In the first five months of the Biden Administration the United States has moved positively and effectively back to its “Alliance Roots”. In so doing the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and our myriad intelligence agencies and departments are now working in close coordination with our traditional “Five Eyes” allies, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In addition to the NATO nations in Europe several other countries are becoming increasingly critical in the United States’ deterrence strategy regarding China, and its ally, Russia. Foremost of these are India, South Korea, and Japan, followed by Malaysia, the Philippines and to a lesser extent, Vietnam. The latter has hosted port visits by both the United States Navy and Royal Navy.

The national security community in Washington DC watched with increasing interest as its principal ally, the United Kingdom, released its long awaited integrated “Review of Security, Defense, Development and Foreign Policy”. There are several parts of the main document of which Eccentric readers should be aware, as they raise important issues that pertain to us all. For example, on page 6, the Report states, “We will sit at the heart of a network of like minded countries and flexible groupings, committed to protecting human rights and upholding global norms. Our influence will be amplified by stronger alliances and wider partnerships – none more valuable to British citizens than our relationship with the United States”. Page 60 states emphatically that, “The United States will remain the UK’s most important strategic ally and partner”. The Report analyzes current and future threats and how the UK plans to react. Central to these threats, leaving aside for this discussion key items such as the UK’s refurbishment of its strategic nuclear warheads, is the threat from cyber attacks, whether perpetrated by state players, such as Russia and China, or by their surrogates, criminal groups, and mal intended hackers. 

Eccentric readers should be aware that the US and the UK have been joined tightly through two key agencies, the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) for the decades since World War Two. The US and the UK use their combined resources and talents in communications intelligence collection, analysis, and distribution within the Five Eyes.

Cyber defense, and the US and UK’s responses, with the ability to both defend and counter attack, (national offensive cyber) raise international legal issues that will become increasingly important for the detection and prosecution of international cyber crime. Let us stand back and review the status quo. This is not just for the legally trained, or legally minded, but for all of us. This was demonstrated recently by the cyber attack on our oil supply infrastructure. This is the thin edge of the wedge. Worse could come unless we take positive action.

The maintenance of international order and the enforcement of the United Nations’ mandates have been enforced by key bodies such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC), that also addresses human rights violations, and the Untied Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea that enforces the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The International Court of Arbitration, operating under the International Chamber of Commerce, is the world’s leading arbitral institution. Other non UN entities have been significant. The European Court of Human Rights is the court of law of the Council or Europe, based in Strasbourg, France, established in 1959, ensures that EU member states respect the rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. 

Underpinning cases coming before these various judicial bodies is the intelligence that permits Interpol and the multi national individual law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies to take action against wrong doers. One of the primary sources for intelligence is the Five Eyes intelligence organization mentioned above, of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The Five Eyes have stood the test of time since World War Two. Their significance in the maintenance of international order and service to the international courts bears analysis at a time when threats to international order are growing. Let’s look at the past, as the guide to the future.

Five Eyes intelligence is based on reliable, accurate, timely, non political, and certainly non partisan, actionable intelligence, the cornerstone qualities that have characterized the Five Eyes since Winston Churchill’s and Franklin Roosevelt’s secret meeting onboard the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, on August 10, 1941, in Placentia Bay, off Newfoundland, less than four months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. The words Bletchley Park, Enigma, Ultra, Station Hypo, and Magic entered the intelligence lexicon, and the annals of history. Today a new generation of Five Eyes intelligence specialists, the systems and technologies that support special collection sources and methods, and the international law enforcement and Courts need to combine their strengths in a committed assault from very serious emerging threats to world order.

To illustrate the issues that face the International legal community, and the Five Eyes and their associated key allies (the Europeans nations, Japan, and India), be reminded of several serious current threats to international order, and the legal enforcement framework that exits. The United Nations has no operational role in the implementation and enforcement of UNCLOS. However, other UN related agencies are directly involved in significant ways. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Whaling Commission, and the International Seabed Authority play important operational roles. Bear in mind that about 98% of the world’s internet communications travel via undersea cable. The United Kingdom, China, and Russia are full signatories, not so the United States. The United States is not a full signatory to UNCLOS, though it recognized it as a body of accepted “Customary Law”. The United States is not a member of, and does not recognize the jurisdiction the ICC and ICJ regarding US citizens.

Chinese territorial violations in the South China Sea have been ruled upon by the International Court of Arbitration to China’s detriment, and there are, for example, ongoing serious issues in the eastern Mediterranean regarding Turkey’s violation of Greece and Cyprus’ exclusive economic zones by exploiting drilling. In another key domain the recent Five Eyes gathering regarding cyber threats and related encryption issues, that included as guests India and Japan, addressed how the Five Eyes intelligence and international law enforcement agencies can access end-to-end encrypted communications, covering everything from crime rings, misinformation, industrial espionage, to human trafficking, illegal arms transfers, piracy, and terrorists related activities. This is the tip of the iceberg facing the International legal system and the Five Eyes in the 2020s. 

The chair of the UK’s parliamentary Defense Committee, Tobias Ellwood, MP, recently made it clear that the security of alliance 5G networks was paramount and that the security risks of espionage and system failures by illicit 5G exploitation requires the full removal of Huawei by 2027. GPS related maritime resilience and navigation integrity are an intrinsic part of this issue, and both the legal and intelligence communities need to muster their combined skills and responsibilities to address the serious challenges to the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and other key capabilities that the Global Positioning System provides to the global community.

Next month I will continue this discussion and meanwhile hope that Eccentric readers are vaccinated and enjoying springtime.

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