Newly published documents have shed more light on the dubious surveillance operations of the United States operating in the UK. The documents detail how the NSA and GCHQ used information gathered by Menwith Hill Station—a massive but tightly sealed facility that intercepts satellite data transmissions worldwide—for targeted killings with drones:
“The files reveal for the first time how the NSA has used the British base to aid “a significant number of capture-kill operations” across the Middle East and North Africa, fueled by powerful eavesdropping technology that can harvest data from more than 300 million emails and phone calls a day.
The NSA has pioneered groundbreaking new spying programs at Menwith Hill to pinpoint the locations of suspected terrorists accessing the internet in remote parts of the world. The programs — with names such as GHOSTHUNTER and GHOSTWOLF — have provided support for conventional British and American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they have also aided covert missions in countries where the U.S. has not declared war. NSA employees at Menwith Hill have collaborated on a project to help “eliminate” terrorism targets in Yemen, for example, where the U.S. has waged a controversial drone bombing campaign that has resulted in dozens of civilian deaths.
The disclosures about Menwith Hill raise new questions about the extent of British complicity in U.S. drone strikes and other so-called targeted killing missions, which may in some cases have violated international laws or constituted war crimes.
Successive U.K. governments have publicly stated that all activities at the base are carried out with the “full knowledge and consent” of British officials.”