The “Five Eyes” (otherwise known as FVEY), is an intelligence alliance of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and is considered the most powerful espionage alliance in history. Led by the United States and United Kingdom after the Second World War, the two countries agreed on intelligence cooperation via the UKUSA Agreement with Canada, Australia and New Zealand joining officially in 1955. Other nations such as Norway, France, Germany and others have cooperated by sharing their own intelligence as “third parties”. Despite its existence for almost 70 years, the details of the FVEY agreement have long been shrouded in some mystery, even to members of the participant governments.
During the Cold War, FVEY developed the ECHELON surveillance system to monitor communications of the former Soviet Union, China and other countries in the Eastern Bloc. Since the events of September 11, 2001 the FVEY have expanded surveillance capabilities to include online communications.
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Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, leaked documents in 2013 revealing that the FVEY have been spying on each other’s citizens and sharing that information among each other to circumvent domestic regulations on spying in their home nations:
“If you actually did want to spy more on the local people then it appears that with co-operation of the other partners this is easier, because they would have the legal right in their own domestic law to treat the citizens of the other countries as foreigners, and that appears to be where the rot has set in.”
“There used to be a very clear distinction between intelligence gathering on non-nationals and domestic citizens, but that appears to have changed.”
The limitations placed on the activities of the 5-Eyes countries with respect to the what they can gather on the other partners appear to have changed over time. The question that remains is just how far the partners have gone in conducting surveillance on each other.
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In Canada, general public awareness of the Five Eyes agreement is limited at best:
Canadians remain generally unaware of the extent to which Canada’s national security relies on Five Eyes intelligence cooperation. Consider the recent case of Royal Canadian Navy Sub-Lieutenant Jeffery Delisle, who supplied Top Secret intelligence to Russia, from 2007 until his arrest in January 2012. Media commentators claimed Delisle’s actions seriously damaged Canada’s participation in the Five Eyes intelligence community. However, as troubling as it may be, Delisle’s betrayal will not permanently interfere with Five Eyes intelligence sharing arrangements. The relationship is made of sterner stuff.
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The following agencies of the FVEY countries share information across their networks:
- National Security Agency (NSA)
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
- Defense Intelligence Agency (Dia)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)
- The Security Service (MI5)
- Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
- Defence Intelligence (DI)
- Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
- Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)
- Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDIS)
- Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)
- Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)
- Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO)
- New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS)
- Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)
- Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security (DDIS)