The terrorist events of 11 September 2001 dramatically illustrated the importance of SIGINT relationships with our Second Parties (the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). Although we have tracked and reported worldwide terrorism for decades, its intelligence magnitude flared to an unprecedented brilliance within hours.
New initiatives with our Second Parties, such as biweekly video teleconferences between both seniors and analysts, frequent TDYs focused on counter-terrorism, and more vigorous daily interaction highlight the accelerated cooperation.
When it comes to NSA and its Second Party partners pitching in during a crisis, it’s what we’ve come to expect from each other. This tradition of intelligence sharing has deep and widespread roots that have been cultivated for more than half a century. During World War II, the U.S. Army and Navy each developed independent foreign SIGINT relationships with the British and their Dominions of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. These relations evolved and continued across the decades, making critical contributions to our SIGINT successes throughout the Cold War. In late 1991 the dissolution of the Soviet Union forced a hesitant reevaluation and reshuffling of intelligence requirements. Relationships were less focused as targets became harder to identify, muddling attempts to articulate goals and directions. Despite this uncertain environment, the foundation of Second Party arrangements remained solid.
When you hear the term Second Party, your immediate thought might be “the British.” And that’s understandable. It was the monumental, joint cryptanalytic effort against the Axis cryptomachines in World War II that spawned heroes and feats of epic dimensions. Mention ENIGMA or PURPLE and eyes widen and pulses quicken. Both countries–and the free world–benefited tremendously from this relationship. The wartime cooperation grew into a formal reaffirmation of continued cryptologic ties in March 1946 with the signing of the British-U.S. (BRUSA) COMINT Agreement that better defined the degree and scope of postwar collaboration. By 1948 the British centralized intelligence organization, the London Signals Intelligence Centre (LSIC), had become the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a name we’re familiar with today. The first exchange of liaison officers occurred in 1946 with the U.S. naming a U.S. liaison officer in London, and the British reciprocating with their Senior British Liaison Officer in Washington. These later evolved into the Special U.S. Liaison Officer London (SUSLOL) and the Senior U.K. Liaison Officer Washington (SUKLO).
The U.S. COMINT Board (USCIB; later, USIB) mandated that the BRUSA relationship be shepherded by the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) when AFSA arose in 1949. With the creation of NSA in 1952, this responsibility fell to DIRNSA, as did managing the other Second Party programs. BRUSA became UKUSA in 1954 at the
behest of the British.
Even though the U.S. services began ELINT collaboration with the U.K. in 1948, the U.S. lacked a single focal point for ELINT issues. It took ten years, but this shortcoming was addressed by the secretary of defense in NSCID 6 of 1958 when NSA became the central point for ELINT, as well as COMINT.
Both the U.S. Army and Navy were working with the Canadian COMINT organization by 1942. As a point of historical interest, Herbert Yardley, who led the U.S. COMINT effort in the 1920s, assisted in the creation of Canada’s COMINT entity. Like their American and British counterparts, the Canadians enjoyed much success during World War II.
Canada had been mentioned in the BRUSA Agreement of 1946 as a secondary player, but by the next year, Canada was lobbying to have her own SIGINT agreement with the U.S. within the existing framework of the North American defense treaties. Her perseverance paid off two years later when the U.S. and Canada signed the CANUSA Agreement of 1949. The essence was much like the earlier BRUSA Agreement. The first liaison exchanges between the two countries actually began in 1950, but NSA and
Canada’s COMINT organization swapped representatives in 1954, when SUSLO Ottawa (SUSLOO) and CANSLO Washington (CANSLOW) came into existence. The
Communications Branch of the National Research Council (CBNRC), Canada’s SIGINT functionary, was created in May 1964. The CBNRC became the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) under the Department of National Defence in 1975.
The U.S. Navy Fleet Radio Unit Melbourne (FRUMEL) and the Australian Navy COMINT element were cooperating in early 1942. A combined U.S.-Australian COMINT organization, designated the Central Bureau (CB), was set up the same year to support General MacArthur’s command in the Southwest Pacific. During most of the war, Colonel Abraham Sinkov, USA, led the CB. These endeavors proved highly successful in exploiting Japanese communications, adding immeasurably to Allied victories in the Pacific.
Australian military COMINT units were severely reduced after the war, and collaboration with U.S. military stopped. This void was filled in 1947 by the establishment of a British Commonwealth COMINT entity known as the Defence Signals Bureau (DSB). The first Australian director of DSB did not assume that position until 1950, but once there, he stayed. Ralph Thompson led the DSB for 27 years.
Because of Soviet spy scandals in Australia in 1947 and 1948, USCIB ceased intelligence sharing with the Australians. This prohibition lasted until 1952. Despite these stumbles, NSA met with DSB in September 1953 to consider a Second Party exchange program. There was no written agreement, but a modified BRUSA Agreement served as the model. A Special U.S. Liaison Officer Melbourne (SUSLOM) was assigned to DSB in 1954, followed the next year by an Australian liaison at NSA, designated the Australian SIGINT Liaison Officer Washington (AUSLOW). DSB became the Defence Signals Division (DSD) in 1964, and then in 1977, the Defence Signals Directorate. DSD relocated from Melbourne to Canberra, effecting an acronym change in January 1993 from SUSLOM to SUSLOC.
New Zealand provided a few military COMINT’ers to DSB after its formation in 1947. Despite its early cooperation with the U.K. and others in World War II, New Zealand did not create its own national SIGINT center until 1977. This organization was the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). In March 1980 our Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) approved a Second Party arrangement with GCSB, and DSD tasking control of GCSB ceased. NSA ‘s SUSLOM became responsible for field liaison with GCSB, but remained at DSD in Melbourne. The next step was for New Zealand to assign their first liaison, NZLO Washington (NZLOW), to NSA.
Most of us remember when the New Zealand government forbade port calls by ships carrying nuclear weapons in 1985. When the government stood firm, many US contacts at all government levels were halted or curtailed. On the SIGINT side, the policy did not splinter our relationship, but did precipitate a review by NSA of our shared interests. NSA ‘s SUSLOM remained the field liaison, and the NZLOW stayed at NSA.
As we’ve experienced, the world can change quickly. This requires greater flexibility and foresight with our Second Parties. These relationships have not only survived, but have strengthened in spite of national policy shifts, the occasional security concern and international crises. During the Suez Crisis in 1956 and the Falklands War in 1982, the SIGINT liaison continued unabated even though the intelligence sometimes conflicted with U.S. and U.K. government policy. Past prohibitions, such as limiting classification, can now be less restrictive when weighed against unique technical capabilities or superior access to signals. These bonds, forged in the heat of a world war and tempered by decades of trust and teamwork, remain essential to our future intelligence successes.