UKUSA Agreement

The UKUSA Community: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States

The United Kingdom – United States of America Agreement (UKUSA, ɑː/ SAH)[1][note 1]is a multilateral agreement for cooperation in signals intelligence between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The alliance of intelligence operations is also known as the Five Eyes.[3][4][5][6][7] In classification markings this is abbreviated as FVEY, with the individual countries being abbreviated as AUS, CAN, NZL, GBR, and USA, respectively.[8]

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 Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Other countries, known as "third parties", such as West Germany, the Philippines, and several Nordic countries also joined the UKUSA community in associate capacities, although they are not part of mechanism for automatic sharing of intelligence that exists between the Five Eyes.[9][10]

Much of the sharing of information is performed via the ultra-sensitive STONEGHOST network, which has been claimed to contain "some of the Western world's most closely guarded secrets".[11] Besides laying down rules for intelligence sharing, the agreement formalized and cemented the "Special Relationship" between the UK and the US.[12][13]

Due to its status as a secret treaty, its existence was not known to the Prime Minister of Australia until 1973,[14] and it was not disclosed to the public until 2005.[13] On 25 June 2010, for the first time in history, the full text of the agreement was publicly released by the United Kingdom and the United States, and can now be viewed online.[9][15] Shortly after its release, the seven-page UKUSA Agreement was recognized by Time magazine as one of the Cold War's most important documents, with immense historical significance.[13]

The global surveillance disclosure by Edward Snowden has shown that the intelligence-sharing activities between the First World allies of the Cold War are rapidly shifting into the digital realm of the Internet.[16][17][18]


Origins (1940s–1950s)

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 1943 British–U.S. Communication Intelligence Agreement, 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.[9]

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

Onset of the Cold War (1950s–1960s)

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).[19] The network was expanded in the 1960s into the Echelon collection and analysis network.[20]

The treaty was extended to include Canada (1948), Australia (1956) and New Zealand (1956). In 1955, the agreement was updated to designate Canada, Australia and New Zealand as "UKUSA-collaborating Commonwealth countries".[21] Other countries that joined as "third parties" were Norway (1952), Denmark (1954) and West Germany (1955).

Investigations (1970–90s)

In the aftermath of the 1973 Murphy raids on the headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the existence of the UKUSA Agreement was revealed to Australia's Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. After learning about the agreement, Whitlam discovered that Pine Gap, a secret surveillance station close to Alice Springs, Australia, had been operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[22][23][24][25]

At the height of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, the use and control of Pine Gap by the CIA was strongly opposed by Whitlam, who fired the chief of the ASIO before being dismissed as prime minister.[26]

The existence of several intelligence agencies of the Five Eyes was not revealed until the following years:

In Canada, an investigative television report revealed the existence of the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).[27]
In the United States, the Church Committee of the Senate revealed the existence of the National Security Agency (NSA).[28][29]
In Britain, an investigative article in Time Out magazine revealed the existence of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).[30]
In Australia, the Hope Commission revealed the existence of Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD).[31]
In New Zealand, the existence of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) was officially disclosed on a "limited basis".[32]

In 1999, the Australian government acknowledged that it "does co-operate with counterpart signals intelligence organisations overseas under the UKUSA relationship."[33][34]

The existence of the UKUSA Agreement, however, was not publicly revealed until 2005.[13] The contents of the agreement were officially disclosed to the public on 25 June 2010. Four days later, the agreement was described by Time magazine as one of the "most important documents in the history of the Cold War."[13]

Recent media leaks

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.[35]

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.[36]

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia operates clandestine surveillance facilities at its embassies "without the knowledge of most Australian diplomats". These facilities are part of an international espionage program known as STATEROOM.[37]

Other Languages
català: UKUSA
español: UKUSA
euskara: UKUSA
français: UKUSA
galego: UKUSA
한국어: UKUSA
Bahasa Indonesia: Perjanjian UKUSA
italiano: Accordo UKUSA
Nederlands: UKUSA-akkoord
日本語: UKUSA協定
norsk nynorsk: UKUSA-samarbeidet
русский: UKUS SIGINT
中文: 英美協定