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UKUSA Community

UKUSA Community

New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States of America

The United Kingdom – United States of America Agreement (UKUSA, /juːkˈsɑː/ )[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 (FVEY).[3][4][5][6]

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 the three Commonwealth realms of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Other countries, known as "third parties", such as West Germany, the Philippines and several Scandinavian countries also joined the UKUSA community.[7]

Much of the sharing of information is performed via the ultra-sensitive STONEGHOST network, which contains "the Western world's most closely guarded secrets".[8] Besides laying down rules for intelligence sharing, the agreement formalized and cemented the "Special Relationship" between the UK and the USA.[9][10]

Due to its status as a secret treaty, its existence was not known to the

Currently, the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures by Edward Snowden have shown that the intelligence-sharing activities between the First World allies of the Cold War are rapidly shifting into the digital realm of the World Wide Web.[13][14][15]


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.[7]

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).[16] The network was expanded in the 1960s into the Echelon collection and analysis network.[17]

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

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.[18]

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.[19]


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
National Security Agency (NSA) DIA FBI CIA
Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) DIS MI5 MI6
Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) DIO ASIO ASIS
Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) CDI CSIS CSIS
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


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

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 and European Russia.[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"

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]

In the 1950s several Scandinavian countries joined the community as "third party" participants. They were soon followed by Denmark (1954) and West Germany (1955).[7][21]

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.[22]

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."[23]

The "Nine Eyes" adds Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Norway to the club while the "Fourteen Eyes" adds Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden to the Nine Eyes.[24]

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 the "Five Eyes" club.[25] With respect to the Five Eyes, French President François Hollande has said that his country is "not within that framework and we don't intend to join."[26] 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."[27]


During the 2013 NSA leaks cyber 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.[28][29][30][31]

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.[32]

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."[33]

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

It does not matter how senior you are, and how close a friend you think you are to Washington or London, your communications could easily be being shared among the handful of white, English-speaking nations with membership privileges.[34]



On behalf of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC) spied on two British cabinet ministers in 1983, according to former CSEC agent Mike Frost. Thatcher's office refused to confirm or deny these claims.[53]



Broadcasting networks

Financial institutions

Oil corporations

Search engines

Telecom operators



The lead singer of The Beatles, John Lennon, was placed under surveillance by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the early 1970s[64][65] On behalf of the FBI, the British comedian Charlie Chaplin was placed under surveillance by MI5 agents in the 1950s.[66][67]


See also


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.
  • 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 in 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 in Intelligence and National Security.

External links

  • UKUSA Agreement at The National Archives
  • National Security Agency
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