In China, the Fives Eyes (FVEY)

Photo Credit: (Belt & Road News/Google Images)

In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that the Five Eyes nations were spying on other members’ populations to get around laws that prohibited surveillance of their own citizens. (Both Canadian and American laws do not allow spying on their citizens without a warrant.) The information was then shared between the intelligence agencies of all five members. Snowden revealed that the main method of surveillance is now digital, using the internet and telecommunications data.

By William Ging Wee Dere

Published on the Canada Files, Jan 30, 2021

In the dark days of World War II, the spy chiefs of the United Kingdom and the United States secretly agreed to exchange intelligence gathered on their enemies. At the time, it was mainly Nazi Germany and the source of information was radio signals.

After the war, this agreement on intelligence sharing continued. In the 1950’s, the UK enlisted other Commonwealth countries into the spy network. Notably, only White Anglophone colonial countries, Australia, Canada and New Zealand were trusted to be members of this intelligence gathering association. Along with the US, they became known as the Five Eyes, with the acronym, FVEY. Since it was formed under a secret treaty, the public and even government officials, had no knowledge of its existence until 2005, and the text of the agreement was released only in 2010.

In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that the Five Eyes nations were spying on other members’ populations to get around laws that prohibited surveillance of their own citizens. (Both Canadian and American laws do not allow spying on their citizens without a warrant.) The information was then shared between the intelligence agencies of all five members. Snowden revealed that the main method of surveillance is now digital, using the internet and telecommunications data.

At their annual gatherings, the spy chief of the five countries comprising Five eyes discuss their intelligence strategies and discuss the realities of the world’s geopolitics as they see them. Canada has three agencies which participate in Five Eyes intelligence sharing: Communications Security Establishment – signals intelligence, Canadian Forces Intelligence Command – defense intelligence, and Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for security and human intelligence.

Allowing other countries’ spy agencies to gather information on Canadians was the subject of a scathing report by Judge Richard Mosley who wrote that CSIS was keeping the Federal Court of Canada “in the dark” about outsourcing spying on Canadians to other countries.

The Five Eyes ferment instability in China 

The Five Eyes as a formal spy entity turns 75 this year. The new Cold War warriors have switched their focus from the old Soviet Union, to Islamic terrorism, to today’s “subject of subversion” – China. The Five Eyes countries have declared China and the Communist Party as the greatest security threat to Western democracies.

In unprecedented public appearances in 2018, the heads of the spy agencies came out of the shadows one after another to denounce China as a security and strategic threat. This followed the Five Eyes annual meeting in Canada in July, 2018 where a China containment strategy was cooked up and the immediate target became Huawei, since it was by-far the leader in the development of 5G technology. The pressure against Huawei bore fruit as four of the five members banned Huawei shortly after the Five Eyes meeting. The UK even tore up a 15-year agreement with Huawei, which was developing British Telecom’s network, including 5G, and ordered all Huawei’s core equipment to be  dismantled and removed by 2023. Canada remains a hold-out to banning Huawei, but the delay in approval led to Canada’s big three telecoms not bringing Hauwei on board for their 5G plans. In December 2018, it gained points with its allies by arresting Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO, for extradition to the US over alleged breaches of US sanctions with Iran.

Huawei was the obvious target for the Five Eyes but it was not enough to isolate China internationally. The Five Eyes countries tried to ferment instability in China’s outlying regions of Xinjiang and Tibet as well as strategically vital Hong Kong. Tibet is on the backburner for now as the Dalai Lama has no interest in separating Tibet from China. Once he passes on, the West will exert their efforts to cause instability in that region. Today the attention is on Xinjiang and Hong Kong. The Canada Files has written extensively on these two regions of China to counter the Wester propaganda machine to create uncertainty

Instability in Five Eyes Countries

While the Five Eyes concentrate their fire on China, they are not seeing the instability in their own countries. The Five Eyes entity is not just security related anymore, in the last few year, it became a vehicle for the five countries to pronounce on geo-political issues. It is now concentrating their fire on China, under the cover of national and international security. However, wandering into geo-politics has the Five Eyes blindsided by domestic terrorism.

  • New Zealand:

    • With their focus on China as a threat, New Zealand and the other four countries fail to see the most imminent threat to their security – white nationalist terrorism. On March 15, 2019, an Australian white supremacist entered a Christchurch mosque while people were praying, killed 51 and wounded 40. The shooter had his own intelligence in white supremacist networks. He said his inspiration came from American white supremacists and was encouraged by the Quebec City Islamic Center shooter who killed 6 and injured 19, January 29, 2017.

      Even with the much vaunted Five Eyes network, the New Zealand government had no clue that the massacre would happen. That is because the policymakers had their sights on China and were blind to problems directly in front of them. However, the new Jacinda Ardern government seems to be taking a more independent and reconciliatory approach to China.

      NZ’s new Foreign Minister is Nanaia Mahuta, the first Maori appointed to the position. New Zealand is beginning to show daylight between itself and the other Four Eyes, as Mahuta resists in taking part in any China-bashing excercise. The Trade Minister, Damien O’Connor has also suggested that Australia deals with China more diplomatically in a “mature” and respectful manner.

  • Australia:

    • The Australian government is probably the most vociferous in criticizing China, besides the Americans. However, it is losing its shirt in the trade war with China. Australian exports to China account for 40% of its total exports. Since it raised its voice in a propaganda war against China, its exports to the Chinese declined by 6.1 per cent in 2020. With the lost of the China market, the Australian economy could contract by 2.8 per cent. Who would want to buy from people who are slandering you?

  • United Kingdom:

    • Since its Brexit, the UK is in for a load of instability. Apart from the economic contraction from Brexit and the pandemic, the UK is faced with breaking up internally. Scotland voted 62 per cent to 38 per cent for staying in the EU, with Northern Ireland voting 55.8 per cent to 44.2 per cent for staying. The Scottish National Party is working on another referendum to leave the UK and re-join the EU. 49 per cent support independence while 44 per cent oppose.

      In Northern Ireland, 51 per cent support a referendum to join the rest of Ireland. Boris Johnson has enough domestic problems on his hands without trying to pick a fight with China.

  • Canada:

    • Canadian stability is threatened by a separatist movement. This time it is from Western Canada and not from Quebec. 25 per cent of Albertans favour a “Wexit”, especially now that the Americans have cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline. Quebec maintains a core of 30 per cent nationalists who want to break with Canada, but Quebec separation is unlikely for the time being.

      Canada has a myriad of other problems to contend with, such as its ongoing genocide against the indigenous people, where many are still without clean drinking water and lacking in decent housing. However, the House Sub-committee on human rights targets China with fabricated stories about Xinjiang. The Canadian government should look within its own border where they have the power to make changes.

  • USA:

    • What can you say about the January 6, 2021 insurrectional attempted coup that killed 5 people and injured countless others? Again, Five Eyes intelligence was blind to the extremist domestic terrorism of the white supremacists and missed seeing what was coming. Right-wing, white nationalist extremists want to destabilize the US and provoke a civil war. Is the Five Eyes looking at this?

      White nationalism that leads to terrorism is the existential danger that threatens the security and stability of the Five Eyes Countries. If they are blinded by their ideological hatred of China and will not see the domestic extremist danger, then their intelligence will let them down as in New Zealand and the US.


William Ging Wee Dere is the author of the award-winning “Being Chinese in Canada, The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging.” (Douglas & McIntyre, 2019). He was a political organizer and a leading activist in the 2-decade movement for redress of the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act.


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