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‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    7th Oct, 2023


The Canadian Prime Minister, Trudeau claimed that Indian government was involved in Khalistani leader's killing on Canadian soil which has now highlighted the 'Five Eyes' alliance.


  • Origin of the Alliance: The U.S.-U.K. intelligence alliance, now known as the UKUSA Agreement, traces its origins back to the Second World War when the United States and the United Kingdom collaborated to counter the Soviet threat emerging from the Cold War.
  • In 1946, the alliance was formalized through an agreement called the British-U.S. Communication Intelligence Agreement, commonly referred to as BRUSA.
    • This treaty was signed between the U. State-Army-Navy Communication Intelligence Board (STANCIB) and the London Signal Intelligence Board (SIGINT) of Britain.
  • Over time, the alliance expanded to include other countries: Canada joined in 1948, while Australia and New Zealand became part of the alliance in 1956, forming a network of countries known as the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance.
    • This alliance has continued to operate and cooperate on intelligence matters for decades. 

About the ‘Five Eyes’ alliance:

  • The ‘Five Eyes’ is a multilateral intelligence-sharing network shared by over 20 different agencies of five English-speaking countries — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • It is both surveillance-based and signals intelligence (SIGINT).
  • Intelligence documents shared between the member countries are classified ‘Secret—AUS/CAN/NZ/UK/US Eyes Only,’ which gave the group its title ‘Five Eyes.’
  • Objective: The aim of the Five Eyes, however, has shifted following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of new global challenges like terrorism and the growing influence of China.

Five Eyes alliance cooperation:

  • The Five Eyes have become involved in ocean and maritime surveillance, scientific and defence intelligence analysis, medical intelligence, geospatial intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and the continuous sharing of intelligence products via a secret collective database known as ‘Stone Ghost’.
  • The Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council (FIORC) was created in September 2016 as the non-political intelligence oversight, review, and security entities of the member countries to exchange views on subjects of mutual interest, compare best practices, explore areas of cooperation, and maintain contact with non-Five Eyes countries.

Concerns associated with the Alliance

The Five Eyes intelligence alliance has faced ongoing concerns regarding privacy, security, and its operational methods, which were largely shrouded in secrecy for a long time.

  • Privacy concern among Nationals: In 2013, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified documents that exposed a massive surveillance program jointly conducted by the Five Eyes alliance. This program was designed to monitor the citizens of member countries, raising significant privacy and civil liberties concerns.
  • The absence of domestic legislation governing intelligence-sharing has raised questions about the legal basis and democratic legitimacy of these arrangements.
  • Lack of ‘Third-party rule’: The "third party rule," often included in intelligence-sharing agreements, prohibits the disclosure of inter-agency information to third parties, undermining the possibility of effective oversight. This lack of transparency has been a source of concern.
  • In 2013, a Canadian court rebuked the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for using the alliance to monitor the electronic communications of Canadian terror suspects abroad.
    • The ruling highlighted deliberate misinformation provided by Canadian spy agencies to expand their surveillance powers unlawfully, potentially exposing government agents to criminal charges and putting Canadian terrorism suspects at risk.

India and Impacts:

  • Security Concerns: India, like other countries, may have concerns about the extent of global surveillance conducted by Five Eyes members.
    • The alliance's mass surveillance programs, as revealed by Edward Snowden, have raised questions about privacy and civil liberties, which can influence India's approach to data protection and cybersecurity.
  • Global Diplomacy: The Five Eyes alliance often collaborates on intelligence and security issues on a global scale.
    • India may need to consider the implications of this cooperation in its own diplomatic and geopolitical strategies, especially in areas where its interests align or conflict with those of the alliance.
  • Data Sharing: India's interactions with Five Eyes member countries, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, can be influenced by the alliance's intelligence-sharing arrangements.
    • This may affect bilateral agreements on data sharing, counterterrorism efforts, and other security-related matters.

India-US cooperation for data sharing:

  • S.-India Cybersecurity Framework Agreement: The United States and India have been cooperating closely on counterterrorism efforts, and this includes sharing information and intelligence related to terrorist threats and activities.
  • Both countries have a shared interest in combating terrorism, and they exchange information to enhance their collective security.
  • Others: S. law enforcement agencies and Indian counterparts collaborate on various law enforcement matters, including sharing information related to transnational crime, drug trafficking, and organized crime. This cooperation helps both countries address cross-border criminal activities.

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