Context: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent allegations, connecting the assassination of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil to the Indian government, have brought attention to the intelligence-sharing alliance known as the ‘Five Eyes.’ It is suggested that this alliance may have played a role in providing information that assisted Canada in this matter.
Who are the ‘Five Eyes’?
- The ‘Five Eyes’ is a multilateral intelligence sharing network of five countries, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S.
- It is both surveillance based and tracks signals intelligence (SIGINT).
- The alliance between the U.S. and the U.K. evolved around the Second World War to counter the Cold War Soviet threat. The two countries, which had successfully deciphered German and Japanese codes during the war, forged a collaboration to share intelligence related to signals such as radio, satellite and internet communications.
- In 1946, the alliance was formalised through an agreement for cooperation in signals intelligence.
- The arrangement was later extended to ‘second party’ countries – Canada joined in 1948, while Australia and New Zealand became part of the alliance in 1956.
- The Five Eyes have become involved in ocean and maritime surveillance, scientific and defence intelligence analysis, medical intelligence, geospatial intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and the continuous sharing of intelligence products via a secret collective database known as ‘Stone Ghost’.
The intelligence alliance has faced numerous issues related to its transparency, data security, and operational procedures, which had been concealed from public scrutiny for an extended period.
Its most significant controversy emerged in 2013 when Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), revealed classified documents. Snowden characterized this network as a “supranational (having power or influence that transcends national boundaries or governments) intelligence organization that operates independently of its member countries’ legal frameworks.”