08:28 GMT +326 September 2017
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    'Five Eyes' on Trump? What is Known About World's Most Powerful Intel Alliance

    © AFP 2017/ Roland Weihrauch / dpa
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    Last week, American journalist and author Mike Cernovich revealed that former United States National Security Adviser Susan Rice was behind the unmasking of members of the Donald Trump campaign prior to the election.

    The revelation fuels the scandal regarding the alleged wiretapping of Trump’s team during the presidential campaign.

    On March 4, President Trump took to Twitter to accuse his predecessor Barack Obama of having his Trump Tower headquarters "wires tapped" prior to the 2016 presidential election. The president went on to compare the alleged surveillance to McCarthyism and the Watergate scandal. The claims have been rejected by Obama's representatives.

    Commenting on the allegations, Rice said that information obtained by intelligence was not used "for political purposes."

    "The allegation is that somehow, Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That’s absolutely false. Let me explain how this works. I was the national security adviser. My job is to protect the American people and the security of our country. That’s the same as the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the CIA director," she told MSNBC.

    Furthermore, in March, Andrew Napolitano, a former judge of the New Jersey Superior Court and legal analyst, claimed that British intelligence spied on Trump at the request of the Obama administration.

    Instead of using US intelligence services, Napolitano said, Obama used Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to ensure there were "no American fingerprints on this."

    Later, the GCHQ, a British intelligence organization providing signal intelligence and information assurance to the British government, called the allegations absurd. Napolitano was pulled from the air on Fox News and the White House press office apologized to London.

    Nevertheless, in relation to the scandal, Western media outlets have avidly discussed activities under the so-called Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

    American and British intelligence communities agreed to cooperate in 1940. In 1946, their agreement was formalized as the UK-US Agreement (UKUSA). Later, the deal was joined by Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some other countries, including Norway, Denmark and Western Germany, have also been involved in the alliance’s activities, but with a third party status.

    After the end of World War II, the alliance focused on spying on the Soviet Union, China and the members of the Warsaw Pact. The organization was directly related to the creation of the ECHELON surveillance network. Under the Five Eyes framework intelligence data was shared during the war in Vietnam, the Falklands War, the Gulf War and the military operation in Libya. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the organization focused on global surveillance and countering global terrorism.

    In 2013, documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden revealed the existence of numerous surveillance programs operated by the Five Eyes, including PRISM, XKeyscore, Tempora, MUSCULAR and STATEROOM.

    As the war on global terrorism gained momentum, the members of the alliance intensified cooperation, including spying on one another’s ordinary citizens.

    Since 2007, the NSA has been authorized to gather and store surveillance information about British nationals. In 2005, the NSA considered the possibility of collecting information on citizens of all the five members of the alliance, without notifying their allies.

    In 2013, Snowden leaked a series of documents shedding light on payments received by the GCHQ from the NSA. The former NSA contractor also described the Five Eyes as a "supra-national intelligence organization that doesn’t answer to the laws of its own countries."

    In 2013, The Guardian published an article entitled "GCHQ: inside the top secret world of Britain's biggest spy agency" which provided details about the hierarchy in the relations between the American and the British agencies. The article also gave insights into the challenges and concerns faced by the GCHQ, including silent warfare, smartphones and sharing intelligence.

    As a result of Snowden’s revelation, the alliance has become the subject to wide criticism by activists and human rights organizations around the world. Five Eyes members have been repeatedly accused of "[subcontracting] their dirty work" to each other and spying on ordinary citizens.

    In 2014, the European Parliament issued a report saying that the intelligence services of New Zealand and Australia cooperated with the NSA within the Five Eyes framework and shared the personal data of EU citizens.

    Despite the fact that British intelligence has denied its involvement in the wiretapping of Trump and his team, the situation provides food for thought.

     

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    Tags:
    intelligence, surveillance, Five Eyes, National Security Agency (NSA), Donald Trump, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States
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