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Intercom Associates
CIA cover company

Intercom Associates, or IA, was fake company, created in June 1974 by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to cover the involvement of the US Government in technical covert or clandestine operations. It did not have a real office, but did have a telephone number that rang in the office of a cleared lawyer, who backstopped for the CIA. Whenever the number was called, the laywer's secretary would answer that the called person was out at the moment, but would return the call.

To the outside world, Intercom Associates (IA) consisted of former US Navy people who were well versed in the government export regulations and was able to help American firms find their way through the complex American rules. It is known that the cover company was used in relation to Operation RUBICON (also: THESAURUS) — The secret purchase of Crypto AG by CIA and BND [1].

Known staff
Intercom Associates had a small number of 'employees' that were in reality NSA or CIA people. When on 'business' — for example to the Motorola plant in Phoenix — they carried business cards that were made by the CIA cover staff. NSA employee Nora Mackebee was exposed in December 1995 by Scott Shane and Tom Bowman of the Baltimore Sun, in a series of articles about the NSA's involvement in rigging Swiss cipher machines [2]. The following 'employees' are known:

Name Agency Cryptonym Remark
Chuck Kinney NSA    
Herb Frank CIA FONDA  
Nora Mackebee NSA    
Bob Hewett CIA    
Bernie Wolsky CIA   Committed suicide in 2000.
Crypto AG
It has been reported by former personnel of the Swiss crypto manufacturer Crypto AG (Hagelin), that 'employees' of Intercom Associates (IA) frequently visited the firm to provide advice and assistance for the development of cryptographic algorithms — alledgedly to influence them.

Minutes of a meeting on 19 and 20 August 1975 between Crypto AG (CAG), Intercom Associates (IA) and Motorola - click to read the entire document

The image above shows the head of the minutes of a meeting held on 19 and 20 August 1975, between people from Crypto AG (CAG), Intercom Associates (IA) and the American electronics company Motorola [4]. It was published by Scott Shane and Tom Bowman in a 1995 series of articles about the NSA, as 'the smoking gun' that should prove NSA involvement in Crypto AG [2].

Although the document was dismissed at the time by CAG as irrelevant, is does indeed prove the involvement of CIA and NSA, as the names of Herb Frank (CIA) and Nora Mackebee (NSA) appear in the list of attendees. In this meeting, CAG was represented by its CEO Sture Nyberg, senior developer Oskar Stürzinger, and chief developer Peter Frutiger. The involvement and presence of Motorola was no surprise, as it was officially hired for consultancy and product development.

  1. Paul Reuvers & Marc Simons, Operation RUBICON
    Crypto Museum, 19 March 2020.

  2. Scott Shane & Tom Bowman, Spy sting: Few at the Swiss factory knew...
    Baltimore Sun, 10 December 1995.

  3. Scott Shane & Tom Bowman, NSA's ... Rigged encryption machines
    Baltimore Sun, 10 December 1995.

  4. GAC/IA/Motorola Minutes of Meeting
    19-20 August 1975. 1
  1. Document obtained from Scott Shane, Baltimore Sun [2].

Further information
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Crypto Museum. Created: Thursday 12 December 2019. Last changed: Sunday, 03 September 2023 - 07:57 CET.
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