The Royal Navy, RAF, and British Army benefited from the CIA's secret ownership of a code-making machine company during the Falklands' War, a new investigation has claimed.
The joint investigation by the German public broadcaster ZDF and The Washington Post reveals that the CIA secretly owned a Swiss company that supplied code-making crypto' devices.
The company, Crypto AG, sold equipment to more than 120 different countries - including Argentina.
The Washington Post reports: What none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence.
These spy agencies rigged the company’s devices so they could easily break the codes that countries used to send encrypted messages.
The decades-long arrangement, among the most closely guarded secrets of the Cold War, is laid bare in a classified, comprehensive CIA history of the operation obtained by The Washington Post and ZDF, a German public broadcaster, in a joint reporting project.
The report claims that U.S. and West German spies sat back and listened - and then fed intelligence about Argentina’s military to Britain during The Falklands War.
In 1982, the Reagan administration took advantage of Argentina’s reliance on Crypto equipment, funneling intelligence to Britain during the two countries’ brief war over the Falkland Islands according to the CIA history, which doesn’t provide any detail on what kind of information was passed to London, writes Greg Miller in the Washington Post
The documents generally discuss intelligence gleaned from the operation in broad terms and provide few insights into how it was used.
Breaking enemy codes has been pivotal in the outcome of wars - notably World War II, where Alan Turing's work at Bletchley in cracking the Nazi's 'Enigma' code is credited with turning the tide in the UK's favor.
However, six British ships and one landing craft were sunk by Argentine aircraft during the campaign to liberate the Falklands from the Argentine invaders. In total, 255 UK Armed Forces personnel died during the war, with 775 wounded and 115 captured.
While it's not known if information being fed to the UK by the CIA helped prevent these casualties from being much worse, intelligence received from the Chilean regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet is widely accepted to have reduced British casualties, because it led to the sinking of Argentine battleship the Belgrano.
The attack on the Belgrano by HMS Conqueror is the only time a nuclear powered submarine has destroyed an enemy ship in anger.
Lord Cecil Parkinson, a member of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's War Cabinet, revealed the decision to sink the Belgrano was taken after the UK received secret intercepts from Chilean intelligence services revealing orders from the Argentine junta to the warship's captain, Hector Bonzo, to launch a massive attack on the British task force around the Falklands.
Mrs. Thatcher would later stand by Pinochet when he was accused of war crimes, visiting him while he was under house arrest, and talking of the debt she believed the UK owed him.
Pinochet eventually died before he was convicted of 300 criminal charges for human rights violations, including the 'Caravan of Death' Chilean Army 'death squad' which was accused of executing nearly 100 people.
The full story about the CIA's secret ownership of Crypto AG, titled The intelligence coup of the century, can be read in The Washington Post. (Plymouth Live).