Sunday, January 08, 2017

ATIpper #7: 1948 Quinquepartite SIGINT Agreement

The Canadian Intelligence Community (16 March 1990; Library and Archives Canada release A-2016-00658, p. 32) is also the source of this interesting summary of Canada's early SIGINT agreements:

(Note that the snippet incorrectly asserts that the BRUSA Agreement was signed in 1945: its text was negotiated during the fall of 1945, but the actual signing by the U.S. and the U.K. took place on 5 March 1946.)

The BRUSA (later called UKUSA) Agreement and the 1949 CANUS (or CANUSA) Agreement are by now well known, but much less is known about the 1948 Quinquepartite (i.e., five-party) SIGINT Agreement listed in the snippet.

A number of public sources have suggested that this agreement, said to have been signed in June 1948, was in fact the UKUSA Agreement, which then replaced the 1946 BRUSA Agreement.

However, the BRUSA/UKUSA documents declassified in 2010 don't seem to support this interpretation. Those documents demonstrate that the two-party BRUSA Agreement was subsequently renamed UKUSA, and that it remained a two-party agreement even in 1956. (Indeed, it still is today.)

Another BRUSA/UKUSA document (p. 4) does seem to confirm, however, that Canada, Australia, and New Zealand agreed at the February-March 1946 Commonwealth SIGINT Conference to abide by the provisions of the BRUSA Agreement:
Referring to the Commonwealth Conference just concluded, the Chairman reported that this had been highly successful. The terms of the U.S. - British Communication Intelligence agreement had been explained to the Dominion representatives, in so far as they were affected, and had been accepted by them. The Dominions had also agreed to abide by Joint Security Regulations to be issued from London after they had been agreed between STANCIB and the London Sigint Board.
So what was the nature of the five-party agreement signed in 1948?

One possibility is that the five countries signed a document formalizing the commitments made in 1946 by Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to abide by the provisions of the BRUSA Agreement and the related SIGINT security rules. What the "minor changes from the BRUSA agreement" would have entailed, I don't know.

If more information has been released about this agreement I would appreciate hearing about it.


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