A review by Nigel Chamberlain for NATO Watch
Lifting the Lid on Menwith Hill: The Strategic Roles & Economic Impact of the US Spy Base in Yorkshire, by Dr Steve Schofield – published by Yorkshire CND, March 2012
Right away the reader is drawn into the complex subterfuge of the world of national and international security by being informed that ‘RAF’ Menwith Hill has precious little to do with the Royal Air Force of popular perception or even the UK despite its location in Yorkshire. Menwith Hill is run by the US National Security Agency and is the largest secret intelligence gathering facility on foreign soil – but there are many more.
The NSA is a global network for information gathering and analysis by highly qualified personnel and supercomputers. It is responsible for Signals Intelligence (SIGNINT) worldwide. Processed data is sent to NSA HQ at Fort Meade, Maryland and used in pursuit of America’s global interests – military and commercial.
“The NSA sits at the apex of the Military Industrial Intelligence Complex (MIIC) with the capacity now, to carry out the surveillance of all forms of electronic communication, while operating in total secrecy,” the author Dr Steve Schofield informs us.
Having thus established the enormity and complexity of the beast before him, Dr Schofield explains that his task was to investigate the claims made by both US and UK Governments that Menwith Hill provides huge financial benefits (£160 million in 2010) to the local and wider community.
He endeavours to do just that for most of the rest of his report with a wealth of gathered and analysed data worthy of an insider privy to ‘official’ sources of information. His enquiry into what the base is actually there for draws on the work done previously by local peace groups, MPs and MEPs. Like them, his efforts always come up against the impenetrable barrier of secrecy imposed by the undefined ‘needs of security and importance of counter terrorism’.
His findings are a challenge to officialdom but they are presented with the calm authority of the academic requesting that his thesis be given fair consideration and a reasoned response. The author suggests that the 1,800 US personnel working on site are primarily self-sustaining, economically and materially and that the claimed financial benefit to the local community could be over-estimated by 50%. Moreover, that the British taxpayer is effectively subsidising the occupying forces with free health care and education and by MoD infrastructure and North Yorkshire Constabulary costs.
Dr Schofield sets out 11 detailed recommendations in an effort to encourage wider debate with the underlying charge, hard to refute on this accumulation of evidence, that ‘there is no accountability through the UK Parliament’ with regard to goings-on at ‘RAF’ Menwith Hill.
Lifting the Lid will be launched at a public meeting in Harrogate, Yorkshire (UK) tomorrow 1st March
NATO Watch is an independent, not-for-profit ‘virtual’ think-tank which examines the role of NATO in public life and advocates for more openness, transparency and accountability within the Alliance. NATO Watch and partners will be holding a Shadow NATO Summit in Washington DC in May 2012 to discuss and share ideas on the future of NATO, including the new strategic concept, Afghanistan, nuclear policy, missile defence and NATO-Russian relations. For further details contact NATO Watch.