With the growing threat from communist China, along with growing partnerships with Asian allies to confront the threat, perhaps it is time to rethink the World War II-era Five Eyes intelligence sharing regime. The pact currently consists of the world’s five major Anglo-heritage countries: U.S., Australia, the U.K., New Zealand, and Canada.
The ‘Five Eyes’ began as an intelligence-sharing agreement between the U.S. and U.K. to defeat the Axis powers but grew to include the other three member countries as they separated formally from the British Empire.
However, some argue that it is time to shake up the arrangement and add a few new members to better face China.
Among them is the chairman of a key house subcommittee on intelligence, Arizona Democrat Rep. Ruben Gallego, chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on special operations and intelligence. He has added language to this year’s defense bill that creates the opportunity for the pact’s first expansion in decades.
According to Defense One:
The provision would require the director of national intelligence and the Defense Department to report on the current status and shortcomings of intelligence sharing between the “Five Eyes” nations: the U.S., Australia, the U.K., New Zealand, and Canada, and what benefits and risks there would be to adding Japan, Korea, India, and Germany to the trusted group.
“We are very much stuck on this ‘Five Eyes’ model, which I think is outdated,” Gallego said…“We need to expand the scope. It shouldn’t just be such an Anglophile view of sharing.”
The provision says, in part: “The committee acknowledges that the threat landscape has vastly changed since the inception of the Five Eyes arrangement, with primary threats now emanating from China and Russia. The committee believes that, in confronting great power competition, the Five Eye countries must work closer together, as well as expand the circle of trust to other like-minded democracies.”
Defense One reports that “Gallego said adding Japan, South Korea, and India would allow the U.S. to expand its network of espionage assets to better monitor China through those nations’ cultural ties and location.”
However, as Defense One notes, that view isn’t shared by everyone. Dustin Carmack, who served as chief of staff to former National Intelligence director John Ratcliffe, said the U.S. has already increased its intelligence sharing and cooperation with Indo-Pacific nations, and that a formal change to the Five Eyes “is a lot easier said than done.”
Carmack, now a fellow at the Heritage Foundation explained, “I think a lot of the work is already being done, personally, behind the scenes, to kind of build better links.”
For example, the U.S. has since 2018 under President Trump, finalized key agreements to share military communications and bases with India.
“I’m all for it,” said Carmack, but cautioned that each added country would need to be assessed to determine whether they could protect the Five Eyes’ intelligence collection sources and methods.
“When it comes to the Five Eyes, you know, information that has to be protected inside that relationship is very difficult to protect,” Carmack said.
And at the Aspen Security Forum, National Security Agency (NSA) director Gen. Paul Nakasone said he thought the U.S. would continue to build new security partnerships but that the Five Eyes would continue as-is. Nakasone, who also serves as the head of U.S. Cyber Command, added:
New security challenges to our nation are going to require us to look at forming other partnerships, but I think, you know, rightfully so…the Five Eyes will continue and I think that will continue very strongly.
Perhaps a second-tier level of ‘Four Eyes’ could be added to the existing ‘Five Eyes’? Or another variation of this framework could be devised. Regardless of how it is done, improving intelligence sharing among allies outside the Five Eyes framework is key to challenging China in the coming years. ADN