|Largest city||New York City|
|Official languages||English (de facto)|
|14 August 1941|
|17 May 1943|
• Total area
|28,023,173 km2 (10,819,808 sq mi)|
• Water (%)
• 2020 estimate
|16/km2 (41.4/sq mi)|
|GDP (PPP)||2020 estimate|
|$26,536 trillion (2nd)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2020 estimate|
|$27,494 trillion (1st)|
• Per capita
New Zealand dollar
United States dollar
|Internet TLD||.au, .ca, .nz, .uk, .us|
The Five Eyes (FVEY) is an anglophone intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries are parties to the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.
The origins of the FVEY can be traced back to the post–World War II period, when the Atlantic Charter was issued by the Allies to lay out their goals for a post-war world. During the course of the Cold War, the ECHELON surveillance system was initially developed by the FVEY to monitor the communications of the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, although it is now used to monitor billions of private communications worldwide.
In the late 1990s, the existence of ECHELON was disclosed to the public, triggering a major debate in the European Parliament and, to a lesser extent, the United States Congress. As part of efforts in the ongoing War on Terror since 2001, the FVEY further expanded their surveillance capabilities, with much emphasis placed on monitoring the World Wide Web. The former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the Five Eyes as a "supra-national intelligence organisation that does not answer to the known laws of its own countries". Documents leaked by Snowden in 2013 revealed that the FVEY has been spying on one another's citizens and sharing the collected information with each other in order to circumvent restrictive domestic regulations on surveillance of citizens.
In spite of continued controversy over its methods, the Five Eyes relationship remains one of the most comprehensive known espionage alliances in history.
Since processed intelligence is gathered from multiple sources, the intelligence shared is not restricted to signals intelligence (SIGINT) and often involves defence intelligence as well as human intelligence (HUMINT) and geospatial intelligence (GEOINT). The following table provides an overview of most of the FVEY agencies involved in such forms of data sharing.
The origins of the Five Eyes alliance can be traced back to the Atlantic Charter, which was issued in August 1941 to lay out the Allied goals for the post-war world. On 17 May 1943, the British–U.S. Communication Intelligence Agreement, also known as the BRUSA Agreement, was signed by the UK and U.S. governments to facilitate co-operation between the U.S. War Department and the British Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS). On 5 March 1946, the secret treaty was formalized as the UKUSA Agreement, which forms the basis for all signal intelligence cooperation between the NSA and GCHQ to this day.
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 in the alliance as "third parties". By 1955, the formal status of the remaining Five Eyes countries was officially acknowledged in a newer version of the UKUSA Agreement that contained the following statement:
Cold War (1950s–1990s)
During the Cold War, GCHQ and the NSA shared intelligence on the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, and several eastern European countries (known as Exotics). Over the course of several decades, the ECHELON surveillance network was developed to monitor the military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies.
During the Vietnam War, Australian and New Zealand operators in the Asia-Pacific region worked directly to support the United States, while GCHQ operators stationed in the (then) British colony of Hong Kong were tasked with monitoring North Vietnamese air defence networks. During the Falklands War, the British received intelligence data from its FVEY allies such as Australia, as well as from third parties such as Norway and France. In the aftermath of the Gulf War, a technician of the ASIS was used by SIS to bug Kuwaiti government offices.
In the 1950s, SIS and the CIA jointly orchestrated the overthrow of Iran's Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. In the 1960s, SIS and the CIA jointly orchestrated the assassination of the Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba. In the 1970s, the ASIS and the CIA jointly orchestrated the overthrow of Chile's President Salvador Allende. During the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, SIS and the CIA took part in Operation Yellowbird to rescue dissidents from the Chinese regime.
ECHELON network disclosures (1972–2000)
By the end of the 20th century, the ECHELON surveillance network had evolved into a global system capable of sweeping up massive amounts of private and commercial communications, including telephone calls, fax, e-mail and other data traffic. This was done through the interception of communication bearers such as satellite transmission and public switched telephone networks.
The Five Eyes has two types of information collection methods: the PRISM program and the Upstream collection system. The PRISM program gathers user information from technology firms such as Google, Apple and Microsoft, while the Upstream system gathers information directly from the communications of civilians via fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past. The program's first disclosure to the public came in 1972 when a former NSA communications analyst reported to Ramparts Magazine that the NSA had developed technology that "could crack all Soviet codes".  In 1988, Duncan Campbell revealed in the New Statesman the existence of ECHELON, an extension of the UKUSA Agreement on global signals intelligence [Sigint]. The story, 'Somebody's listening,' detailed how the eavesdropping operations were not only being employed in the interests of 'national security,' but were regularly abused for corporate espionage in the service of US business interests. The piece passed largely unnoticed outside of journalism circles. In 1996, a detailed description of ECHELON was provided by New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager in a book titled "Secret Power – New Zealand's Role in the International Spy Network", which was cited by the European Parliament in a 1998 report titled "An Appraisal of the Technology of Political Control" (PE 168.184). On 16 March 2000, the Parliament called for a resolution on the Five Eyes and their ECHELON surveillance network, which, if passed, would have called for the "complete dismantling of ECHELON".
Three months later, the Temporary Committee on ECHELON was set up by the European Parliament to investigate the ECHELON surveillance network. However, according to a number of European politicians such as Esko Seppänen of Finland, these investigations were hindered by the European Commission.
In the United States, congressional legislators warned that the ECHELON system could be used to monitor U.S. citizens. On 14 May 2001, the U.S. government cancelled all meetings with the Temporary Committee on ECHELON.
War on Terror (2001–present)
During the run-up to the Iraq War, the communications of UN weapons inspector Hans Blix were monitored by the Five Eyes. The office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was bugged by British agents. An NSA memo detailed plans of the Five Eyes to boost eavesdropping on UN delegations of six countries as part of a "dirty tricks" campaign to apply pressure on these six countries to vote in favour of using force against Iraq.
SIS and the CIA forged a surveillance partnership with Libya's ruler Muammar Gaddafi to spy on Libyan dissidents in the West, in exchange for permission to use Libya as a base for extraordinary renditions.
In 2013, documents leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the existence of numerous surveillance programs jointly operated by the Five Eyes. The following list includes several notable examples reported in the media:
- PRISM – Operated by the NSA together with GCHQ and the ASD
- XKeyscore – Operated by the NSA with contributions from the ASD and the GCSB
- Tempora – Operated by GCHQ with contributions from the NSA
- MUSCULAR – Operated by GCHQ and the NSA
- STATEROOM – Operated by the ASD, CIA, CSE, GCHQ, and NSA
Domestic espionage sharing controversy
In recent years, documents of the FVEY have shown that they are intentionally spying on one another's citizens and sharing the collected information with each other. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the advocacy group Liberty, claimed that the FVEY alliance increases the ability of member states to "subcontract their dirty work" to each other. The former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the FVEY as a "supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn't answer to the laws of its own countries".
As a result of Snowden's disclosures, the FVEY alliance has become the subject of a growing amount of controversy in parts of the world:
- Canada: In late 2013, Canadian federal judge Richard Mosley strongly rebuked the CSIS for outsourcing its surveillance of Canadians to overseas partner agencies. A 51-page court ruling asserts that the CSIS and other Canadian federal agencies have been illegally enlisting FVEY allies in global surveillance dragnets, while keeping domestic federal courts in the dark.
- New Zealand: In 2014, the NZSIS and the GCSB of New Zealand were asked by the New Zealand Parliament to clarify if they had received any monetary contributions from members of the FVEY alliance. Both agencies withheld relevant information and refused to disclose any possible monetary contributions from the FVEY. David Cunliffe, leader of the Labour Party, asserted that the public is entitled to be informed.
- European Union: In early 2014, the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs released a draft report which confirmed that the intelligence agencies of New Zealand and Canada have cooperated with the NSA under the Five Eyes programme and may have been actively sharing the personal data of EU citizens.
Other international cooperatives
Since the addition of two members in 1956, the specific Five Eyes consist of Australia (accepted 1956), Canada (accepted 1948), New Zealand (accepted 1956), the United Kingdom (co-creator 1946), and the United States (co-creator 1946). Further, there is a group of nations termed '3rd Party Partners', which share their intelligence with the 5 Eyes.
While the Five Eyes is a very specific agreement with specific operations amongst the five nations, other non-FVEY sharing agreements have been set up independently and for specific purposes. For example, according to Edward Snowden, the NSA has a "massive body" called the Foreign Affairs Directorate that is responsible for partnering with foreign countries.
According to the news magazine L'Obs, in 2009, the United States proposed to France to join the Five Eyes, that would then have become the "Six Eyes". Nicolas Sarkozy however made the requirement to be granted the same status as other allies, including the signing of a "no-spy agreement". This requirement was approved by the director of the NSA, but not by the director of the CIA, and furthermore not by President Barack Obama, resulting in a refusal from France.
In 2013 it was reported that Germany was interested in joining the Five Eyes alliance. At that time, several members of the United States Congress, including Tim Ryan and Charles Dent, were pushing for Germany's entrance to the Five Eyes alliance.
Five Eyes Plus Three Against China and Russia
Five Eyes and, reportedly, a group of other "like-minded partners", such as France, Germany and Japan, since early 2018 introduced an information-sharing framework to counter threats arising from foreign activities of China as well as Russia.
Five Eyes Plus Three Against North Korea
According to a document leaked by Edward Snowden, there is another working agreement amongst 14 nations officially known as SIGINT Seniors Europe, or "SSEUR". These "14 Eyes" consist of the same members of Nine Eyes plus Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
Further intelligence sharing collaborations
- An area specific sharing amongst the 41 nations that formed the allied coalition in Afghanistan;
- A shared effort of the Five Eyes nations in "focused cooperation" on computer network exploitation with Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey;
- Club of Berne: 17 members including primarily European States; the US is not a member;
- The Counterterrorist Group: a wider membership than the 17 European states that make up the Club of Berne, and includes the US;
- NATO Special Committee: made up of the heads of the security services of NATO's 28 member countries
List of FVEY surveillance targets
As the surveillance capabilities of the FVEY continue to increase to keep up to pace with technological advancements, a global surveillance system has been gradually developed to capture the communications of entire populations across national borders. The following list contains a handful of targets of the FVEY who are public figures in various fields. In order for a person to be included in the list, there must be well-documented evidence based on reliable sources, such as leaked or declassified documents or whistleblower accounts, which demonstrate that the person involved is, or was, intentionally targeted for FVEY surveillance.
||A British comedian, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the silent era, Charlie Chaplin became one of the most important figures in the film industry through his screen persona "the Tramp". Due to his alleged ties to communism, he was placed under surveillance in the early 1950s by MI5 agents, who acted on behalf of the FBI as part of a campaign to banish him from the United States.|||
||A Dixiecrat candidate in the 1948 U.S. presidential election, Strom Thurmond represented South Carolina in the United States Senate from 1954 until 2003, when he became 100 years old and was recognized at that time as the longest-serving senator in U.S. history. In 1988, Margaret Newsham, a Lockheed employee, told a closed-door session of the United States Congress that Thurmond's telephone calls were being intercepted by the FVEY via their ECHELON surveillance system.|||
||A South African activist, lawyer, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, Nelson Mandela was denounced as a terrorist by critics and was placed under surveillance by British SIS agents. In 1962, Mandela was arrested after details of his terrorist activities were picked up by the CIA and handed over to local authorities.|||
||An American actress, writer, political activist and former fashion model. Due to her political activism, her communications as well as those of her husband, Tom Hayden, were intercepted by GCHQ and handed over to the NSA.|||
||A Shia cleric and a former President of Iran, Ali Khamenei is the current Supreme Leader of Iran. During a rare visit to Iranian Kurdistan in 2009, he and his entourage were targeted for surveillance under a high-tech espionage mission involving the analysis and processing of satellite imagery. The operation was jointly conducted by GCHQ and the NSA.|||
||A British musician, songwriter, and a lead singer of The Beatles, John Lennon engaged in anti-war activism through several iconic songs such as "Give Peace a Chance" and "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)". In 1971, he moved to New York City to join activists in the United States to protest against the Vietnam War. Over the next 12 months, the U.S. government launched an extensive surveillance operation to monitor his activities and to deport him back to Britain. The operation was conducted by the FBI with the help of MI5.|||
||An Israeli politician, lawyer, and a former Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert was the 12th Prime Minister of Israel. He and the Israeli Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, were included in a list of surveillance targets used by GCHQ and the NSA.|||
|Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono||1949–||
||A former chief military observer of the United Nation Peacekeeping Force in Bosnia and the former President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife were placed under surveillance by the ASD, which shared details of the operation with the NSA.|||
||A German politician, former research scientist, and the Chancellor of Germany since 2005, Angela Merkel's phone communications were monitored by the Special Collection Service, which is part of the STATEROOM surveillance program of the FVEY.|||
|Diana, Princess of Wales||1961–1997||
||A firm opponent of the international usage of land mines, the Princess of Wales was placed under surveillance by GCHQ and the NSA, which kept a top secret file on her containing more than 1,000 pages. The contents of Diana's NSA file have not been disclosed because of national security concerns.|||
||A German-Finnish Internet entrepreneur, businessman, and hacktivist, Kim Dotcom (born Kim Schmitz) is the founder of the file hosting service Megaupload. On behalf of the FBI, the GCSB of New Zealand conducted illegal surveillance on Dotcom. Prime Minister John Key later issued an apology for the GCSB's illegal surveillance.|||
- Broadcasting networks
- Financial institutions
- MasterCard[failed verification] (USA)
- Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication
- Visa Inc. (USA)
- Multinational corporations
- Oil corporations
- Search engines
- Telecom operators
- United Nations
- United Nations General Assembly
- United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research
- United Nations Children's Fund
- United Nations Development Programme
- International Atomic Energy Agency
- Tsinghua University (China)
- The Racah Institute of Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel)
- ABCANZ Armies
- Air and Space Interoperability Council (Air forces)
- AUSCANNZUKUS (Navies)
- Border Five
- Five Country Conference
- Five Nations Passport Group
- The Technical Cooperation Program (technology and science)
- UKUSA Agreement (signals intelligence)
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