‘British people kept in dark over UK-US drone missions’
Newly released documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden have shed light on US spying operations from a base in the UK. The leaks include details of how surveillance data gathered there was used in American targeted killings in the Middle East and North Africa.
RT: How significant is the role of the NSA's British base at Menwith Hill, in US ‘targeted killing’ operations?
Medea Benjamin: We always knew the UK was working together with the US on these drone operations. But now we have much more information that details how Menwith Hill has been used to collect vast amounts of data that is used not just for surveillance, but actually given over for military operations. So, that’s directly linked the UK complicity with drone warfare that many of us think is illegal and violates international law. So, I think that people who have been protesting the way the UK has been working hand in glove with the US in the drone program have a lot more direct questions now to ask of their elected officials.
RT: The UK government says all activities at the Menwith Hill base are carried out with the “full knowledge and consent” of officials. Is this essentially an admission of British involvement?
MB: Yes, and it tries to whitewash the fact that the British people have been kept in the dark about how significantly the UK is involved in this program. And it parallels how the American people have been kept in the dark for years about the extent of the drone program. In fact, it was a group like ours and legal groups that took the US government to court that forced our government to even admit that it was using such a thing as drones. So, both governments have tried to hide the reality from the public.
RT: Why does America need British support to conduct these operations?
MB: It is a question of geographically being able to cover a much more expansive area. With the UK’s location, the US can cover the Middle East and North Africa and have a much greater range in its ability to collect information. I also think the US likes to get the UK directly involved in its activities. It likes to have its allies work together in these operations so that at places like the UN and other international agencies it will have the support of European allies.
"I don’t think there is any denying that the British government knew what was going on. And it shows that the British government is potentially complicit in essentially killings or - dare I say – murder, because if a government kills an individual in a place where there isn’t a war, i.e. they are not a combatant, this is essentially murder. It is incredible that they’ve managed to keep it from the general public for this long." - Matteo Bergamini, founder and director of Shout Out UK talking to RT.
RT: How could these revelations affect the reputation of the British government?
MB: These are certainly questions that have been asked for a long time and I think now they will be asked by more broad range of people and in a more urgent fashion. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party leader has long been questioning the UK involvement and been against the use of drones. And now that we know that the UK is not just involved in areas where the US and the UK are in more openly declared war, but in places that they are not at war at all such as Pakistan. I think there will be a much more of a demand of elected officials in the UK to come clean on the exact extent of UK involvement.
Medea Benjamin is author of the book 'Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection' (published this month).
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.