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UKUSA Agreement

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Title: UKUSA Agreement  
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Subject: National Security Agency, List of people under Five Eyes surveillance, Stateroom (surveillance program), Mass surveillance in the United States, Mass surveillance
Collection: 1946 Establishments in Canada, 1946 Establishments in the United Kingdom, 1946 Establishments in the United States, Australia–canada Relations, Australia–new Zealand Relations, Australia–united Kingdom Relations, Australia–united States Relations, Canada–united Kingdom Relations, Canada–united States Relations, Data Collection, Espionage, Government Communications Headquarters, Government Databases in the United States, National Security Agency, New Zealand–united Kingdom Relations, New Zealand–united States Relations, Privacy of Telecommunications, Secret Treaties, Signals Intelligence Agencies, Treaties Entered Into Force in 1946, Treaties of Australia, Treaties of Canada, Treaties of New Zealand, Treaties of the United Kingdom, Treaties of the United States, United Kingdom–united States Treaties, United States National Security Policy
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UKUSA Agreement

UKUSA Community
Map of UKUSA Community countries

New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States

The United Kingdom – United States of America Agreement (UKUSA, )[1][2] is a multilateral agreement for cooperation in signals intelligence between the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The alliance of intelligence operations is also known as Five Eyes.[3][4][5][6][7] In classification markings this is abbreviated as FVEY, with the individual countries being abbreviated as GBR, USA, CAN, AUS, and NZL respectively.[8]

Emerging from an informal agreement related to the 1941 Atlantic Charter, the secret treaty was renewed with the passage of the 1943 BRUSA Agreement, before being officially enacted on 5 March 1946 by the United Kingdom and the United States. In the following years, it was extended to encompass Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Other countries, known as "third parties", such as West Germany, the Philippines and several Nordic countries also joined the UKUSA community.[9][10]

Much of the sharing of information is performed via the ultra-sensitive STONEGHOST network, which has been claimed to contain "some of the Western world's most closely guarded secrets".[11] Besides laying down rules for intelligence sharing, the agreement formalized and cemented the "Special Relationship" between the UK and the USA.[12][13]

Due to its status as a secret treaty, its existence was not known to the Prime Minister of Australia until 1973,[14] and it was not disclosed to the public until 2005.[13] On 25 June 2010, for the first time in history, the full text of the agreement was publicly released by Britain and the United States, and can now be viewed online.[9][15] Shortly after its release, the seven-page UKUSA Agreement was recognized by Time magazine as one of the Cold War's most important documents, with immense historical significance.[13]

Currently, the global surveillance disclosure by Edward Snowden has shown that the intelligence-sharing activities between the First World allies of the Cold War are rapidly shifting into the digital realm of the Internet.[16][17][18]


  • History 1
    • Origins (1940s–1950s) 1.1
    • Onset of the Cold War (1950s–1960s) 1.2
    • Investigations (1970–90s) 1.3
    • Recent media leaks 1.4
  • Security and intelligence agencies 2
  • Global coverage 3
    • Five Eyes 3.1
      • Australia 3.1.1
      • Canada 3.1.2
      • New Zealand 3.1.3
      • United Kingdom 3.1.4
      • United States 3.1.5
    • 9 Eyes, 14 Eyes, and other "third parties" 3.2
  • Controversy 4
  • Gallery 5
    • Officially released 5.1
    • Disclosed by Edward Snowden 5.2
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Origins (1940s–1950s)

The parties agree to the exchange of the products of the following operations relating to foreign communications:-

  1. Collection of traffic.
  2. Acquisition of communications documents and equipment.
  3. Traffic analysis.
  4. Cryptanalysis.
  5. Decryption and translation.
  6. Acquisition of information regarding communications organizations, procedures, practices and equipment.

The agreement originated from a ten-page British–U.S. Communication Intelligence Agreement, also known as BRUSA, that connected the signal intercept networks of the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) at the beginning of the Cold War. The document was signed on 5 March 1946 by Colonel Patrick Marr-Johnson for the U.K.'s London Signals Intelligence Board and Lieutenant General Hoyt Vandenberg for the U.S. State–Army–Navy Communication Intelligence Board. Although the original agreement states that the exchange would not be "prejudicial to national interests", the United States often blocked information sharing from Commonwealth countries. The full text of the agreement was released to the public on 25 June 2010.[9]

The "Five Eyes" term has its origins as a shorthand for a "AUS/CAN/NZ/UK/US EYES ONLY" classification level.[3]

Onset of the Cold War (1950s–1960s)

Under the agreement, the GCHQ and the NSA shared intelligence on the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, and several eastern European countries (known as Exotics).[19] The network was expanded in the 1960s into the Echelon collection and analysis network.[20]

In 1948, the treaty was extended to include Canada, followed by Norway (1952), Denmark (1954), West Germany (1955), Australia (1956), and New Zealand (1956). These countries participated as "third parties". In 1955, the agreement was updated with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand regarded as "UKUSA-collaborating Commonwealth countries".[21]

Investigations (1970–90s)

Gough Whitlam, the first Australian Prime Minister to learn about the UKUSA Agreement

In the aftermath of the Gough Whitlam. After learning about the agreement, Whitlam discovered that Pine Gap, a secret surveillance station close to Alice Springs, Australia, had been operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[22][23][24][25]

At the height of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, the use and control of Pine Gap by the CIA was strongly opposed by Whitlam, who fired the chief of the ASIO, before being dismissed as Prime Minister.[26]

The existence of several intelligence agencies of the Five Eyes was not revealed until the following years:

In Canada, an investigative television report revealed the existence of the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).[27]
In the United States, the Church Committee of the Senate revealed the existence of the National Security Agency (NSA).[28][29]
In Britain, an investigative article in Time Out magazine revealed the existence of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).[30]
In Australia, the Hope Commission revealed the existence of Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD).[31]
In New Zealand, the existence of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) was officially disclosed on a "limited basis".[32]

In 1999, the Australian government acknowledged that it "does co-operate with counterpart signals intelligence organisations overseas under the UKUSA relationship."[33][34]

The existence of the UKUSA Agreement, however, was not publicly revealed until 2005.[13] The contents of the agreement were officially disclosed to the public on 25 June 2010. Four days later, the agreement was described by Time magazine as one of the "most important documents in the history of the Cold War."[13]

Recent media leaks

In July 2013, as part of the 2013 Edward Snowden revelations, it emerged that the NSA is paying GCHQ for its services, with at least £100 million of payments made between 2010 and 2013.[35]

On 11 September 2013, The Guardian released a leaked document provided by Edward Snowden which reveals a similar agreement between the NSA and Israel's Unit 8200.[36]

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia operates clandestine surveillance facilities at its embassies "without the knowledge of most Australian diplomats". These facilities are part of an international espionage program known as STATEROOM.[37]

Security and intelligence agencies

Although the UKUSA alliance is often associated with the ECHELON system, processed intelligence is reliant on multiple sources of information and the intelligence shared is not restricted to signals intelligence. The following table provides an overview of the government agencies involved and their respective responsibilities within the "Five Eyes" community:[3]

Country Signals intelligence Defence intelligence Security intelligence Human intelligence
 United Kingdom Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) Defence Intelligence (DI) Security Service (MI5) Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
 United States National Security Agency (NSA) Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
 Australia Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) DIO ASIO ASIS
 Canada Communications Security Establishment (CSE) CDI CSIS CSIS
 New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) DDIS SIS SIS

Global coverage

Although precise assignments are classified, it is generally known that each member of the UKUSA alliance takes lead responsibility for intelligence collection and analysis in different parts of the globe.

Five Eyes

The "Five Eyes", often abbreviated as "FVEY", refer to an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries are bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.[3][38][39]


Australia monitors South Asia and East Asia.[3]


Canada's geographical proximity to the Soviet Union provided considerable eavesdropping advantages during the Cold War. Canada continues to monitor the Russian and Chinese interior while managing intelligence assets in Latin America.[3]

New Zealand

The Waihopai Valley Facility – base of the New Zealand branch of the ECHELON Program.

In addition to Southeast Asia, New Zealand is responsible for the western Pacific[3] and maintains listening posts in the South Island at Waihopai Valley just south-west of Blenheim, and on the North Island at Tangimoana.

United Kingdom

Europe, European Russia, Middle East and Hong Kong.[3]

United States

The US is focused on the Middle East, China, and Russia, in addition to the Caribbean and Africa.[3]

9 Eyes, 14 Eyes, and other "third parties"

This diagram depicts the relationship between the U.S. Western allies:
NSA and second parties—Extensive mutual sharing of signals intelligence[40]
NSA and third parties—Signals intelligence is funelled to the NSA in exchange for surveillance technology and cash[40]

The "Five Eyes" community is part of an extensive alliance of Western democracies sharing signals intelligence with each other. These allied countries include NATO members, other European democracies such as Sweden, and allies in the Pacific, in particular Singapore and South Korea.[3][10]

In the 1950s several Nordic countries joined the community as "third party" participants. They were soon followed by Denmark (1954) and West Germany (1955).[9][10][41]

According to Edward Snowden, the NSA has a "massive body" called the Foreign Affairs Directorate that is responsible for partnering with other Western allies such as Israel.[42]

Unlike the "second party" members (that is, the Five Eyes themselves), "third party" partners are not automatically exempt from intelligence targeting. According to an internal NSA document leaked by Snowden, "We (the NSA) can, and often do, target the signals of most 3rd party foreign partners."[43]

The Five Eyes are cooperating with various 3rd Party countries in at least two groups:

  • The "Nine Eyes", consisting of the Five Eyes plus Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Norway.
  • The "Fourteen Eyes", consisting of the same countries as the Nine Eyes plus Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden.[44] The actual name of this group is SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR) and its purpose is coordinating the exchange of military signals intelligence among its members.[45]

Germany is reportedly interested in moving closer to the inner circle: an internal GCHQ document from 2009 said that the “Germans were a little grumpy at not being invited to join the 9-Eyes group." Germany may even wish to join Five Eyes.[46] Referring to Five Eyes, French President François Hollande has said that his country is "not within that framework and we don't intend to join."[47] According to a former top U.S. official, "Germany joining would be a possibility, but not France – France itself spies on the US far too aggressively for that."[48]


During the 2013 NSA leaks Internet spying scandal, the surveillance agencies of the "Five Eyes" have been accused of intentionally spying on one another's citizens and willingly sharing the collected information with each other, allegedly circumventing laws preventing each agency from spying on its own citizens.[49][50][51][52]

The 2013 NSA leaks are not entirely new, but rather, they are a confirmation of earlier disclosures about the UK-USA espionage alliance. For example, the British newspaper The Independent reported back in 1996 that the U.S. National Security Agency "taps UK phones" at the request of the British intelligence agency MI5, thus allowing British agents to evade restrictive limitations on domestic telephone tapping.[53]

The mutual surveillance and sharing of information between allies of the UK and USA resurfaced again during the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures. As described by the news magazine Der Spiegel, this was done to circumvent domestic surveillance regulations:

"Britain's GCHQ intelligence agency can spy on anyone but British nationals, the NSA can conduct surveillance on anyone but Americans, and Germany's BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) foreign intelligence agency can spy on anyone but Germans. That's how a matrix is created of boundless surveillance in which each partner aids in a division of roles. They exchanged information. And they worked together extensively. That applies to the British and the Americans, but also to the BND, which assists the NSA in its Internet surveillance."[54]

According to The Guardian, the "Five Eyes" community is an exclusive club where new members "do not seem to be welcome":

In 2013, Canadian federal judge Richard Mosley strongly rebuked the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for outsourcing its surveillance of Canadians to overseas partner agencies. A 51-page ruling says that the CSIS and other Canadian federal agencies are illegally enlisting U.S. and British allies in global surveillance dragnets, while keeping domestic federal courts in the dark.[56][57][58]


Officially released

The following documents were jointly released by the NSA and the GCHQ in 2010:

Disclosed by Edward Snowden

The following documents were leaked by Edward Snowden during the course of the 2013 Global surveillance disclosure:

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Also known as the Quadripartite Agreement or Quadripartite Pact ( )
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Top Level Telecommunications, Five Eyes, 9-Eyes and many more, 15 November 2013
  9. ^ a b c d
  10. ^ a b c
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c d e
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ NSA pays £100m in secret funding for GCHQ, The Guardian, 1 August 2013. Retrieved 2 Aug 2013.
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ a b
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^ Ewen MacAskill and James Ball (2 November 2013), Portrait of the NSA: no detail too small in quest for total surveillance The Guardian
  45. ^ Top Level Telecommunications, 14-Eyes are 3rd Party partners forming the SIGINT Seniors Europe, 15 December 2013
  46. ^ David Sanger and Mark Mazzetti (24 October 2013), Allegation of U.S. Spying on Merkel Puts Obama at Crossroads The New York Times
  47. ^ Bruno Waterfield (25 October 2013), EU leaders warn US 'spying' could harm fight against terror The Daily Telegraph
  48. ^ Gregor Peter Schmitz (28 October 2013), Appearances and Reality: Merkel Balks at EU Privacy Push Der Spiegel
  49. ^ GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world's communications, The Guardian, 21 June 2013. Retrieved July 2013.
  50. ^ NSA 'offers intelligence to British counterparts to skirt UK law', The Guardian, 10 June 2013. Retrieved July 2013.
  51. ^ GCHQ-NSA revelations – Hague responds: politics blog, The Guardian, 10 June 2013, Retrieved July 2013.
  52. ^ British spy agency taps cables, shares with U.S. NSA – Guardian, Reuters, 21 June 2013. Retrieved July 2013.
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^

Further reading

  • Bryden, John. Best Kept Secret: Canadian Secret Intelligence in the Second World War. Toronto: Lester Publishing, 1993, ISBN 1895555299.
  • Frost, Mike and Michel Gratton. Spyworld: Inside the Canadian and American Intelligence Establishments. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 1994.
  • Hamilton, Dwight. Inside Canadian Intelligence: Exposing the New Realities of Espionage and International Terrorism. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2006.
  • Hager, Nicky (1996) Secret Power, New Zealand's Role in the International Spy Network; Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, NZ; ISBN 0-908802-35-8; (ONLINE EDITION)
  • Richelson, Jeffrey T.; Ball, Desmond (1985). The Ties That Bind: Intelligence Cooperation Between the UKUSA Countries. London: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-04-327092-1.
  • Richelson, Jeffrey T. The United States Intelligence Community, fifth ed. Westview Press, Boulder, Colo.; ISBN 978-0-8133-4362-4; 2008.
  • Rosen, Philip. The Communications Security Establishment: Canada's Most Secret Intelligence Agency. Ottawa: Library of Parliament Research Branch, 1993.
  • Rudner, Martin. "Canada's Communications Security Establishment: From the Cold War to Globalization", Intelligence and National Security. Volume 16 Number 1 (Spring 2001). 97–128.
  • Whitaker, Reginald. "Cold War Alchemy: How America, Britain, and Canada Transformed Espionage into Subversion", Intelligence and National Security.

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