September 4, 2014

NSA's Foreign Partnerships

(Updated: September 19, 2017)

For fulfilling its task of gathering foreign signals intelligence, the National Security Agency (NSA) is cooperating with partner agencies from over 35 countries all over the world.

These relationships are based upon secret bilateral agreements, but there are also some select groups in which intelligence information is shared on a multilateral basis, like the SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR), the SIGINT Seniors Pacific (SSPAC) and the Afghanistan SIGINT Coalition (AFSC).

Until recently, very little was known about these foreign relationships, but the Snowden-leaks have revealed the names of all the countries that are cooperating with NSA. This made it possible to create the following graphic, which also shows various multilateral intelligence exchange groups, which will be discussed here too.





Nations with 2nd and 3rd Party status and those who are
members of the SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR) and NATO
(click to enlarge)

 

2nd Party Partners

The closest cooperation is between NSA and the signals intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Formally this is based upon a range of bilateral agreements, the first being the BRUSA (now known as UKUSA) Agreement on communications intelligence cooperation from March 5, 1946. Since 1993 this group has a multilateral character, which means partners can exchange information among the other members too (as far as there's a "need to know")

The five partners under the UKUSA-agreement, commonly called the Five Eyes, agreed that they would follow common procedures for operations and reporting, and also use the same target identification systems, equipment, methods and source designations. They would not only share end reports and analyses, but also most of the raw data they collect.

As a kind of gentlemen's agreement it is supposed that the Five Eyes countries are not spying on each other, although some of the documents from the Snowden-leaks show that at least NSA secretly keeps that option open.



Since

1946
1946
1949
1953
1953
 
Five Eyes
(FVEY)

United States
United Kingdom
Canada
Australia
New Zealand
 
Four Eyes
(ACGU)

United States
United Kingdom
Canada
Australia

 
Three Eyes
(TEYE)

United States
United Kingdom

Australia



Despite the very close and longstanding relationship between the Five Eyes partners, two sub-groups have been formed for specific military operations in which not all five partners participate. These sub-groups are designated Four Eyes (abbreviation for classification purposes: ACGU) and Three Eyes (TEYE).

> More about The 5, 4 and 3 Eyes

Cable tapping

The 2nd Party countries are cooperating in many ways, one of which is in cable tapping operations. The NSA umbrella program for this is codenamed WINDSTOP. According to NSA's Foreign Partner Access budget for 2013 WINDSTOP involves primarily Britain, but also Canada, Australia and New Zealand and focusses on access to (mainly internet) "communications into and out of Europe and the Middle East" through an integrated and overarching collection system.


Representatives

For maintaining these extensive relationships, NSA has liaison units in the Second Party countries. These are called Special US Liaison Offices (SUSLO), followed by the name of the nation's capital. In 2003, there were three:
- Special US Liaison Office, London (SUSLOL, with liaison officers at GCHQ in Cheltenham)
- Special US Liaison Office, Ottawa (SUSLOO)
- Special US Liaison Office, Canberra (SUSLOC, which also handled dealings with New Zealand)

Likewise, the SIGINT agencies from the other Five Eyes countries have a senior representative at NSA headquarters. In 2003, these were called:
- Senior UK Liaison Office (SUKLO)
- Canadian Liaison Office (CANSLO)
- Australian Liaison Office (AUSLO)
- New Zealand Liaison Office (NZLO)




Slide from an NSA presentation titled 'Foreign Partner Review' from
fiscal year 2013, showing the 2nd and 3rd Party partners
and some coalition and multilateral exchange groups.
Published in No Place To Hide, May 13, 2014.

 

3rd Party Partners

One step below the 2nd Party partnerships, there's cooperation between NSA and (signals) intelligence agencies from countries who are called 3rd Party partners. This is based upon formal agreements, but the actual scope of the relationship can vary from country to country and from time to time. Details about the cooperation between two countries are laid down in Memorandums of Understanding (MoU).

For the US, this kind of cooperation is useful because foreign agencies can have better access to high-priority targets because of their geographic location, or they could have a specific expertise on certain areas, or just simply because they have a better knowledge of the local situation and language.

The foreign partner agencies are mostly interested in American technology, money and access to the worldwide interception capabilities of NSA and its Five Eyes partners. This makes these 3rd Party partnerships especially attractive for smaller countries, for whom it means a sometimes substantial increase of their otherwise limited capabilities.

One big difference with the countries from the 2nd Party category is that 3rd Party partners do spy upon each other, and many of the Snowden-documents have shown this. From these documents we also learned that in 2013, there were 33 countries with 3rd Party status:



since






1954



1962










2005?
1954







1954




1949

 
CNO
(19 countries)


Austria
Belgium

Czech Republic
Denmark



Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland


Italy
Japan

Luxemburg

Netherlands
Norway

Poland



South Korea
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland



Turkey

 
3rd Parties
(33 countries)

Algeria
Austria
Belgium
Croatia
Czech Republic
Denmark
Ethiopia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary

India
Israel
Italy
Japan
Jordan

Macedonia
Netherlands
Norway
Pakistan
Poland
Romania
Saudi Arabia
Singapore
South Korea
Spain
Sweden

Taiwan
Thailand
Tunisia
Turkey
UAE
 
SSEUR
(14-Eyes)



Belgium


Denmark


France
Germany





Italy




Netherlands
Norway






Spain
Sweden






 
SSPAC
(10-Eyes)









France




India












Singapore
South Korea




Thailand






The countries in the column under "CNO" are from a list which is in an undated NSA document about collaboration regarding Computer Network Operations (CNO). The document was first published on October 30, 2013 by the Spanish paper El Mundo and classifies cooperation on four different levels, which was also explained by The Guardian.

The first level is called "Tier A - Comprehensive Cooperation", which comprises Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. A second group, called "Tier B - Focused Cooperation" includes the 19 mostly European countries listed above. A third group of "Limited cooperation" consists of countries such as France, Israel, India and Pakistan, and finally a fourth group is about "Exceptional Cooperation" with countries that the US considers to be hostile to its interests.

In May 2014, the list with the "Tier A" and "Tier B" countries was also published in Greenwald's book No Place To Hide, where he ignores the fact that the document was about CNO cooperation and simply assumes that the "Tier B" countries are the same as those with 3rd Party status.*



Map showing the 2nd Party and 3rd Party partners of NSA
(click to enlarge)


Cable tapping

NSA cooperates with the 3rd Party countries in many ways, one of which is in cable tapping operations. The NSA umbrella program for this is codenamed RAMPART-A. According to NSA's Foreign Partner Access budget for 2013, RAMPART-A provides access to long-haul international leased communications, with TURMOIL capabilities, and over 3 terabit/second of data from all "communication technologies such as voice, fax, telex, modem, e-mail internet chat, Virtual Private Network (VPN), Voice over IP (VoIP), and voice call records".
 

Direction-Finding

16 Third Party countries (Austria, Denmark, Ethiopia, Hungary, Israel, India, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea (South), Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Taiwan) also cooperate in the CROSSHAIR program. This consists of a worldwide network of antennas for High Frequency Direction-Finding (HFDF) and was implemented on October 1, 1993. CROSSHAIR consolidated the various military DF sites and also included those of the other Five Eyes/Second Party countries. Uncovered areas were eventually covered by the participation of the aforementioned Third Party countries.


Representatives

The representatives of NSA in major Third Party countries are called Special US Liaison Advisor (SUSLA), followed by the name of the country. So for example the NSA representative in Germany is the Special US Liaison Advisor, Germany (SUSLAG).

The office staff of such an advisor is called the Special US Liaison Activity (also abbreviated as SUSLA), and for example the SUSLA Germany had 18 personnel (12 civilians and 6 contractors) in 2012, a number which was to be reduced to 6 in 2013.*

The Special US Liaison Activity Japan (SUSLAJ) is led by a Chief and was originally located at Hardy Barracks under the cover name "5th Air Force Technical Liaison Office." In 2007 a new satellite office was opened in the US embassy in Tokyo, which is referred to as the "DoD Special Representative Japan-Tokyo" in unclassified channels. SUSLAJ's main facilities are on Yokota Air Base.

It is not clear whether the various Third Party agencies also have a representative at NSA headquarters and if so, what their title is.


Foreign Affairs Directorate

At NSA these foreign relationships are managed by the Foreign Affairs Directorate (FAD), which has a Country Desk Officer (CDO) for every country or region that matters. For matters related to Second Party partnerships there's the FAD has the Second Party Affairs Office (DP11) consisting of five officers based at Fort Meade.


 
Multilateral groups

Although the Third Party relationships are strictly bilateral, some of these countries have also worked very close with each other for a long time. This has been formalized into a few multilateral groups in which intelligence is exchanged not only between one particular country and the US, but also among all other participants. Besides NATO, the following three SIGINT sharing groups are known:


SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR)

This group consists of the Five Eyes and nine European countries: France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Except for Sweden, all are NATO members. After the number of countries, the SSEUR are also called 14-Eyes.

The "Seniors" refers to the heads of the participating military or signals intelligence agencies, who in this group coordinate the exchange of military intelligence according to the needs of each member.

A BND document mentions that in February 2014, there was a conference of the leaders of the "core group" of the SSEUR, but it wasn't mentioned which countries are part of that core group.

There's also a SIGINT Seniors Europe Counter Terrorism (SISECT) coalition* which organizes a semi-annual conference* and in 2013, NSA encouraged GCHQ to host the permanent facility for the joint SSEUR collaboration center.*

> More about the SIGINT Seniors Europe
Updates:

A new multilateral intelligence sharing group seems to be the SIGINT Support to Cyber Defense (SSCD) initiative, which consists of a number of countries that together establish an early-warning system to defend themselves against cyber attacks. Its existance was first mentioned on May 8, 2014 in a speech by president Schindler of the German intelligence service BND, which is also cooperating in this SSCD framework. SSCD will use traditional SIGINT methods to inspect data packets for things like malicious code so these can be eliminated pro-actively.

From a document dated July 23, 2013 from the German parliamentary inquiry commission, which was published by Wikileaks on December 1, 2016, we learn that "within the SSCD-working group of an international SIGINT coalition, BND exchanges information about the international detection of cyber attacks." This international SIGINT coalition is most likely the SSEUR or 14-Eyes group, which means the SSCD-cooperation that Schindler mentioned in his speech seems to be an SSEUR sub-group similar to the SISECT.


SIGINT Seniors Pacific (SSPAC)

There's a similar group for multilateral exchange of military intelligence among some 3rd party nations from the East Asia/Pacific Rim region. Besides the members of the Five Eyes, the SIGINT Seniors Pacific include Singapore, South Korea and most likely Japan and Thailand. Probably one other country is participating too, making this group also being identified as the 10-Eyes.
Updates:

An NSA document disclosed by The New Zealand Herald on March 11, 2015 says that the SSPAC consists of the Five Eyes plus France, India, (South) Korea, Singapore and Thailand.

According to NSA's internal SIDtoday newsletter from June 9, 2005, a formal Principals Board and Executive Board were established for the SSPAC and its initial focus was to share intelligence on counter-terrorism (CT), including banking information and follow-the-people, in order to provide warning of imminent terrorist threats to member nations. Additional topics such as counter-proliferation would be considered later. NSA established a communications path to each of the SSPAC members for sharing CT products.
> More about the The 6, 8 and 10 Eyes

Afghanistan SIGINT Coalition (AFSC)

According to an NSA paper from 2013, this group consists of the same 14 countries as the SSEUR and is aimed at sharing Afghanistan-related intelligence reports and metadata among its participants. At the time of the paper, each AFSC-member was responsible for covering a specific area of interest, maybe corresponding to the region in Afghanistan where they had troops deployed.

Snowden and Greenwald agreed not to publish about NSA's involvement in Afghanistan, but the German book about the Snowden-leaks, Der NSA Komplex, reveals that the 14 AFSC-members cooperated closely in decrypting and analysing mobile communications and have a dedicated data center codenamed CENTER ICE for exchanging this kind of intelligence.*

This makes it likely that much of the metadata that various European countries shared with the US, mistakenly presented by Glenn Greenwald as NSA spying on European citizens, was collected as part of this Afghanistan SIGINT Coalition.




Links and Sources
- Stratfor.com: Five Eyes and the Perils of an Asymmetric Alliance
- NSA document about Foreign Relations Mission Titles
- About Canada and the Five Eyes Intelligence Community (pdf)
- Duncan Campbell, Echelon and its role in COMINT
- Declassified NSA paper about Third Party Nations: Partners and Targets

3 comments:

Bill Robinson said...

The Canadian liaison officers to the other Second Parties are called CANSLOs. See pages 441 to 452 of CSEC's "Foundational Learning Curriculum" here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/194588575/Foundational-Learning-Curriculum-of-Communications-Security-Establishment-Canada-Globe-and-Mail-ATIP-partly-redacted

Anonymous said...

If Greenwald misunderstood that the collection takes place in Afghanistan or in "crisis zones" like Norway claimed why are there so many "green countries" in BI -heat map. Including countries that don't have any activity in Afghanistan. I agree with you that numbers in BI-charts are way too low for them to be the whole population. The question that comes to mind is thar maybe it has more to do with collection of communication of politicians etc key figures. There has been signs of IMSI -catchers in European capitals. Also if it is in Afghanistan indeed why do the NSA training manual say the BI-charts are AGAINST the country in question.

P/K said...

This relates to the issue that was discussed here: http://electrospaces.blogspot.com/2013/11/screenshots-from-boundlessinformant-can.html

In the heat map, green means not very much data collection, and most countries are some shade of green. Indeed, the probably relatively small amounts of data collected from those "green" countries could stem from collection efforts from inside US embassies (using IMSI-catchers or similar or other kind of equipment) or from data pulled in from internet backbone cables, the latter filtered for communications that could be of interest regarding NSA's areas of interest.

The data collected by European agencies and subsequently shared with NSA are still collected "against" Afghanistan, although not directly by NSA but by its partner countries. The bar charts can present data collection in various ways: by country, by collection program, by partnerships, etc. and it is not clear what selection has been made that resulted in the charts that were published.

Having the name of a country doesn't mean that such a chart gives the full picture for that country. The FAQ-manual wasn't clear about that, maybe also because it was a work-in-progress document and the BI tool evolved over time.