The US is going to spend £189m on converting the US air force (USAF) base at Croughton, near Milton Keynes, ‘into one of its largest intelligence hubs outside the mainland United States’, the Independent on Sunday reports.
Croughton is one of a number of bases in Britain involved in drone warfare, including RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire (from where Britain’s own drones are piloted) and RAF Marham near King’s Lynn, which receives and feeds information and intelligence gathered by US drones. Citing a USAF briefing document, the paper reports that Croughton will become ‘the principle [sic] intelligence centre for the USafricom [properly AFRICOM or Africa command]’, with up to 1,250 personnel – including ‘personnel from unnamed British agencies’.
Last year, the London-based human rights group Reprieve filed a complaint with the UK government after discovering that the telecommunications giant BT had signed a $23m contract with the US government to provide a secure military communications link between Croughton and the US drone base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti (see PN 2556).
Camp Lemonnier has been used to launch drone strikes against targets in Yemen and Somalia, and Reprieve argued that BT’s contract was therefore in breach of OECD guidelines on responsible business behaviour.
Lindis Percy from the British Campaign for the Accountability of American Airbases (CAAB) told the newspaper: ‘This massive new development at Croughton is clearly of great importance to the American military and government, but what say has the British Parliament or the Ministry of Defence had? It is high time that the issue of what goes on on US bases is debated in Parliament so there is a meaningful and credible debate and oversight on behalf of the British people.’