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Viewing cable 08LONDON1115, HMG OUTLINES NEW PROCEDURES FOR REQUESTING INTEL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08LONDON1115 2008-04-18 15:03 2010-12-01 23:11 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy London
VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLO #1115/01 1091531
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 181531Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8309
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 0272
RUEHLO/USDAO LONDON UK
RUEHLO/USDAO LONDON UK//AIROPS//
S E C R E T LONDON 001115 

SIPDIS 

NOFORN 
SIPDIS 

STATE FOR PM ACTION TEAM 

EO 12958 DECL: 04/18/2018 
TAGS MOPS, MARR, PINR, PREL, UK 
SUBJECT: HMG OUTLINES NEW PROCEDURES FOR REQUESTING INTEL 
FLIGHT CLEARANCES

REF: A. LONDON 1064
 B. TREMONT-PM ACTION TEAM EMAIL APRIL 16

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Maura Connelly, reason 1.4,  a/b/c/d.

1. (S/NF) Summary and Action Request. The UK Ministry of Defense summoned PolMilOff April 15 to receive the letter in para 2 on new procedures for requesting HMG permission to use UK territory to launch intelligence flights. This letter, evidently what DG Mariot Leslie was referring to in her April 14 meeting with DCM (ref a), requests that ALL future requests to use UK territory for intel flights be conveyed by Embassy London and be accompanied by enough information that ministers can fully consider whether sensitive missions might put the UK at risk of being complicit in unlawful acts. We understand that these additional precautionary measures stem from the February revelation that the USG transited renditioned persons through Diego Garcia without UK permission and HMG’s resultant need to ensure it is not similarly blindsided in the future. Embassy London invites relevant USG agencies to convey concerns or questions that should be brought to MOD’s attention in an initial meeting on the issue April 22. End Summary.

2. (S/Rel UK) Begin Text of Letter (note internal numbering):
9 April 2008

Dear Ms. Tremont,
UK INTELLIGENCE GATHERING FLIGHTS FROM UK BASES

1. I am grateful for your help in resolving the current issues regarding UK Government authorisation of U2 sorties flown from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, over Lebanon. While I am not suggesting that established procedures were not followed in this case, events have demonstrated that we need to set up a more formal mechanism for seeking agreement to the use of UK bases for intelligence flights which will enable any legal and political concerns to be addressed and resolved. This is particularly important for sensitive intelligence gathering operations, for example where information is passed to third parties. We would like to have a single US point of contact through which the requests would be routed. Given that flight missions may be directed by either State Department or the Pentagon (or possibly other agencies), it would seem sensible for all requests to be passed through the US Embassy in London to me.

2. We have a very good working relationship with EUCOM which uses well-established procedures for identifying and discussing the regular intelligence flights that the US undertakes from RAF Akrotiri and from RAF Mildenhall. MOD seeks approval of these missions from Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as Defence Ministers, every four months (and we clear similar UK flights through the same process). To date, the details of these flights have been discussed at desk level, any concerns have been highlighted and resolved, and staffing action taken here to put the cases to Ministers along with any necessary supporting advice. In many respects, these flights have become routine, and the issues raised have not normally proved complex or overly sensitive.

3. However, recent U2 flights over Turkey/Northern Iraq, and the Lebanon, have highlighted important legal and political issues which require much more careful consideration by HMG. In both cases, intelligence product is intended to be passed to third party governments, and it is important for us to be satisfied that HMG is not indirectly aiding the commission of unlawful acts by those governments on the basis of the information gathered through the assistance we provide to the US. This is a very important point for UK Ministers, and it is now clear that the approvals procedures must be robust enough to capture and deal with these issues at an early stage. There are further forms of risk that we need to assess in putting the case for agreement to our Ministers, including the political risk that other governments become aware of, and potentially object to, the flights (hence our need to know flight profiles). In
particular, there are sensitivities with Government of Cyprus regarding the use of Sovereign Ba se Areas in Cyprus.

4. In the light of this, we feel that a formal approach should be made from the US Government to MOD, seeking approval for specified intelligence gathering flights using UK bases. We envisage this approach setting out the flight programmes, with sortie profiles and the other information provided by EUCOM, but also setting out in as much detail as possible: the purpose and scope of the mission; whether it is a national task or in support of a bi-lateral or multi-lateral agreement; which other nations have been informed of the mission and -- if the intelligence gathered is to be passed to a third party -- the purpose for which this is happening, the expected use to which the information will be put (and by which agencies of the third party), and an assessment of any legal or human rights implications. We would need to be informed of any changes to this information prior to revised missions being flown in order to ensure we had the required Ministerial approvals in place. As now, most if not all such flights can be captured in the current four-monthly approval cycle, but we stand ready to receive additional requests between each cyclical submission should flight profiles and/or missions be amended or added at short notice.

5. We will continue to liaise at the military-to-military level with EUCOM over flight details, but also wish to receive political and legal input, via the Embassy, from the appropriate USG agency. Naturally, approaches need to be made as early as possible to allow time for clearing queries and UK staffing (though we can and do turn round most requests very quickly).

6. I have attached a schedule of the missions that EUCOM have informed us that they would like to fly in the period 1 May - 31 August 2008. In order to start the new process I would be grateful if you could approach the relevant USG authorities to provide the additional information that I have mentioned for each mission type. I recognise that this may be a complex task but I think it will establish a firm foundation for the new procedure I have described.

7. I am sure you will understand the sensitivities involved in the use of UK bases for covert or potentially controversial missions, and hence our desire to formalise the approvals process in this way. I would be happy to discuss mechanics in more detail. We would, however, like to set up the new process as quickly as possible, and in time for the next four-monthly approval due at the end of April. I would welcome a meeting with you and your colleagues to assist in the setting up of the new process.
Yours sincerely,
W M Jessett (Director Counter-Terrorism and UK Operations (Policy))
Annex
A. Flights requested by EUCOM from 1 May - 31 August 2008 (In ref B)
End Text.

3. (S/NF) Comment. Embassy London would welcome other agencies’ comments and questions for MOD on these new procedures; our first meeting to discuss this is scheduled for April 22. At first glance, we find them rather burdensome. For starters, we are reluctant to make Embassy London the POC on these requests, which had been worked successfully in mil-mil channels at EUCOM before now; this seems to be an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. We further believe that the request to provide this amount of additional information for well-established missions scheduled to continue May 1, is an extremely tight deadline and we will push back on this requirement. Embassy London POCs for this issue are Pam Tremont (tremontpm@state.sgov.gov), and Col. Jeff Hosken (dihosja@dia.smil.mil).
Visit London’s Classified Website: http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Unit ed_Kingdom LEBARON