International Partners

U.S. Department of State (DOS)

The Department of State is the lead agency for U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy and, as such, “strive[s] to build and maintain strong bilateral and multilateral relationships.” Toward that end, DoS engages in robust multinational information sharing with support from two internal programs, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) and the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).

The International Information Sharing Framework

According to Guideline 4, “there are some 188 countries with which the United States has diplomatic relations, each of which has its own separate [information sharing] regime,” in addition to numerous foreign partner-organizations and entities that also have internal information sharing protocols. “Such foreign partners include, for example, regional inter‐governmental organizations such as the European Union (EU), international organizations composed of governments such as the United Nations (UN) and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) … and even certain foreign private entities such as port operators, foreign airlines, and other logistics providers.”

Adding to this regulatory complexity, many ISE member entities have their own, internal protocols for reciprocal information sharing with foreign partners and entities.

For example, in 2009 “DHS announced that it would apply the Privacy Act protections to foreigners who are neither US citizens nor US legal permanent residents.” As a result, “PII collected, used, maintained and/or disseminated in connection with a mixed system by DHS [is] treated as a System of Records subject to the Privacy Act regardless of whether the information pertains to a US citizen, legal permanent resident, visitor or noncitizen.” Because of agency-specific information sharing protocols, “a single type of information from a single source may be treated in different ways by different agencies.”

Be sure to consult your agency’s information sharing guidance for internal international information sharing protocols.

To help reconcile this patchwork of international and U.S. information sharing governance, the United States has entered into several bilateral and multinational agreements with international partners. The Department of Defense, for example, “has 64 General Security Agreements with foreign governments that describe the agreed security requirements each government will use for the protection of classified military information provided to either party.”

These agreements help facilitate information sharing while also protecting information on US Citizens and the citizens of other nations. In fact, there are multinational agreements that deal exclusively with data privacy protections, such as the E.U.-U.S. High Level Contact Group’s 12 non-binding “common principles for data protection and privacy for law enforcement purposes,” which incorporate and expand upon the United States’ Fair Information Practice Principles.

The Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR)

The Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) is the State Department component responsible for analyzing intelligence about foreign countries acquired through U.S. embassies and other sources. The INR is the “intelligence support component” of DoS. “INR provides intelligence support to the Secretary of State and other State Department policymakers, including ambassadors, special negotiators, country directors, and desk officers. As the Senior Intelligence Official at the State Department, INR’s Assistant Secretary ensures that intelligence informs policy and that intelligence activities support American diplomatic objectives.

“INR supports the Secretary of State’s global responsibilities by:

  • Analyzing foreign events, issues, and trends.
  • Coordinating intelligence policy and activities.
  • Surveying foreign public opinion and analyzing foreign media.
  • Organizing conferences to benefit from outside expertise, managing the Intelligence Community Associate’s Program, and administering the Title VIII grant program on Eurasian and East European Studies.
  • Analyzing foreign humanitarian challenges.
  • INR has approximately 300 personnel drawn principally from the Civil Service and the Foreign Service.”

Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)

The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) was “created in 1985 under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to promote security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. Department of State. The OSAC ‘Council’ is comprised of 34 private sector and public sector member organizations that represent specific industries or agencies operating abroad. The member organizations designate representatives to serve on the Overseas Security Advisory Council to provide direction and guidance to develop programs that most benefit the U.S. private sector overseas.”

“With a constituency of 4,600 U.S. companies and other organizations with overseas interests, OSAC operates an Internet website,, which is one of its principal means of information exchange with the private sector. The website offers its visitors the latest in safety and security-related information, public announcements, warden messages, travel advisories, significant anniversary dates, terrorist group profiles, country crime and safety reports, special topic reports, foreign press reports, and much more.”

Foreign Partnerships

In his 2011 testimony before Congress, Daniel Benjamin, the Coordinator for Counterterrorism at DoS, acknowledged that, “as we approach the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we should recognize that one of the unsung success stories of the period since that dark day has been the creation of an extraordinary global alliance against terror-one that operates out of the headlines but reliably, closely, and effectively, to protect our citizens and innocents around the world. Cooperation around the world has been remarkable, particularly with our European partners, including NATO and the EU. In the critical areas of intelligence and law enforcement, governments have joined together time and again and prevented real attacks-including ones planned against planes crossing the Atlantic and on public transport systems worldwide.”

Three U.S.-led multinational programs are critical to global information sharing efforts to combat transnational crime and to counter terrorism:

The Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP)

“After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States Department of the Treasury initiated the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) to identify, track, and pursue terrorists-such as Al-Qaida-and their networks. The U.S. Treasury Department is uniquely positioned to track terrorist money flows and assist in broader U.S. Government efforts to uncover terrorist cells and map terrorist networks here at home and around the world.”

DHS’s Passenger Name Records Program (PNR)

“U.S. law requires airlines operating flights to, from, or through the United States to provide the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), with certain passenger reservation information, called Passenger Name Record (PNR) data, primarily for purposes of preventing, detecting, investigating, and prosecuting terrorist offenses and related crimes and certain other crimes that are transnational in nature. This information is collected from airline travel reservations and is transmitted to CBP prior to departure.” “The PNR Program has also played a critical role in a number of the most significant terrorist cases over the past several years, including the investigation into David Headley, who pled guilty to charges of plotting an attack in Europe against the Mohammed cartoonist in Denmark.”

The Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6 (HSPD-6) and Preventing and Combating Serious Crime (PCSC) Initiative

Issued in 2003, HSPD-6, “directed the U.S. government to consolidate its approach to terrorism screening, and to enhance cooperation with foreign governments to establish appropriate access to terrorism screening information (TSI), beginning with countries in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Through HSPD-6 initiatives, the U.S. government seeks to conclude agreements and arrangements with foreign governments for the reciprocal exchange of terrorism screening information (TSI - biographic identifiers) and the subsequent management of information sharing should a terrorist be encountered. ... PCSC agreements, like HSPD-6, are designed to increase law enforcement cooperation between the USG and its foreign partners, and also authorize the spontaneous sharing of information for the purpose of detecting and preventing terrorist and criminal activity.”

In addition to these programs, there are many U.S.-international partnerships that are vital to national security, including:

The Five Eyes Alliance

Although the U.S. has many valued alliances and partnerships, one of the oldest and most important in the information sharing context is the “Five Eyes” alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The “long-private club nicknamed the ‘Five Eyes’” was “born out of American and British intelligence collaboration in World War II.” “It all began with a secret 7-page treaty struck in 1946 between the U.S. and the U.K., the ‘British-US Communication Agreement,’ later renamed UKUSA. At first their focus was the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites. But after Canada joined in 1948, and Australia and New Zealand in 1956, the ‘Five Eyes’ was born, and it had global reach.” The members “pledged to share intelligence -specially the results of electronic surveillance of communications-and not to conduct surveillance of each other.” The alliance “wasn’t officially acknowledged and declassified until 2010, when Britain’s General Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, released some of the founding documents.”

To view the declassified UKUSA documents, and to obtain more information about the Five Eyes alliance, visit The National Archives, Newly Released GCHQ files: UKUSA Agreement.

European-U.S. Alliances

“European nations are active participants in several multilateral organizations that have played an important role in countering terrorism, including NATO, the OSCE, the EU, and the G8.

All of these organizations have worked with the United States to make “vital contributions in the effort to combat terrorism by sharing key information, arresting members of terrorist cells, interdicting terrorist financing and logistics, and contributing to efforts in Afghanistan and other key places around the world establish and implement counterterrorism best practices, build weak-but-willing states’ counterterrorism capabilities, and institutionalize counterterrorism measures globally.”

Sharing with our Neighbor to the North

The United States and Canada have a long tradition of working together to promote security and facilitate trade and travel across our borders, ensuring they remain open to legitimate trade and travel but closed to terrorists, criminals, and illegal goods. The Beyond the Border Declaration deepens and institutionalizes this cooperation at and away from the shared border. Beyond the Border initiatives with Canada benefit both countries by facilitating safe and secure travel through our northern border by:

  • Increasing membership in the NEXUS trusted traveler program to more than 917,000;
  • Establishing an agreement for the sharing of visa and immigration information on third country nationals and by deploying an innovative joint Entry/Exit pilot program whereby a land border record of entry into one country becomes the record of exit for the other country;
  • Releasing an integrated cargo security strategy (ICSS) that addresses offshore cargo risks and speeds movement of cargo across the border under the “cleared once, accepted twice” principle. Goods associated with an ICSS pilot program now cross the U.S.-Canada border at International Falls, Minnesota, in an average of 19 minutes, rather than two hours; and
  • Successfully implemented Phase I of a truck cargo pre-inspection pilot at Pacific Highway in Surrey, British Columbia (adjacent to Blaine, Washington) in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers pre-inspected approximately 3,500 U.S.-bound commercial trucks.

Examples of other successful U.S.-multinational agreements and programs include: