UKUSA agreement

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UKUSA countries: Australia, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and USA

UKUSA refers to the agreements concluded between the United Kingdom ( UK ) and the United States ( USA ) from 1946 onwards for cooperation between the secret services of the two countries: the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the British GCHQ . Australia ( DSD ), Canada ( Communications Security Establishment Canada ) and New Zealand ( GCSB ) joined the agreement as further, secondary “UKUSA” states . The alliance of these five countries is also known informally as the Five Eyes . Germany , France , Israel ( code name Ruffle ), Sweden (code name Sardine ), Italy , Japan , Norway , South Korea and Turkey (so-called Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes ) were later added as cooperation partners (“tertiary partner” ). Germany joined in 1955 and continues to operate the Bad Aibling listening station under the so-called telecommunications office of the Federal Intelligence Service . (See also: Cooperation between the Federal Intelligence Service and the NSA )


Until the collapse of the Soviet Union , the main aim of the agreement was to make the military reconnaissance of the Eastern Bloc more effective . Today it is primarily intended to serve the pursuit of international terrorism .

In addition to the exchange of intelligence information, technical resources such as software and computers are shared in the network. In addition, regional priorities for the distribution of tasks have been agreed: the British are responsible for Europe and Africa , the USA for Latin America and East Asia . Australia observes South Asia , New Zealand the western Pacific . Canada is responsible for embassy communication worldwide. “The entire communication of the government and the military armed forces of a foreign country, including the air force and navy, all parliamentary groups, parties, ministries, authorities and agencies as well as every person and person who acts or pretends to act for this country is recorded and analyzed act".

Critics claim that the association serves industrial espionage and wiretapping of civilian targets (such as business people, scientists, diplomats), which also includes members of the agreement. Highest employees of the US secret services confirm this, but justify it with a corruption investigation.

The interception of economic and industrial as well as private information often takes place via telephone companies (called International Leased Carrier or ILC, in German for example: international, leased operator ). By opening up their facilities, they have a major share in the success of the intelligence services.


The source situation is problematic due to the secret nature of the merger.

In 1988 the investigative journalist Duncan Campbell reported for the first time on Echelon in the British weekly newspaper " New Statesman ".

It was only around ten years later that the UKUSA network and the Echelon interception system became more widely known in Europe through two reports from the “STOA” ( Scientific and Technological Options Assessment ) service of the European Parliament . In the first report from 1997, Steve Wright ( Omega Foundation ) described Echelon as a global, comprehensive interception system. The then EU Commissioner , Martin Bangemann , said in 1998: "If the system existed like this, it would of course be a flagrant violation of rights, individual rights of citizens and, of course, an attack on the security of the member states."

One of the leading authors of the 1999 STOA follow-up report was Duncan Campbell. He put forward the thesis that Echelon was no longer used only for defense against the East, but for industrial espionage. For example, Airbus and Thomson CSF should have been damaged. A scientific review of the work by STOA does not take place. The magazine Der Spiegel wrote about "a global network of wiretapping systems dominated by the US secret service NSA, with which international electronic data traffic is automatically scanned across the board and filtered for analysis by secret services".

The existence of the UKUSA contracts was first publicly confirmed on March 16, 1999 by the then director of the Australian DSD.

In 2001 , the journalist James Bamford , who specializes in intelligence services , doubted in his book Body of Secrets (German title: NSA. The anatomy of the most powerful secret service in the world ) that UKUSA was involved in industrial espionage.

On June 25, 2010, the first contracts (until 1956) were made available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act .

As part of the surveillance and espionage affair in 2013 , Edward Snowden made further information public. They pointed out that the Five Eyes and other secret services, such as the German BND, monitored the population of the other countries and exchanged the collected information with each other in order to circumvent national surveillance laws that impose limits on the surveillance of their own population.

According to Snowden, the non-American partners in the Five Eyes Alliance sometimes went further than the NSA itself. As an example, Snowden cited that the GCHQ Tempora program is the largest recipient of all kinds of intelligence information.

Development of the way of working


The first initiative for this alliance goes back to August 1940. The aim of this agreement was to eavesdrop on communications between the Axis powers, the German Empire , Italy and Japan, and their allies. This alliance between the USA and the UK should strengthen cooperation in order to crack the codes of the German Atlantic fleet " Enigma ", "Fish" and "Purple". With the US war against Japan, Australia was also included.

In 1947 the actual UKUSA treaties were ratified. On the basis of these contracts, a number of standardizing measures were planned and implemented over time. The respective listening stations and systems as well as the staff were integrated into the newly created network and from this point on, procedures, technical material and tasks were coordinated. In addition, after the contracts were signed, many other systems for reconnaissance in the Soviet Union were put into operation. An agreement was also reached on code words that identified the information collected, the resources used for this and the level of confidentiality. The rules on secrecy were also unified - anyone who had access to sensitive information had lifelong "confidentiality" - and the globe was divided into areas to be monitored by the main parties. For example, Australia is responsible for Oceania and Great Britain mainly for all of Europe and Africa.

From the end of the Second World War until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc was the main enemy of the UKUSA nations, so that intelligence-gathering efforts were mainly aimed at the Eastern Bloc.

During the war and the post-war years, long-distance communication was mainly transmitted via shortwave radio , which is why the GCHQ and the NSA in particular, but also other allies around the Soviet Union and later also China, maintained telecommunications listening stations.

The filtering of meaningful information was done then, as it is probably still today, by comparing the intercepted information with a list of key terms (so-called watch lists ), which was then updated weekly. Thousands of employees were busy analyzing unencrypted and encrypted messages. For example, Project Shamrock and Project Minaret , US systems for interception and analysis of telegraph messages, worked on this basis. They existed until 1975 and have been partially automated over time. A trend that continues to this day.

Networking, modernization, automation and echelon

In the mid-1960s, the antenna systems of many US wiretapping systems for shortwave radio were improved so that they could now also determine the transmission location. In addition, at the end of the decade, a network of systems for wiretapping communications satellites began to be planned, in which all English-speaking allies are now involved and which is known under the name Echelon .

Due to technical progress, the way of working changed considerably, which is also due to the presumable commissioning of Echelon in the early 1970s. Due to the increased volume of information to be processed from satellite reconnaissance, a computer-aided filtering process had become necessary. The centerpiece of this improved technology was a so-called dictionary that reflected the original watch lists and was probably also used to process communications that did not come from satellites. In the course of the P-415 project , this development was probably pushed further and, among other things, the dictionary technology was improved. Part of the project should also have been a massive expansion and new construction of the Echelon systems as well as the creation of a global wide area network (WAN).

This global network connected the monitoring systems of the participating countries with the central computer system of the NSA (called platform ) and other computer systems. This WAN was renewed until 1996 and known as a very secure network under the name Intelink . It works on the basis of the network protocol TCP / IP , which was originally developed for the predecessor of the now public Internet and which was declared the standard for US military communications. Intelink's predecessors were bigger than the public Internet until the mid-1990s. The use of the modern network and access to secret information should be easy and intuitive for employees of the intelligence services and should be highly encrypted. Thirteen US intelligence services and other UKUSA agencies are said to be connected to Intelink.


  • Jeffrey T. Richelson / Desmond Ball: The ties that bind: Intelligence cooperation between the UKUSA countries. Allen & Unwin, 1985, ISBN 0-04-520009-2 .
  • Nicky Hager: Secret power: New Zealand's role in the international spy network. Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, New Zealand 1996, ISBN 0-908802-35-8 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Espionage cooperation "Five Eyes". Five eyes see more . In: Süddeutsche , October 31, 2013
  2. Financial Times : Global Insight: US spying risks clouding 'five eyes' vision, June 10, 2013 - access for a fee.
  3. Owen Bowcott; 'Five Eyes' surveillance pact should be published, Strasbourg court told ; in The Guardian on Sept. 9, 2014.
  4. ^ A b Secret society "Five Eyes" - The exclusive club of the secret services . In: Der Tagesspiegel , July 5, 2013
  5. ^ Adam Martin: NSA: Germany Was 'a Little Grumpy' About Being Left Out of Spying Club . New York (magazine) . November 2, 2013. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  6. ^ Israel cannot ignore damage caused by Trump's Russia leak . In: Ynetnews , May 18, 2017. 
  7. Leo Kelion: NSA-GCHQ Snowden leaks: A glossary of the key terms . BBC . January 27, 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  8. Justin Cremer: Denmark is one of the NSA's '9-Eyes' . In: The Copenhagen Post . Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  9. NATO Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) format, Table 2-1.3. Packet Security Codes, September 14, 2010, p. 21. - Wayback Machine,
  10. ^ Five Eyes, 9-Eyes and many more. In: November 15, 2013, accessed December 29, 2018 .
  11. Five Eyes. Germany should join an exclusive spy club . In: Die Welt , December 18, 2013
  12. The most exclusive secret service club in the world - "Five Eyes" want to stay among themselves . In: n-tv , October 30, 2013
  13. Yes, dear friends, we have listened to you . In: ZEIT ONLINE . March 30, 2000 ( [accessed November 21, 2018]).
  14. a b James Bamford : Muscles. Echelon and the Europeans . Extract from the book NSA. The anatomy of the most powerful intelligence agency in the world. In: Der Spiegel, April 26, 2001
  15. a b c News from Echelon . In: Spiegel Online , May 21, 1999
  16. a b European Parliament : Report on the existence of a global interception system for private and business communications (ECHELON interception system) (2001/2098 (INI)) . Part 1, PE 305391. Final version dated July 11, 2001.
  17. ^ Steve Wright: An appraisal of technologies of political control. Scientific and Technological Options Assessment STOA (English). European Parliament, 1998. In: University of Pittsburgh website
  18. Peggy Becker, Duncan Campbell et al .: Development of Surveillance Technology and Risk of Abuse of Economic Information - Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control . Volumes 1-5 (English). European Parliament, 1999.
  19. Duncan Campbell: Interception Capabilities 2000 In: The state of the art in communications Intelligence (COMINT) of automated processing for intelligence purposes of intercepted broadband multi-language leased or common carrier systems, and its applicability to COMINT targetting and selection, including speech recognition . European Parliament, PE 168.184, Volume 2/5 (English), October 1999. Published on Spiegel Online - Netzwelt , June 14, 2001
  20. a b c Duncan Campbell : Inside Echelon. In: Telepolis , July 24, 2000
  21. ^ Duncan Campbell: Paper 3: COMINT, privacy and human rights . In: Telepolis, May 27, 2001
  22. Not so secret: deal at the heart of UK-US intelligence. In: The Guardian , June 25, 2010
  23. NSA: UKUSA Agreement Release 1940-1956 (English) - UKUSA documents from 1940 to 1956 released in 2010
  24. ^ Attack from America . In: Der Spiegel, July 1, 2013
  25. More Snowden Revelations: Australia has FOUR US Spy Sites . In: International Business Times , July 9, 2013
  26. James Bamford : Muscles. Searching for the keyword . Extract from the book NSA. The anatomy of the most powerful intelligence agency in the world. In: Der Spiegel, April 26, 2001