“In 2013 material released by US whistle-blower Edward Snowden exposed Menwith Hill’s role in mass surveillance and extrajudicial killings.”
By Dave Webb, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)
On first impression, ‘RAF’ Menwith Hill looks like an ordinary RAF station. But there are no runways present, and no aircraft are stationed there. The base – outside Harrogate in North Yorkshire – is in fact run by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and is their largest overseas electronic spying and surveillance base. The Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ), the UK equivalent of the NSA, is also present, with the two organisations working closely together.
The base can be seen from miles away: over 30 very visible giant ‘golf balls’ stand out clearly on the road from Leeds. Each of these holds a satellite dish that receives data that has been intercepted from other satellites or from ground transmitters. When it arrives at Menwith Hill, huge computer systems sift through this information, searching for anything that may be of interest to the US and/or UK intelligence services.
In 2013 material released by US whistle-blower Edward Snowden exposed Menwith Hill’s role in mass surveillance and extrajudicial killings. It has been revealed that 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 UK and US intelligence agencies have also been exposed as using these capabilities to spy on leaders of allied nations, aid agencies and vast swathes of the population.
Menwith Hill is also involved in the US space wars programme — three of the base’s satellite dishes act as down link stations for space-based components of the US missile defence system.
A report by Yorkshire CND and the Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign reiterates that the UK government has publicly stated that all activities at the base are carried out with the ‘full knowledge and consent’ of British officials making them complicit partners. As its conclusion states, the Menwith Hill base has been shrouded in secrecy for decades and it has taken the actions of courageous whistle-blowers, dogged campaigners and investigative journalists to bring to light its role in a vast state surveillance apparatus, assassination programme and US missile defence.
Now you have the opportunity to find out more. Yorkshire CND is hosting a trip to Menwith Hill on October 16th as part of CND’s annual conference. Why not join us and see this secretive base for yourself?
- For more information on the visit to Menwith Hill, or to get a copy of the report mentioned, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dave Webb is the Chair of Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Convenor of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
- This article originally appeared in the CND magazine, October ’22 edition. You can read it in full here.
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