UK Government Urged to Act on Fresh Evidence of BT Drones Link

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk / +44 207 553 8166

UK Government Urged to Act on Fresh Evidence of BT Drones Link

LONDON - The British government is being asked to reopen an investigation into BT, after new evidence appeared to link the company to illegal US drone strikes and the mass government surveillance used to select their targets.

Legal charity Reprieve, which assists the civilian victims of drone strikes, has this week submitted to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) a complaint containing details of how a cable laid by BT for the US military between RAF Croughton – a US base in the UK – and Camp Lemonnier – a secretive drone base in Djibouti – was tailored to meet special NSA requirements consistent with the launching of drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia.

The complaint also includes evidence of BT’s apparent complicity with intelligence agencies GCHQ and the NSA to engage in covert mass surveillance, providing information that is used to target the victims of drone strikes.

The US military describes RAF Croughton, in Northamptonshire, as providing “world-class combat support enabling communications and global strike operations,” and it has been widely reported that secretive drone strikes have been launched in Yemen and Somalia from Camp Lemonnier. Since the strikes take place in countries with which the US is not at war and have killed civilians, they violate international and domestic law.

This week’s submission comes after the UK National Contact Point (UK NCP), which sits within BIS, declined to investigate the company for violations of the OECD’s responsible business guidelines. The UK NCP said it had no duty to “conduct research or interrogate” BT. Lord Livingston, who was Chief Executive of BT at the time the initial complaint was launched, is now Minister of State at BIS.

At its AGM in June, BT dismissed questions over the cable, stating that it “does not look at what its customers do” with its equipment, and adding that “we sell our services to governments as long as they pay our bills.”

Reprieve investigator Kevin Lo said: “Between this new evidence, and BT’s claim to work with ‘any government that pays the bills’, it’s now clear there are serious questions to be asked about BT’s possible support for US drone strikes. The government should reopen its investigation as soon as possible, and demand some answers on behalf of the strikes’ civilian victims.”

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Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

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