Folly of following the Five Eyes Anglo-Saxon relic

The main countries comprising this electronic espionage group have made an abysmal hash of responding to the economic and health impacts of Covid-19. Yet the Australian government has chosen them to develop a “strategic” economic response to the Covid 19 crisis.

The main countries comprising the “Five Eyes” electronic espionage group have made an abysmal hash of responding to the economic and health impacts of Covid-19. Yet the Australian government has chosen this Anglo-Saxon relic to develop a “strategic” economic response to the Covid 19 crisis. The two biggest Five Eyes members, led by Donald Trump in the US and Boris Johnson in the UK, performed the worst on Covid- 19. Canada was not as bad but Australia and New Zealand were better.

Many countries in the Asian region, where our economic future lies, have done exceptionally well. The Communist Party government in Vietnam is the standout performer, with zero deaths in a population of 97 million. Taiwan has done a great job while mainland China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan have death rates below or around Australia’s and New Zealand’s,

I asked the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg why he’d chosen this Anglo- Saxon group to hold the series of economic meetings due to start soon between finance ministers. A spokesperson said, “These meetings with key allies, build on our Five Eyes security partnership”. The Treasurer did not answer whether this would involve Five Eyes “intelligence officials and technical capabilities”. Nor did he answer whether the meetings would cover proposals aimed at China

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison went further than his Treasurer by reportedly telling the Coalition party room that he intended to take the Five Eyes intelligence network “into the commercial sector to build trusted supply chains”. Instead of globally competitive supply chains, these would focus on serving the five Anglo countries and possibly on other proposals to stifle China’s economic growth.

The Government used the Cabinet national security committee for its initial consideration of the Covid-19 crisis before turning to health specialists. It has now reverted to its basic instincts by using the Five Eyes group to develop a belated economic response after the largely successful initiatives it took without the benefit of advice from Trump or Johnson.

Australia’s national security agencies and departments exercise an unprecedented sway with this government. Ministers and their staff are particularly fascinated by the Five Eyes group led by the US National Security Agency, which makes aggressive use of cyber espionage techniques that it condemns when used by others.

Many enthusiastic supporters believe this “whites only” club shares exclusive electronic signals intelligence. But the NSA shares intelligence with over 30 countries whose policies the US wants to shape.

In reality, the German intelligence organisation BND had a much closer relationship with the CIA and NSA for several decades than Australia did. In February, the Washington Post and the German broadcaster ZDF published reports based on leaked information showing that in the 1950s the CIA and the BND bought control a Swiss company Crypto AG which produced the encryption equipment for over 100 countries, including NATO allies and other friendly governments (but apparently not Australia). Owning the encryption machines gave US and Germany easy access to all the sensitive messages sent by the equipment. The NSA became increasingly involved over time, but the BND eventually pulled out after becoming increasingly concerned about ethical issues. The US agencies started pulling out in 2004.

In February, I asked the Australian Signals Directorate if its predecessor, the Defence Signals Directorate, and previous Australian governments had been told at the time that US and German intelligence agencies controlled the company which manufactured most of the encryption machines in the world. I also asked if Australia received the product of this particularly unscrupulous form of cyber espionage. Although this was unlikely, ASD merely replied, “We do not comment on intelligence matters”.

The government should be extremely careful about what Australia is doing by using the Five Eyes group for economic policy making. If the Trump administration has its way, Australia will be involved in full-scale economic warfare against China that could easily morph into a full-scale hot war.

This column appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on June 17. It is posted with the approval of Brian Toohey.


Brian Toohey is author of Secret: The Making of Australia’s Security State.

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3 Responses to Folly of following the Five Eyes Anglo-Saxon relic

  1. Avatar George Wendell says:

    I can’t agree more with all you have said Brian.

    If only we could read this material in today’s newspapers but they appear to be more engaged in a psyops-style reporting that is designed to make China look like a villain at every opportunity. They never miss a beat. It reminds me of the claims that Saddam had WMD, Howard’s nonsense that he (Hussein) had a human mincing machine, and claims he had strong links with Al Qaeda etc. It’s like the yellow journalism that goes back to the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in the last decade of the 19th Century, and the Gulf Of Tonkin incident in Vietnam. Always fake cases built in favour of another must have US phoney war so it can dominate.

    We now have an anglophone triangle of USA, Australia, and the UK, all pushing for more containment of China and laying the case for a war by ongoing and often fake vilification and intelligence. I see this as the rise of a neo-imperialist order, a rehash of imperialist thinking from the past, circa 1700s-1950s, and there are signs everywhere of a collusion to push China back into a corner. The wealthiest Western nations must continue to dominate (they think), we can’t have anyone else entering the wealth sphere. Sharing is not an option, nor is having to agree with Asia unless it is our Indian ally.

    While Australians fear Chinese spying on us, they have no idea how much they are held by the short and curlies by 5-Eyes, the US, the CIA, and Mi5.

  2. Avatar Jim KABLE says:

    Agree entirely, Brian. Australia, NZ and Canada – well – yes – but leave out dysfunctional Brexit Boris and spy agencies and also Trump and CIA agencies – my goodness – why aren’t we already applying sanctions against both countries for their clear dereliction of protection of their citizens – and sending home their High Commissioner/Ambassador. At far more than arm’s length or 1.5~2.00 metres!

  3. Avatar Anthony Pun says:

    The little boys loves playing with fireworks without supervision until one day, one of them was badly burnt at the fingers and come running home in agony. Mummy puts on a bandage with pain killer rub and he was told not to do it again. In analogy, Australia will continue to play with fireworks with 5 Eyes until it gets it fingers burnt – painful way to learn about the dangers of a PYRO.

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