themselves. It was for survival. As exemplified by the Minister of Justice’s “Boat is Full” speech:
“Whoever commands a small life boat that is already quite full, of limited capacity, and with an equally limited amount of provisions, while thousands of victims of a sunken ship scream to be saved, must appear hard when he cannot take everyone. And yet he is still humane when he warns early against false hope and tries to save at least those he had taken in”.
These are just some of the harsh realities we try to keep from our children. That Switzerland played an integral role in financing the Nazis and even pioneered the infamous red J on Jewish passports. That the American intelligence agencies lie even to their own allies. That there is no one which can be trusted absolutely.
But alas, being an island or a mountain nation completely free from the world is not a real option either, especially in this day and age. So, what moral morsel may we take in from the lesson of Crypto AG? Perhaps it is that every nation, and most likely anyone can be trusted to someway, somehow look after their own best interests as their imperatives. As the butchers, brewers, and bakers are guided by their own interests, national security policies should be guided by the same principle. However, the practice of prudence and being as humane as possible is also called for, for history does not absolve so easily crimes against humanity, and Its betrayal.
Thailand, or more precisely, the people of Thailand that sees through puritanical facades of the world must do their best to unveil the reasonable truths to as many fellow minded people that want to better Thailand’s national securities, and its chance for prosperity. And not be put complacent by ideologies of false sufficiency. Instead of purchasing submarines invest in the education that will enable the production of submarines. Instead of buying tainted encryption machines, make cryptology available in the universities. For when push comes to shove, no one likes having useless deadweight on their side.