reports that the protest surrounds plans by the U.S. for a missile defense system at Menwith Hill, which is the largest intelligence gathering and surveillance center outside of the U.S. The center is located in the heart of the U.K.'s Yorkshire Dales.
Local residents have been protesting for decades and are now being supported in their ongoing local efforts by members from the global Occupy movement.
Helen Alexander of the Occupy Leeds
branch has stated: "It’s completely unaccountable, run by the NSA [National Security Agency], which is one of the most shadowy organizations in the world. It’s not even accountable to the U.K. government. The capabilities at Menwith Hill are worrying for our civil liberties…There’s whistleblower testimony that shows that what goes on there isn’t just political espionage, but commercial espionage too. And that’s before you even consider its implications on our civil liberties, that they can listen to our phone calls, intercept our emails."
Billions of U.S. dollars have been invested in Menwith Hill over the last 10 years which has enabled the base to remain a vital component of the global U.S. surveillance network.
The base has 33 satellite dishes which are housed in large golf-ball structures and the base has the technology to intercept emails, telephones and faxes from all over the world.
Dr Steve Schofield is a Menwith watcher, and also the author of a 65-page report "Lifting the Lid on Menwith
". Schofield believes that the U.S. base is providing information for special operations in about 100 countries. He dubs this an “unprecedented level of intervention.”
"The UK’s providing a facility here that’s involved in drone attacks that we know, from independent assessments, are killing and injuring thousands of civilians, and because of the covert nature of that warfare, it’s very difficult to provide information and accountability through the U.K. parliament. And yet these are acts of war. And normally when we have war, parliament should normally inform people that we’re involved in those. And we’re not being informed. We’re kept entirely in the dark about them."
Schofield's report also challenges the statement that the U.S. presence in the U.K. provides significant economic benefits to the area - he says this is " "grossly exaggerated" and claims that "any such benefits must be measured against the costs to the U.K . of servicing American bases like Menwith. "
Locals in Menwith Hill are concerned that the base will put their area in danger and heightens the risk of an attack, should anyone wish to disable the shield.
Schofield states that Methwith represents a worldwide concern: "What we’re seeing is the Americans developing a new form of imperialism… This isn’t about protection of democracy. If you look at the pattern of investment in bases over a number of years by the US, it’s all about ensuring that they have access to oil and other vital non-renewable resources in Africa, in the Persian Gulf. And we’ve got to challenge that! Because the next stage is probably an attack on Iran."
Despite ongoing protests, plans for the expansion of the Menwith Hill base continue, with a future plan of developing the ballistic missile defense shield up until 2025.