The Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB) is a bit of a mouthful! A campaign with the word FOR in the title instead of AGAINST was important and the word ‘ACCOUNTABILITY’ was beginning to be banded about. Add American Bases and in 1992 CAAB was born.
For more than 60 years, a dedicated group of concerned citizens has been keeping an eye on, and working to bring to account, those who keep an eye on us; namely NSA Menwith Hill near Harrogate North Yorkshire. The focus on Menwith Hill has been because many of us live locally. However CAAB extends the campaign to bring public scrutiny, awareness and accountability of the role and presence of the all US Visiting Forces and their Agencies here and world wide.
CAAB is a small group of committed people. None of us are paid and we rely entirely on donations to fund our work. We evolved out of the long campaign of protest at the American base at NSA Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
From the start, when the US Army arrived in 1951 local people raised their concerns. In the 1980s Otley Peace Action Group continued their work and campaigned tirelessly to raise the profile of this US base. They worked in many different ways. Inclusive peace camps were set up, demonstrations were organised (6,000 people attending in the early 1980s) and creative and effective ways were tried. Gradually through their work more people became aware of NSA Menwith Hill.
Menwith Hill is run by the National Security Agency of America and is the largest intelligence gathering and surveillance US base outside America. What goes on there is secret, unaccountable and out of control of the UK government (despite what they say!).
CAAB works in many ways to piece together the truth about Menwith Hill and other US bases here and world wide. Some examples as to how we work are:
For years we have regularly monitored Harrogate Planning office and Helmsley for RAF Fylingdales for any new applications for developments.
We were the first campaign to find out that Menwith Hill was to be a crucial part of the US Missile Defense system; later about the role of Fylingdales. Probably like many we were unaware that Ronald Regan’s ‘Star Wars’ (later changed to be known at the US Missile Defense system) was still being developed apace. Despite alerting other groups at the time this was not taken up.
We took out a legal action in the High Court to try to stop the building of two Space Based Infra-Red system radomes. The legal action went on for about a year with many hurdles in our way. Finally we had to concede defeat with the arrival of George W Bush as the next President of the US after Bill Clinton. We learnt a great deal because of the legal action.
We have been involved in many arrests, charges, prison sentences over the years. There have and continue to be many struggles through the courts. This is one of the consequences when challenging and asking questions of the US Visiting Forces in the UK and wider afield.
Using the law to bring about change has been effective also in:
- Overturning the first set of Military Byelaws at NSA Menwith Hill;
- Challenging the police’s random use of ‘breach of the peace’;
- Being successful in obtaining a High Court ruling making permissible the use by CAAB of the upside-down US Flag, with polite statements written on, as a symbol of protest. It was an important authority.
Out of the many court cases we have been involved with over the years, we have gleaned interesting and historical information through disclosure of documents from the High Court.
HOW DO WE WORK?
CAAB is focused on American bases in the UK and world wide. We are grounded in non-violent ways of working which includes:
- Raising public awareness, scrutiny and accountability of American bases – locally, nationally and internationally;
- Opposing the US Missile Defense system.
CAAB works to reveal this by:
- Asking questions of those in a position to make major decisions about our lives;
- Organising regular demonstrations at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire;
- Using the democratic process by working with local councillors, MPs and MEPs – asking Parliamentary questions;
- Taking action through the legal system to change unsafe law – bringing the executive to account through the courts;
- Regularly monitoring US bases and local Planning Departments re proposed developments on US bases;
- Working with researchers, academics, media, peace activists and groups (world wide);
- Making use of the US and UK Freedom of Information Act;
- Giving talks round the country;
- Taking non-violent direct action and civil disobedience.
It is important to CAAB that we put out information which is well researched and confirmed by credible sources.
We are often asked “What difference have you made”? Small significant steps of change is how we answer and when the time comes we will hand on our work to the next generation. It is long term persistent work and we are not going away.
Next demonstration organised by CAAB: The annual ‘Independence FROM America’ demonstration on 4 July (4-9pm) outside the main entrance to NSA Menwith Hill – more details soon
Tuesday evening (6-8 pm) weekly demonstration (for over 12 years bar 3!) winter, spring, summer and autumn) outside the main entrance to NSA Menwith Hill.
For more information contact: