Documents Reveal UK Involvement in Secret US Drone Campaign 'Kill List'

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Documents Reveal UK Involvement in Secret US Drone Campaign 'Kill List'

'These documents are the strongest evidence yet that the U.S. may be conducting its illegal, secret drone war from bases on British soil'

Graffiti of a drone in the Middle East

"The U.S. drone program, conducted in the shadows, has killed hundreds of civilians without any accountability." (Photo: EPA)

The British military has been involved in selecting the targets of the United States' secret drone campaign, new documents obtained by the U.K.-based rights group Reprieve revealed Sunday.

According to the documents, personnel at U.K. bases leased to the U.S. military play a role in drawing up the "kill list" for the ongoing drone assassinations in countries such as Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and others.

"These documents are the strongest evidence yet that the U.S. may be conducting its illegal, secret drone war from bases on British soil," said Reprieve staff attorney Jennifer Gibson. "The U.K. government now needs to come clean on what role the bases we lease to the U.S. are playing in drawing up secretive U.S. assassination lists—and what exactly the U.K.'s own involvement in these lists is."

While U.K. politicians have said that the U.S. is not operating drones from British bases, they have refused to answer questions about what role the U.K. government plays in selecting targets for drone assassination.

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"Simply to say that drones are not flown from the U.K. is missing the point, if it is personnel on British soil that are at the top of the so-called 'kill chain' and British agencies who are feeding targets into those lists," Gibson added. "The U.S. drone program, conducted in the shadows, has killed hundreds of civilians without any accountability. The British government has questions to answer over its own involvement in this secret war and how much responsibility it bears for those deaths."

Reprieve details how job advertisements offer clues to the British military's role in the ongoing drone campaigns:

Job adverts and CVs identified from publicly-available sources show that the U.S. Air Force has employed a "MQ-9 REAPER [drone] ISR Mission Intelligence Coordinator" at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire; while a Private Military Contractor (PMC) has advertised for an "All Source Analyst – Targeting" to work at the same base.

RAF Molesworth is leased to the U.S., but the U.K. government has refused to answer questions on whether it plays a role in the covert drone campaign—which carries out missile strikes outside of warzones with minimal accountability.

[...] A third job advert from contractor Leidos for someone to provide "FMV [full motion video] intelligence analysis in support of USAFRICOM…and Special Operations Command Africa," also at Molesworth, indicates that the base may be involved in supporting illegal covert drone strikes in countries such as Somalia, where neither the U.S. nor the U.K. is publicly at war.  Along with the CIA, U.S. Special Operations Command is the main player in the drone program.

These latest revelations follow The Intercept's exposé last month of the inner workings of the NSA's largest base in the U.K., which offered concrete evidence of the British government's complicity in the U.S. targeted drone assassination campaign.

"One document states that targets at Yemeni internet cafes are 'tasked by several target offices at NSA and GCHQ,'" observes Reprieve. "The document's header shows it was copied to the U.K., meaning that the British government must have already been aware of the role its intelligence and bases were playing."

"British forces are currently involved in seven different theaters and only one of these has had any democratic scrutiny," Stop the War Coalition deputy chair Chris Nineham told the U.K.'s Morning Star, warning of "an escalating series of foreign interventions."

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