The Five Eyes: The International Syndicate That Spies on the Entire World

In the late 1960s, the Five Eyes launched the ECHELON program, powered by a global array of US-run satellites and SIGINT bases located in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Initially, the Five Eyes arrangement was ideally suited for the Cold War where the primary task was gathering intelligence from the former Soviet bloc countries and their allies. Later, as the internet expanded, the sheer volume of digital content and communications meant that the Five Eyes had to readjust its core competency – from an organisation mainly preoccupied with spying on governments, institutions, and persons of interest, to an organisation whose primary task was to spy on absolutely everyone. With this new raison d’être in mind, the Five Eyes cooperative framework became ideal for allowing spy agencies to bypass domestic laws that might prohibit them from conducting surveillance or hacking their country’s own citizens. Overcoming legal or technical barriers became fairly straightforward, especially in the wake of the attacks of 9/11. The USA Patriot Act meant that intelligence and law enforcement agencies could invoke national security and require telecoms companies and internet service providers (ISPs) to allow fibre optic splitters to be installed at key nodes in the telecommunications infrastructure, allowing spooks to divert massive data flows to be captured and run through the various Five Eyes data analysis centres. 

Michael McKinley of the Australian National University, in an article describing the full scope of the NSA’s digital arsenal, mentions “[t]he known codewords for them over recent times: Blarney, Echelon, Dancingoasis, PRISM, Tempora, XKEYSCORE [sic], Muscular, Pinwale, EgotisticalGiraffe, Stormbrew, Fairview, Oakstar, Mainway, Rampart-T, and Nucleon. Between them, they aim to attack computers using certain types of legal privacy software, and overall to harvest, store, and analyse whatever internet traffic can be hoovered up.”

Interestingly, this fraternal brotherhood only seems to extend to certain allies. While German spy agencies like the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) cooperate with their US counterparts as a “third party” government through the Fourteen Eyes agreement, Washington spooks still feel the need to constantly spy on Berlin. The 2013 Snowden leaks revealed that Germany is a major target of US espionage run out of the NSA’s own European Cryptologic Center (ECC), known affectionately as the “Dagger Complex,” located in Griesheim, in the German state of Hesse. 

The Five Eyes: The International Syndicate That Spies on the Entire World – New Dawn: The World’s Most Unusual Magazine