Written by Samantha Pearse
There is a cooperation between five major countries in the world that was created to share top secret information in an effort to better protect the world’s best interests. Known informally as Five Eyes, this collaboration of intelligence organizations exists officially under the UKUSA treaty. The term “Five Eyes” is a shortened version of the very long name “Aus/Can/NZ/UK/Eyes Only” (UK Defense Journal) and officially includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Stemming from The Special Relationship that the United States and the United Kingdom share, each country takes the surveillance of different regions of the world, with UK focusing on “Europe, Western Russia, Middle East and Hong Kong [while] the United States [watches over] the Middle East, China, Russia, Africa, and the Caribbean [Australia and New Zealand share] South and East Asia and the South Pacific.” Canada takes charge of parts of Russia, China, and focuses on Latin America (UK Defense Journal).
The strong relationship that Britain and the United States have with each other today started at the turn of the 20th century with the induction of the United States into WW1. While their relationship has not been perfect throughout the decades, it has remained strong and has been a powerful source force for change and international politics. During WWII, the united states first practiced a policy of isolationism, however, FDR, the then American president, pledged “to do all he could for England short of formal war” (Thought Co). The president pushed for the building of arms to supply the allies in Europe, and Roosevelt and Churchill were in direct communications with each other through a secret telephone line. It is the mass amounts of cooperation that occurred between the two countries during the war that set-in motion the formation of the UKUSA treaty.
The idea of the two countries sharing intelligence came from the UK government reaching out to the US in 1940. In a communication, the British Secretary of War, Lord Lothian wrote to the president detailing a plan to openly share classified intelligence. He wrote “In order to show their readiness for the fullest cooperation to be perfectly open with you and to give you full details of any equipment or devices in which you are interested without in any way pressing you beforehand” (NSA). The offer to be completely open with all intelligence, without asking any questions, shows how much Britain trusted and needed the US. At the turn of the century the world was changing, and Great Britain was losing its empire piece by piece, and it had been surpassed by the United States. The stiff and proud upper classes the United Kingdom were coming to accept this at the height of the war by extending further reliance between the two countries.
The formal agreement that became the UKUSA treaty was signed March 5 1946, and had further amendments made over the span of the next decade, including that additions of Canada in 1948 and New Zealand and Australia in 1956 (UK defense journal). Under the original agreement, it was stated that the organization was meant for the collection of communication and traffic and well as the sharing of analysis and crypto analysis. It was written that “such exchange will be unrestricted (…) except when specifically excluded (…) at the request of either party, and with the agreement of the other” (NSA).
The intense secrecy of the organization meant that not even the Prime Minister of Australia was aware of it’s existence, until the 1970s. It became public knowledge in 2005, with the release of the original documents from its post-war creation being released to the public in the US and the UK in 2010 (NSA). Since the end of the cold war, there has been a rise in many different threats to the world, including vast terrorist groups, dictatorial regimes, and black market deals, all of which Five Eyes watches out for internationally.