UKUSA SIGINT Agreement to be Released to the Public?

On the website of Britain’s Consultative Group on Security and Intelligence Records I found the following intriguing item.

Various international agreements concluded since the end of the Second World War, most notably UKUSA, had provided for the exchange of Sigint between the Sigint agencies of the United Kingdom and the countries concerned. GCHQ had avowed the existence of the UKUSA agreement in December 2006 and the date on which it was signed (6 March 1946) but no other details of the agreement had been released.  GCHQ were in discussion with their United States counterparts concerning the release of the full text of the UKUSA agreement and some related correspondence in the immediate post-war period.  Discussions were also taking place with counterparts over the release of similar agreements. 

The Consultative Group took note of the update on UKUSA agreement given by GCHQ and noted that the intention was to combine its release with similar agreements.

 UKUSA, of course, was the Cold War continuation of the remarkable World War II signals intelligence cooperation between the US and UK.  During that war, the two countries opened up their most sensitive SIGINT secrets (ULTRA, MAGIC, and the cryptologic methods behind them) to each other in a way that was quite unprecedented in history.  Except for US-UK cooperation during World War I.  But that’s a different story…

All that aside, not only would the release of the UKUSA be a remarkable step but it appears that the UK is considering releasing analogous agreements that it has with other countries.  Here’s hoping that Britain’s partners are cooperative.

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 2:18 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Glomar Explorer History Declassified


I’d meant to post a new item on the dirty war in Algeria that I’d been preparing for several days.  However, a hard drive crash last night put the kibosh on that for the foreseeable future.  So, I’ll just post a couple intelligence-related items that I’ve run across in the last couple of days.

Intrepid researcher Matthew Aid has obtained the declassification through FOIA of a CIA history of the Glomar Explorer project, which the CIA now admits, was launched to lift a Soviet strategic nuclear submarine off the floor of the Pacific Ocean in the 1970s.  This 50 page history appeared in the Fall, 1985 issue of the CIA’s in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence.  Now, as people who are readers of Studies both historically and in its current incarnation will notice is that this is an unusally long article.  To me this suggests that perhaps this item was originally prepared as an actual official history rather than as a general interest (albeit classified) journal article.  To my mind, this would make it all the more interesting.

All that, however, is mere speculation.  In any event…well done, Matthew.

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 2:05 AM  Comments (1)  
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Books and Articles That Caught My Eye

Just a miscellany today.

First off, the CIA has posted the unclassified items from the latest issue of its Studies in IntelligenceAs usual, it all looks very interesting.  However, three pieces struck as particularly noteworthy:

And yesterday I picked up a copy of Professor Alfred W. McCoy’s 2009 book, Policy America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State.  McCoy seems to have an extensive discussion of American intelligence operations in the context of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine War.  Based purely on a quick read of the introduction, McCoy seems to argue, like Joan Jensen, that what the United States learned in these conflicts about conducting surveillance and intelligence operations it took home and also applied elsewhere.  As I say, I haven’t read the book yet, but the History News Network had a positive review of it last fall.  Mind you, McCoy has done extensive work on the role of the CIA in the international narcotics trade, so I’m going to approach this work with caution.  We shall see.

Role of the US Navy in Strategic Command and Control and U.S. Foreign Relations in the Cold War

I have no great original thoughts of my own today, so I thought I’d draw your attention to a couple of things worth checking out, depending on your particular interests (part 2)…

“Uncovering the Role of the Navy in Strategic Command and Control and U.S. Foreign Relations in the Cold War”

Naval History Seminar with Dr. Jonathan Winkler

January 21, 2009, at the Naval History Museum in the Washington Naval Yard in DC.

Drawing from his work, Nexus: Strategic Communications and American Security in World War I, Jonathan Reed Winkler shows how U.S. officials during World War I discovered the enormous value of global communications.  At the outbreak of war in 1914, British control of the cable network affected the Americans’ ability to communicate internationally, and the development of radio worried the Navy about hemispheric security. The benefits of a U.S. network became evident during the war, especially in the gathering of intelligence. This led to the creation of a peacetime intelligence operation, later termed the “Black Chamber,” the forerunner of the National Security Agency. These efforts set important precedents for later developments in telephony, shortwave radio, satellites—even the internet.

For information on how to get to the Washington Naval Yard (and the requirements to gain entry), see here.  For the official flyer, see here.


Published in: on January 15, 2010 at 12:13 AM  Leave a Comment  
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