The French, Belgian, Egyptian and Yemeni authorities have all in the last 12 months failed to connect the dots on available data that might have prevented or lessened the Hebdo, Bataclan, Zaventem & Maalbeek atrocities.
Some of their foreign counterparts however are part of an exclusive alliance that shares intelligence that does in many cases provide insights that the individual portions do not.
The Five Eyes intelligence alliance is led by the USA. Often abbreviated as “FVEY” the alliance comprises Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They are bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.
FVEY’s origins can be traced back to the Atlantic Charter issued by the Allies to lay out their goals for a post-war world in 1945. During 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. Later, it was alleged that it was also used to monitor billions of private communications worldwide.
ECHELON’s existence was disclosed in the late 1990’s and it triggered a major debate in the European Parliament. As part of efforts in the so called War on Terror the FVEY further expanded their surveillance capabilities, with much emphasis placed on monitoring internet communications.
Snowden describes the Five Eyes as a “supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn’t answer to the known laws of its own countries”. Documents leaked by Snowden in 2013 revealed that the FVEY have 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.
The leaked documents also revealed the existence of numerous surveillance programs jointly operated by the Five Eyes including:
- PRISM – Operated by the NSA together with the GCHQ and the ASD;
- XKeyscore – Operated by the NSA with contributions from the ASD and the GCSB;
- Tempora – Operated by the GCHQ with contributions from the NSA;
- MUSCULAR – Operated by the GCHQ and the NSA;
- STATEROOM – Operated by the ASD, CIA, CSEC, GCHQ, and NSA.
Despite the disclosures no amount of outrage will affect the Five Eyes which remains the most extensive known espionage alliance in history.