A chilling new report documents how a vast state surveillance and assassination programme is secretly run from a US military base in Yorkshire

Peter Lazenby


Menwith Hill is ostensibly an RAF base. Its huge and heavily protected acreage sits on rolling moorland in rural North Yorkshire outside the town of Harrogate. There are only 10 RAF personnel at Menwith Hill — but there are around 1,000 US military and civilian personnel.

They operate what is reportedly the US National Security Agency’s biggest electronic spying and communications base in the world.

The base is easily identifiable from miles away by more than 30 huge, white globes, described as giant golf balls. Inside the globes are antennae linking the base to satellites circling the Earth gathering military, political and economic information which is relayed to the Pentagon, the heart of the US information-gathering beast.

Menwith Hill is a place which originates death and destruction. It is involved in the planning and execution of attacks by military drones, not just in war zones, but anywhere in the world where the US identifies individuals or groups it perceives as being a threat to US interests.

It has the ability to intercept emails and phone calls, monitor individuals’ use of computer search engines such as Google — and it does so, hundreds of millions of times over.

It has operated since 1954 with the full knowledge and co-operation of successive British governments, while requests by MPs to visit the base have been repeatedly refused.

The British state has assisted its operations — and continues to do so — by providing Ministry of Defence police armed with automatic weapons to maintain 24-hour security, ensuring that the peace campaigners who regularly stage protests on the base’s perimeter are kept in their place.

On Saturday a new report, Menwith Hill in 3D: Domes, Data and Drone Strikes, was released, collating and updating what is known of Menwith Hill’s activities, which increase with every advance made in computer technology, year by year, decade by decade.

The 15,000-word report was commissioned by Yorkshire region of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign (MHAC) and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

It was written by journalist Barnaby Pace, a meticulous researcher with a track record of exposing the dark side of governments’ activities, the arms trade and more.

MHAC was founded in 2017, successor to the Campaign for Accountability of American Bases and is dedicated to exposing the activities of Menwith Hill. Their aim is to see it shut down. It is a huge task, but the campaign will hopefully be assisted by the information in the report, which adds to knowledge not only of Menwith Hill, but of the security agencies behind it.

In its introduction to the report, MHAC says: “Our proposal was to conduct a short research project to update, as far as possible, our understanding of the role of Menwith Hill and the military-related activities carried out there, which have significant implications for the peace and security of the local area, Britain, Europe and the whole world.

“Menwith Hill Station in Yorkshire has the appearance of an RAF base. However it is in fact the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) largest-known overseas surveillance facility where UK and US intelligence personnel collaborate to operate a vast global surveillance network which, among other roles, plays a key part in targeting US drone strikes.

“Leaks of secret intelligence agency documents in recent years have exposed how eavesdropping technology at Menwith Hill is capable of collecting data from hundreds of millions of emails and phone calls a day and of pinpointing communication devices on the ground.”

The report reiterates how UK and US intelligence services “use these capabilities to spy on leaders of allied nations, aid agencies and vast swathes of the population.”

In addition to contributing to the conduct of illegal wars such as that on Iraq, the report states that programmes developed at Menwith Hill have been used outside war zones as part of covert missions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Lebanon.

“Leaked documents also identify Menwith Hill as providing the intelligence used in ‘a significant number of capture-kill operations,’ including targeting information for US covert drone strikes as part of a wider assassination programme that has been criticised as amounting to extrajudicial executions.

“The UK government has publicly stated that all activities at the base are carried out with the ‘full knowledge and consent’ of British officials,” it states.

The report exposes the extent to which the base is involved in the US “space wars” programme — three of the base’s “golf ball” radomes “form part of the US Space Based Infra-Red System.”

“Menwith Hill is linked to Buckley, a US air base in Colorado, home to almost 100,000 military personnel and the 460th Space Wing of the US Air Force Space Command,” states the report.

The report exposes “unprecedented state surveillance, conflict and assassination campaigns” which “should be of serious concern to the local community in Yorkshire and local and national government.”

Menwith Hill has been revealed “to be capable of logging hundreds of millions of communications records a day, recording information such as the sender and recipients of emails and what phone calls someone made and when, information referred to as metadata.

“In one twelve-hour period Menwith Hill logged 335 million metadata records.

“Menwith Hill has the ability to target communications in China, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa and also provide ‘continuous coverage of the majority of the Eurasian landmass,’ where they intercept ‘tactical military, scientific, political and economic communications signals’,” says the report.

“Government deceit surrounding Menwith Hill’s activities has been continuous. The UK and US governments have actively misled the public about the activities at Menwith Hill.

“A leaked 2005 US government document described the base’s ‘cover story’ as a facility to provide ‘rapid radio relay and conduct communications research.’”

“The document noted that the association of NSA or Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) personnel with the base must be kept secret as well as making clear it was ‘strictly prohibited’ to make ‘any reference to satellites being operated or any connection to intelligence gathering’.”

Crucially, the report investigates the legality of the base’s operations — and perhaps unsurprisingly finds it to operate outside the law.

It states that in previous investigations “both the UK and US surveillance programmes have been found to have been running illegally for many years.”

Menwith Hill is not alone in the covert activities of the US in Britain.

“A total of 11 bases in the UK, including Menwith Hill, are designated for use by US forces: RAF Alconbury, RAF Barford St John, RAF Croughton, RAF Fairford, RAF Feltwell, RAF Lakenheath, RAF Menwith Hill, RAF Mildenhall, RAF Molesworth, RAF Welford, Blenheim Crescent,” states the report.

“The majority of staff at these bases and the commanding officer will be from the US. For example RAF Croughton reportedly has a direct fibre-optic communications link with Camp Lemonnier, a US military base in Djibouti from which most US drone strikes on Yemen and Somalia are carried out.

“Other bases act as airfields for US air squadrons. RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk is the base for two squadrons of US F-35 multi-role aircraft.

“The supersonic stealth aircraft are capable of dropping nuclear bombs. RAF Lakenheath has also been the base for US F-15 fighter jets, which are also capable of dropping nuclear bombs.”

The report refers to some of the admittedly few successes against the bases.

“In 2008 the 110 nuclear weapons US forces stored at RAF Lakenheath were reportedly withdrawn. The move followed consistent anti-nuclear protest,” it states.

In its conclusion the report states: “The Menwith Hill base has been shrouded in secrecy for decades and it has taken the actions of courageous whistleblowers, dogged campaigners and investigative journalists to bring to light its role in a vast state surveillance apparatus, assassination programme and US missile defence.

“Despite local opposition the US spy base at Menwith Hill has continued to expand in recent years, likely further enhancing its capabilities.”

US whistleblower Edward Snowden is credited with exposing Menwith Hill’s role in “mass surveillance and extrajudicial killings,” and providing “a snapshot of transparency” about its activities.

But it states: “However, secrecy around Menwith Hill has not lessened.”

Finally it lays out a list of short and simple demands from Yorkshire CND and the Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign:

“That any US military activity or US security agency activity carried out at Menwith Hill be carried out in such a way as to make those responsible fully accountable to the UK;

“That all US military and security activity in the UK comply with UK and international law;

“The cessation of all illegal UK and US military and security activity in the UK.”

To support these aims and for more information contact Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign www.themhac.uk or Yorkshire CND www.yorkshirecnd.org.uk.

Source: Morning Star

06 Oct 2021

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