Pentagon ‘Misleads’ Over Location of UK Intelligence Centre

RAF Croughton

Plans to turn a Northamptonshire airfield into one of the USA’s largest intelligence hubs are in the balance after a Pentagon watchdog agreed to open an investigation into the decision to site the £200m centre in Britain.

Senior Congress leaders called for an inquiry after saying they had been passed information from whistleblowers alleging that the Pentagon used “inaccurate or misleading” information to justify its choice of RAF Croughton, near Milton Keynes, for an ultra-secure intelligence analysis centre covering US operations in Europe and Africa.

Documents obtained by i News show that the inspector general of US Department of Defence has now agreed to investigate the process that led to the selection of the UK air base, which already acts as a major US secret intelligence centre and has a direct cable link to Britain’s GCHQ in Cheltenham. RAF Croughton is known to serve as a relay station for CIA agent communications and has been at the centre of claims that it acts as a support site for US drone strikes carried out in the Middle East.  

“Optimal location”

The Pentagon recently rejected the claims that the selection process was not properly followed and insisted that the British base remains the “optimal location” for its new Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex (JIAC).

The state-of-the-art facility will have up to 1,250 personnel and sift data for US military operations in Europe and Africa – two priority areas for Washington as Nato deals with the threats posed by a resurgent Russia and terrorism.

But reports in Washington have suggested the House of Representatives could ultimately block the funding for the project or order a fresh selection process if the watchdog finds the original scrutiny was inadequate or biased.

Hub likely to include GCHQ staff

Any decision to stop or relocate the project, which is due to be completed next year, would be a blow to Anglo-American intelligence co-operation. A US Air Force briefing document seen by i News makes it clear that the new centre would be co-staffed with personnel from a number of unnamed UK agencies, likely to include GCHQ.

“The Pentagon inspector general has now opened an investigation into this issue.”

Congressional figures have expressed concern at the cost of placing the intelligence hub in the UK and suggested that other more cost-effective options elsewhere in Europe were deliberately over-looked because of the Pentagon’s strong preference for placing the facility in Britain.

Devin Nunes, the Californian chairman of the powerful House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, told i: “Congress was repeatedly given inaccurate information about the costs of locating the JIAC at Croughton as well as the process through which Croughton was selected.

“The [Pentagon] inspector general has now opened an investigation into this issue, which we hope will determine whether the erroneous information we received stemmed from a series of mistakes or was a deliberate to mislead.”

Mr. Nunes said he had been told by the Pentagon that one of the reasons for the choice of RAF Croughton had been the reluctance of personnel to move to more remote locations.

Azores alternative

Among the alternative bases that the congressmen want re-considered is a US facility on the Azores, the Portuguese-controlled archipelago in the mid-Atlantic. Mr. Nunes, whose family originated from the islands, has denied that he is advocating the Azores because of this link, insisting instead that he is seeking the most cost-effective location.

The Pentagon watchdog, known as the Inspector General, confirmed the investigation and said it would look at claims that officials “intentionally conveyed inaccurate or misleading information” to Congress.

The Pentagon has insisted it will make significant savings by closing its existing intelligence facilities at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire and moving them to RAF Croughton.

Data from Angela Merkel’s mobile phone

The Northamptonshire base is already involved in highly-sensitive clandestine operations and was used to funnel back to Washington data from a global network of spy bases inside US embassies, including the secret facility in Berlin alleged to have been used to listen in on the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Officials in Washington said, RAF Croughton had been chosen after a thorough assessment process that had looked at multiple potential sites for the project. A Pentagon spokesman said: “The Department evaluated a number of alternative locations and of those 14 locations, Croughton rated the highest overall.”

If completed according to existing proposals, the RAF Croughton centre will be comparable in number of personnel and operational importance to RAF Menwith Hill, the US National Security Agency (NSA) listening station in North Yorkshire.

iNews: 

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