The future of the Five Eyes


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In the midst of World War II, and faced with multiple threats in a complex series of clashes around the world, the United States and the United Kingdom entered into a top-secret and trusted agreement to share the signal information they had gathered about the enemy. In the decade following World War II, the agreement was expanded to include Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The group formed with the purpose of sharing their Signal Intelligence with trusted partners who shared core values, has come to be known as the “Five Eyes.”

Until the devastating national security leaks, little was known about the “Five Eyes” publicly Edward Snowden In 2013. Since then, other countries have been eager to search for a seat at the table, but in a world more complicated than 1945, this can be difficult. Today, the differences between the five basic eyes countries over how to address 5G security concerns And how to counter Aggressive China, It can make things more complicated.

my knowledge:

  • The Five Eyes Alliance (FVEY) is an intelligence sharing alliance that includes the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
  • The coalition arose out of intelligence-sharing partnerships that were forged during World War II, and were rarely discussed publicly until recently.
  • The alliance is based on an agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom in 1946, known as the UKUSA Agreement Which provides for the Signal Intelligence Sharing Treaty (SIGINT).
  • Between 1946 and 1956, additional Appendices That expanded the relationship to include Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Summary: this week, Cipher International Summit Summary Four national security experts are welcomed with first-hand knowledge of the foundation, importance, and challenges facing the Five Eyes Alliance, and as a brief reading in advance, we wanted to share their thoughts on the importance of the coalition and what they see as essential. Future challenges and opportunities for information exchange.


John McLaughlinActing former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Trust is the core of the Five Eyes relationship. The strength of this trust stems from the most common source of this trait: a history of doing difficult and dangerous things together and in the process we must rely on each other for information, creativity and courage. This partnership was formed, of course, in World War II, the largest single event in world history, and in modern times, the most significant. It was tested during the Cold War when the same existential threat emerged and again during the post-Cold War era when issues like terrorism threatened us all. All along, I have been characterized by candor, the ability to set politics aside in favor of our collective interests and a common set of values ​​centered around a commitment to democracy and human freedom.

Sir John Scarlett, Ex-chief of MI6

It is important to understand the history of the Five Eyes. Officially, this is now 75 years old. Until very recently, it was an intelligence partnership, low profile and rarely discussed publicly. Relationships are very deep, based on deep trust and shared values ​​spread across the world. They have been largely protected from changing political moods, politics and tensions.

Dick Faden, Former Deputy Minister of National Defense, Canada

The Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance arose in response to an apparent threat in World War II and continued throughout the Cold War with one other threat. Today’s challenge is that intelligence gathering and sharing must address the many threats that increasingly permeate government efforts. While its increasing visibility is a shift from past practices, this does not mean that it needs to move in the realm of politics. Instead, it should and can represent a mindset appropriate to other areas of government.

David Irvine, Former Director General of Security, Australia

The Five Eyes is not a formal alliance in and of itself. It has grown as a separate (and until recently unclear) arrangement for sharing intelligence between five nations of shared values. We have served very well, adding additional value to any partner’s intelligence efforts. It is constantly developing and adapting its scope to meet the common intelligence challenges of the day.


While other countries, threatened by authoritarian regimes, are looking to expand their intelligence capabilities, there has been talk of expanding the coalition. The expansion and the concept of sharing intelligence with more partners creates new and unique challenges for FVEYs. What other challenges and opportunities exist for FVEYs in the future?


Sir John Scarlett, Ex-chief of MI6

In the coming period, the unique Five Eyes relationship will face a challenge, due to its much higher international standing and the rapidly changing global and geopolitical context. Liberal democracies appear to be on the defensive in the face of assertive and self-assured authoritarian regimes. They no longer set the terms for the global economy. But they do maintain significant strengths. How do we get the most out of it as we move into the future?

John McLaughlinActing former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

In this new millennium, the overarching challenge of the Five Eyes cooperation is to work towards preserving shared value in meeting the challenges facing a global order based on these challenges. As democracy comes under pressure and authoritarian regimes become more and more aggressive, cooperation between our democracies – and with partners who share these values ​​- is more urgent than ever. We must be prepared to compete peacefully with adversaries and unify our efforts in ways that deter them from provocative actions.

Dick Faden, Former Deputy Minister of National Defense, Canada

The best course of action, if the five eyes must not be enlarged, is to continue to replicate their benefits in other areas. For example, in the immigration zone there is the quintet and there is a similar group of border organizations. But the bottom line is its usefulness in tackling an evolving threat environment. This should dictate its evolution.

David Irvine, Former Director General of Security, Australia

Recent moves to shift the Five Eyes concept from its purely purpose of sharing intelligence into a broader mechanism for policymaking and policy implementation raise some important issues. How will the Five Eyes manage the public opinion differences about strategic policy that sometimes arise among the participants? On major strategic issues today, effective policy approaches must include alliances and partners that are not part of the Five Eyes of English Speaking; Could Five Eyes build the best way to approach those necessary broad partnerships? However, the concept of the Five Eyes is integrated into the new strategic policy directions, and the primary purpose of intelligence gathering and engagement between like-minded and trusted partners should not be weakened.

John M ClolinFormer CIA Acting Director

A particularly urgent priority is to boost cooperation on emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning – critical to being successful in competition with adversaries. Moreover, at a time when intelligence services are used in many parts of the world as tools of local control, it is our responsibility to show how the secret security services operate effectively in democratic systems, and are accountable to elected authorities. In an era of pervasive information, it is all the more imperative that we use our traditional profession to separate fact from fiction and communicate unadjusted truth to our policymakers.


Join the experts at Cipher’s Briefing The International Summit: Three days of expert-led sessions on the strategic value of alliances, intelligence, China, cyber and emerging technologies. Registration is free for members of Cipher Brief. See how $ 10 a month It brings you the most experienced national security experts.



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