Five Eyes

What is it?

‘Five Eyes’ or FVEY is an abbreviation of the term “AUS/CAN/NZ/UK/US EYES ONLY.” Other codes for the arrangement are found in documents released by Edward Snowden and include, “TOP SECRET//COMINT//REL TO USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL” and “TOP SECRET//COMINT//REL TO USA, FVEY.”

While other agencies within each of the five countries are involved, the core Five Eyes partners are the US National Security Agency (NSA), the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), and the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).


The genesis of the Five Eyes occurred during the Second World War, when secret collaboration between UK and US successfully decrypted Nazi and Japanese codes. An initial agreement was signed in April 1942, establishing procedures and regulations in the handling of secret intelligence, later expanded to include UK dominions Canada, Australia and New Zealand as “UKUSA-collaborating Commonwealth Countries”, also known as Second Parties.

Under the agreement, each country shares the burden for surveillance, information collection and analysis of a different part of the globe. According to former NATO intelligence officer James Cox, “Precise assignments are not publicly known, but research indicates that Australia monitors South and East Asia emissions. New Zealand covers the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. The UK devotes attention to Europe and Western Russia, while the US monitors the Caribbean, China, Russia, the Middle East and Africa.”

Early drafts of the FVEY agreement were released in 2010 and indicate that partners will share by default, with exclusions at an absolute minimum, in the 1) collection of traffic; 2) acquisition of communications documents and equipment; 3) traffic analysis; 4) cryptanalysis; 5) decryption and translation; and 6) acquisition of information regarding communications organizations, procedures, practices and equipment. A FVEY PowerPoint slide released by Snowden puts the collection posture in less formal language: Sniff it All, Know it All, Collect it All, Process it All, Exploit it All, Partner it All.


    USA: National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation

    UK: Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), The Secret Intelligence Service, Defence Intelligence, The Security Service

    Canada: Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Chief of Defence Intelligence, Canadian Security Intelligence Service

    Australia: Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Defence Intelligence Organisation, Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Australian Federal Police

    New Zealand: Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security, New Zealand Security Intelligence Service


    There are many offices, training grounds and minor facilities owned, used, leased and occupied by the Five Eyes.  The major facilities in Australia are:

    • Pine Gap
    • Shoal Bay
    • Geraldton
    • NorthWest Cape