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An Overview of the Five Eyes Alliance
While the attention on Edward Snowden’s 2013 intelligence leaks centred on the NSA, the media has largely overlooked the underlying international spying apparatus of the U.S.-led intelligence alliance known as the Five Eyes (FVEY). FVEY is a multinational network that links the NSA to governmental security organizations in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This alliance has been active since World War II and has grown tremendously since the beginning of the War on Terror. Today, the Five Eyes intelligence apparatus collects massive amounts of data on the communications of millions of people around the world.
The origins of the Five Eyes partnership can be traced back to World War II, when British and American codebreakers worked together to intercept and decode Nazi radio communications. After the war, the two sides continued cooperating and formalized their spying partnership with the secret “UKUSA” agreement of 1946. In 1955, the UKUSA agreement was amended to include the former commonwealth countries of New Zealand, Canada and Australia, resulting in the formation of the Five Eyes structure that still exists today.
The Five Eyes (FVEY) spying alliance includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Edward Snowden has described it as a “supra-national intelligence organization that doesn’t answer to the known laws of its own countries.”
Intelligence is freely shared between security organizations of member countries, a practice that is used to evade legal restrictions on spying on their own citizens. It is therefore a very good idea to avoid all dealings with FVEY-based companies.
The scope of the NSA’s PRISM spying program is staggering. Edward Snowden’s revelations have demonstrated it has the power to co-opt any US-based company. This includes monitoring information relating to non-US citizens and pretty much anybody else in the world. It also includes monitoring all internet traffic that passes through the US’s internet backbone.
Other countries’ governments seem desperate to increase their own control over their citizens’ data. Nothing, however, matches the scale, sophistication, or reach of PRISM. This includes China’s attempts at internet surveillance.
Recommending that each US-based organization might be complicit in giving each client's close to home data over to an undercover and generally unaccountable spying association may sound the stuff of suspicious sci-fi dream. As late occasions have demonstrated, in any case, this is terrifyingly near reality…
Note also that due to provisions in both the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), US companies must hand over users’ data. This applies even if that user is a non-US citizen, and the data has never been stored in the US.
The UK’s GCHQ is in bed with the NSA. It also carries out some particularly heinous and ambitious spying projects of its own. According to Edward Snowden, “they [GCHQ] are worse than the US.”
This already bad situation is about to worsen. The impending Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) “formalises” this covert spying into law. It also expands the UK government’s surveillance capabilities to a terrifying degree with very little in the way of meaningful oversight.
I therefore strongly recommend avoiding all companies and services based in the UK.
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