Peace activists have called for the closure of a spy base on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales after leaked top secret files appeared to show its staff were involved in a US drone strike in a non-war zone.
The documents, leaked by US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, suggest British staff at RAF Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, worked closely the NSA in a project codenamed Widowmaker.
A memo to Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) staff reveals how US officials ordered a drone strike in Yemen in 2012, to kill a doctor they believed was working with the terror network to surgically implant explosives in suicide bombers.
GCHQ documents handed to The Guardian newspaper reveal workers at the spy base near Harrogate, helped to “discover communications intelligence gaps in support of the global war on terror”.
The papers suggest British GCHQ personnel, who work at all levels within both the operational and administrative areas of the North Yorkshire base, were involved in the locating of surveillance targets in Yemen.
> So bad news for church sunday schools, C. of E. schools and other Christian organizations who push religious dogma at kids ? Probably not…
The Bishop of Durham has backed plans to ask nursery staff to look out for radicalised families in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.
Speaking in a House of Lords debate on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, the Right Reverend Paul Butler also welcomed moves to intervene more in the lives of people at risk of being drawn in by extremism.
But he warned more needs to be done at a “grassroots” level to tackle the issue long term, and that breaking up families could help create future terrorists.
“I share with every other reasonable person a horror of the evil actions and effects of terrorism, grief for the suffering caused by terrorist acts and a heartfelt concern for those whose lives are lost or wounded through it.
“Events in Paris last week clearly illustrated this to us all. However, those events also highlight the need to ensure that we keep a global awareness and perspective, as the fresh Boko Haram attacks in Baga and its surrounding villages last Friday show us. Around 2,000 were killed.
“As we consider the latest set of government moves to strengthen the laws which guard our people against terrorist acts, we have to hold our nerve in our convictions about liberty, equality and fraternity, and look steadily at the changes being proposed,” he added.
“These matters are too serious for us to polarise or politicise issues beyond what is justified in legitimate debate.”
Praising the work done by the faith groups in Sunderland, Gateshead, and South Shields, to build strong community relationships – “the most powerful force against radicalisation, especially among young people” – the bishop said however that there is a fine line to be trodden between ensuring security and encouraging community cohesion.
“Some have mocked the idea of nursery staff being obliged to report any signs of extremism in a family,” he said. “I do not share the mockery, as terrorist behaviour is abusive behaviour.
“Nevertheless, the placing of such an obligation adds to the risks of creating a culture of suspicion and the sense that every citizen is expected to be on the look-out to report on their neighbour rather than build good relationships with them.
“Great care needs to be taken not to overburden schools or erode their capacity to build diversity and trust among pupils, staff and parents.
“Breaking up a family, as could occur, could also create longer-term harm even, at one extreme, sowing the seeds of the next generation of terrorists in young children.”
The bishop said that continuing community work would be “fundamental to long-term prevention” as it “does not carry the risks of fuelling narratives of persecution and heroic resistance.”
“Countering radical terrorism is a long-term grass-roots matter. Long-term support for good community development will reap the best long-term rewards.
“This is not so much a matter of draining the swamp by immediate legislation as tilling the ground.”
The debate heard from the former head of MI5, Lord Evans of Weardale, that the threat of terrorism in the UK is rising at the same time as the ability of the security services to combat it has decreased.
In his maiden speech in the upper house, Lord Evans, who retired as director general of the agency in 2013, said that the Edward Snowden leaks had made it harder to tackle the terrorist threat.
And he said the Government needed to tackle the “unfinished business” of giving the security services greater powers to access communications data.
Lord Evans told peers:
“When I left MI5 in 2013, I felt cautiously optimistic that we were over the worst as far as Al Qaeda and Islamist terrorist attacks were concerned in this country.
“It seemed to me that we were making significant progress. Regrettably, subsequent events have proved that judgment to be wrong.
“The atrocious killing of Fusilier Rigby in May 2013 demonstrated the reality of the threat we face in this country and the brutal murders in Paris last week demonstrate that this is a European and international problem, not one we face alone.”
> One man got killed in the street by two other men. This happens all the time, all over the country. You’ve got a far higher chance of getting done in by a couple of indigenous thugs than you have by an Islamic terrorist.
All the Islamic terror attacks in Britain – as 9/11 in the USA – appear to be isolated one-off events, and although they may spark copycat attacks I don’t really believe that there is a highly organized terror organization. But the government cynically encourages belief in one in order to erode our rights.
In any case, who are the real terrorists ? More people have died in Britain as a result of current government welfare policies than at the hands of terrorists.
Anyone who has had to deal with the Jobcentre and other agencies might consider that governmnent/terrorism are merely two sides of the same coin.
Lord Evans, who sits as an independent crossbench peer, said events in Syria and Iraq had given extremist networks in the UK a “jolt of energy”.
> Not half as much a one as our continued poking our armed forces into other countries business (the ones with oil, at least…)
He said at least 600 people had gone as would-be jihadists to fight in Syria and Iraq, and he had no doubt that number would increase “significantly” in coming months.
And he warned the situation put him in mind of the Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan before 9/11 which “drew would-be jihadists from across the globe”.
“On their return, many of them were even more radical than they had been when they departed,” he said.
“They had experience of combat and had been trained in violence and they had an international network of support on which they could draw.
“Those circumstances led to a series of attacks internationally and over a long period, and I fear we may be facing the same situation as we go forward from today and we are starting to see that.
“At the same time, the revelations made by Edward Snowden, whatever you think of what he did, have clearly led a reduction in the ability of the security agencies both here and overseas to access and read the communications of terrorists internationally with the result that as the threat from terrorism has gone up in the last two years, the ability of the security agencies to counter those threats has gone down.
“The result of this can only be that the overall risk of a successful terrorist attack in this country has risen.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Jan 2015