PALO ALTO, Calif. - The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray, was in Palo Alto on Tuesday, meeting with heads of intelligence agencies from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
This gathering marked a historic moment as the leaders of security agencies from these five allied countries had never been photographed together until now, despite sharing information since World War II. This cooperative group is commonly known as "The Five Eyes."
The leaders convened in Palo Alto for the "Emerging Technology and Securing Innovation Security Summit." The central focus of this summit revolves around technology and its intersection with global security.
The summit commenced with a panel discussion among all five members, hosted by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the Hoover Institution on the Stanford University campus.
"These gentlemen represent the eyes and ears of democracy to protect ourselves," said Rice. Added Wray, "And that unprecedented meeting is because we’re dealing with now another unprecedented threat."
David McCuan, chair of Political Science at Sonoma State University, explained the significance of this gathering, citing recent global events with cyberattacks or electronic components preceding significant incidents.
"You think back to what happened in Ukraine… What happened with the horrible attacks in Israel this month. All of those events were often preceded by cyberattacks or had some electronic component," McCuan said.
In a statement, Ken McCallum, the director of Britain's intelligence agency, MI5, emphasized the summit's objectives.
"The stakes are incredibly high in emerging technologies," he said. "Those nations leading the way in areas like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and synthetic biology will wield the power to shape our collective future. It is crucial for us all to remain vigilant and respond before it's too late."
Each agency head said their country is forming partnerships with the private sector, and centers of higher learning.The goal is greater transparency about the threats posed by illegal poaching of ideas, and technology, and the use of misinformation to influence elections, or foment political unrest.
"It is indeed the policies and the ideologies of the Chinese Communist Party. It is the corrupt approach of the Russian regime under Putin that is the real problem," said David Vigneault, the director of the Canadian Intelligence Service.
Part of combating what officials said is a worsening problem is recruiting from campuses and the corporate world. This, they said, will allow the best and brightest to help safeguard free societies that spearhead innovation and advancement.
"The public doesn’t get to see what we do. They need to be satisfied that the people inside the agencies broadly reflect their values," said Andrew Hampton, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service director-general.
Rice and others stressed that the values of embracing innovation and freedom can also create vulnerabilities. The heads of The Five Eyes emphasized that their mission is to protect their open cultures while guarding against actions that could harm their societies.