“BIG BROTHER BRITANNIA”: BOUNCING PARLIAMENT. SURVEILLANCE AND POLICE STATE BY EMERGENCY IN THE UK

By Binoy Kampmark | Global Research

You have to give him some credit.  The soul of the prison warder who inhabits the public school boy is not always easy to contain. Unrestrained, and lacking sound judgment, he is bound to spring out, however democratic, or liberal, a system can be. Prime Minister David Cameron, on the issue of jamming through bills connected with increased surveillance powers, has just about gotten what he wants.  The rule in his playbook here: call anything you don’t want looked at a matter of emergency.

For Cameron, “No government introduces fast track legislation lightly. But the consequences of not acting are grave.”  No evidence is required; none is shown.  What is important is the stress on terrorism, sustained by that good old giddying drug called fear. “As events in Iraq and Syria demonstrate, now is not the time to be scaling back on our ability to keep our people safe.”  All that matters is that the government claims that not acting, even if it doesn’t quite know what it is acting on, will be terrible than doing nothing to begin with.

Even as the Germans were celebrating their footballing triumph in Brazil, the frontlines of the UK papers featured Edward Snowden’s unchanging face, and the efforts of the Cameron government to push through its emergency surveillance bill.  Since the European Court of Justice made short work of the EU data retention directive, governments have been scrambling to respond.  The UK reaction has been less than conciliatory to the privacy advocates, always suspicious about the very idea that retaining data was somehow illegal.

The legislative reaction was something of a race, lasting three days.  Vital to the passage of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers bill, known as Drip, was dizzying speed – pushed through the Commons on Tuesday, then passed within a vote after a second reading in the House of Lords.  Thursday saw some tidying up, but when the rooms were ordered, it was clear that the surveillance team had won.

Drip has come in for a vocal beating from various sources. When it was being flagged in the halls of parliament on July 9, opposition Labour MP Tom Watson[1] tweeted that, “Something terrible could be happening in Parliament on Monday and I need your urgent attention”.  UK-based Privacy International[2] called it a glaring shame “that a year since Edward Snowden revealed the scope of the UK mass surveillance activities, the only British parliamentary action in relation to surveillance has been to drastically expand the interception powers of the intelligence services.”

UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay made the obvious remark that Drip sidestepped, rather than confronted, the implications of the European Court of Justice decision.  “To me it’s difficult to see how the UK can now justify rushing through wide-reaching emergency legislation which may not fully address concerns raised by the court, at time when there are proceedings ongoing by the UK’s own investigative powers tribunal on these very issues” (Guardian, Jul 16).

This has not proven to the sole province of the bleeding hearts or the conspiracy fraternity.  Some far from radical voices feature, including Lord Butler of Brockwell, who was Cabinet secretary to Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair.  In his words, the government had “bounced” parliament.

On the issue of responding to the decision on data retention, Butler noted that “the government was discussing this problem with Microsoft, and Yahoo and other providers.  Why was it not willing to discuss the issue similarly with select committees of parliament?  And if the government could reach a conclusion about the necessity for this legislation one week before the Commons went into recess, it beggars belief that it could not have reached that conclusion three weeks before recess, and thus given parliament proper time to consider this bill.”

There are snips and abolitions of matters pertaining to oversight.  Former counter-terrorist watchdogs are not really in vogue and are being pushed back – Lord Carlile had figured in a position that may well be abolished, given the coalition government’s proposal for a privacy and civil liberties board.

What Drip does do is establish an “independent reviewer of terrorism legislation”, but the legislation clearly curtails the exercise of discretion. Yes, there are tentative nods made to “safeguards to protect privacy” and notions of transparency, but there is an overwhelming insistence on “current and future threats to the United Kingdom” and “the capabilities needed to combat those threats”.

There is much in the manner of weak language, the sort that admits that privacy is important before putting the kibosh on it.  The Secretary of State, as Drip makes clear, may “require a public telecommunications operator to retain relevant communications data if the Secretary of State considers that the requirement is necessary and proportionate for one or more of the purposes” outlined in the act itself.[3]

The relevant point here is that metadata is not the sole object of access under the new act.  Members of law enforcement can now access the actual content of the messages, irrespective of whether they are held by companies located outside the UK.  The Act makes it clear that interception warrants may be served on “a person outside the United Kingdom (and may relate to conduct outside the United Kingdom).”

Is all this radical?  No, claims Cameron.  “I want to be very clear that we are not introducing new powers or capabilities – that is not for this Parliament.”  Everything bar what it actually was.

UNITED STATES KNEW OF BRITISH PLANS TO RAID THE GUARDIAN FOR SNOWDEN DOCUMENTS

By Nick Barrickman

Emails obtained by the Associated Press show that top US intelligence officials were well aware of the British government’s plans to destroy hard drives containing evidence of massive state spying against the world’s population that were held by the Guardian newspaper last year. The emails show that US officials not only knew of the plans to destroy the material provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden while doing nothing to stop them, but also encouraged and celebrated the police state activities of the British government.

The documents span a period of several days before and after the destruction of the material, beginning with an email dated July 19, 2013 to then-Director of the NSA Keith Alexander, sent by deputy director of the agency Rick Ledgett, entitled “Guardian data being destroyed.” One can see Ledgett proclaiming the files’ destruction to be “Good news, at least on this front,” as Alexander responds a day later, asking for confirmation that the drives had indeed been destroyed. Finally, the current Director of the NSA James R. Clapper replies, saying “Thanks Keith … appreciate the conversation today.”

The Guardian was one of several media outlets, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, which had reported on the disclosures of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last summer of a massive spying campaign conducted against the world’s population by the US government and other allied governments. Last July, Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger was contacted by “a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the [British] prime minister” regarding the Snowden material. “The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach,” Rusbridger said of the encounter.

According to the Guardian chief, “two GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters] security experts” oversaw the destruction of the hard drives containing all documents from Snowden, while journalists were forced to use grinders, drills, and other equipment to physically destroy the material. This was despite the Guardian’s own insistence that it would publish only a fraction of the NSA’s documents it had been given.

At the time, US officials had feigned ignorance of the events, with White House spokesperson Josh Earnest saying that it had been difficult to “evaluate the propriety of what they [the British government] did based on incomplete knowledge of what happened,” while also proclaiming it to be “very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate.”

What the current collection of emails proves is that either US officials did know of the planned raid on the Guardian and did nothing to stop it, or that top officials in the US intelligence community acted to ensure the destruction of evidence documenting a massive breach of the US Constitution. Furthermore, the findings show that in approving of the British government’s actions, associated most closely with those of a police state, US officials are fully capable of taking such actions in the United States itself.

The majority of the correspondence is heavily redacted, in most circumstances making it impossible to read any of the messages exchanged by the officials. In other cases, entries are blocked in the subject line so that one cannot see who received or has sent various emails, making unclear the level of involvement US officials had in the actual destruction of the documents.

Justifying the number of redactions in the emails, which make it difficult to make out to whom a given message is addressed or what is being discussed, public affairs officials working in tandem with the NSA enclosed a note saying that the release of such documents could cause “exceptionally grave and serious damage to … national security.”

Also in justifying the withholding of information from the public, the document claims the NSA’s right to personal privacy: “Personal information regarding individuals has also been deleted from the enclosures… This exemption protects from disclosure information that would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. In balancing the public interest for the information you request against the privacy interests involved, we have determined that the privacy interests sufficiently satisfy the requirements for the application of the exemption.”

Such assertions of virtual immunity from public oversight as well as the supposed “balancing” of the “public interest” with the “privacy interests” of the state amount to justification of dictatorship.

UK TO PASS EMERGENCY MEASURES TO COLLECT PHONE AND INTERNET DATA

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British Prime Minister David Cameron has rushed emergency measures through parliament to allow police and security services access to phone and internet records in the UK.

He says he was forced to act after the European Court of Justice struck down existing powers on the premise it infringed human rights.

CAMERON GOVERNMENT STEPS UP DRIVE TO SELL UK PUBLIC ASSETS

By Allison Smith and Paul Bond

A proposed bill will make it even easier for the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government to sell off high-value public land. The National Health Service (NHS) is expected to be one of the social services hardest hit.

The Public Sector Land Assets section of the Infrastructure Bill would “permit land to be transferred directly from arms-length bodies to the Homes and Communities Agency [HCA].” This, the government argues, would reduce bureaucracy, manage land more effectively and enable more homes to be built.

The bill would ensure that future purchasers of land owned by HCA and the Greater London Authority (GLA) “will be able to develop and use land without being affected by easements and other rights and restrictions suspended by the Agency.”

This would basically facilitate unbridled private use of land. The governmental information notes on the Bill explain that land owned by HCA and GLA sometimes has easements or rights and restrictions from its previous use. HCA and GLA can suspend these rights, but not pass the suspension on to purchasers. The Bill will remove that limitation in order, as the government web site puts it, to “make sure that purchasers of this land would also benefit from the suspension.”

The drive to sell off NHS property significantly escalated in January 2012 when then-UK Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced that the newly-established government-owned firm PropCo would take over ownership and management of more than 150 NHS estates with the aim of evaluating and disposing of the highest value land parcels. Figures released by the Department of Health in March this year reveal that 224 NHS trusts have identified 629 parcels of land—totaling more than 900 hectares—as surplus or potentially surplus. This includes nearly 75 sites around London, totaling 80 hectares.

The premise for selling off the estate is the chronic indebtedness of the NHS, which will see a deficit of more than £330 million in England alone this year. As a result, hospital estates across England remain under threat of restructuring, repurposing or closure. Hospitals across Britain are cutting staff and services in a desperate attempt to avoid ending the current financial year in debt. Despite these measures, more than half are expected to end the year significantly in debt.

Since 2008, the British government has used the current economic crisis as an excuse to impose an austerity regime. This includes a plan to cut more than £30 billion from the NHS by 2021. The drastic shortfall in hospital budgets has led to potentially deadly compromises in patient safety, the near elimination of family doctor services and a significant increase in hospital waiting times.

The Health Service Journal reports that proposals to sell hospital sites contributed to an 11 percent increase in the area of land designated for sale for housing by English NHS organisations in 2012. In March 2013, Dan Poulter, Undersecretary of State for Health, wrote to all NHS Chief Executives, Directors of Finance and Estates Directors stating that his top priority for government is the release of public-sector land.

The determination to dismantle the NHS can be seen in the example of the Whittington Hospital in North London. By March last year, one-third of its estate was threatened with closure, with the proposed sale expected to raise around £17 million from private developers. Six blocks were slated for sale, including buildings used as wards and staff accommodation. The result would have meant a loss of 570 jobs and 230 fewer hospital beds.

This sell-off deal was an integral part of the hospital board’s application for the Whittington to become a Foundation Trust. Foundation Trust status removes hospitals from central government control and is a step towards the complete privatisation of the NHS. To qualify for Foundation Trust status, the Whittington is required to make savings of £4.8 million before the trust application is approved.

There was widespread opposition to the proposed selloff, and there were a number of high-profile resignations from the board after the initial plans had to be withdrawn. But despite protestors being told that the cutback plans would be scrapped and “a new strategy put in place to guarantee our hospital’s future,” it was clear that that there had been no change of heart.

When Joe Liddane resigned as chairman of Whittington Health, he was replaced by Steve Hitchins, former Liberal Democrat leader of Islington Council. Hitchins was a board member of the London Development Agency, assembling land for the 2012 Olympics. As Whittington Health boasted on his appointment, he “has extensive experience in the private, public and voluntary sectors.”

In March this year, Dr. Yi Mien Koh, Whittington Health’s chief executive, stood down and was replaced for six months by Simon Pleydell, one of the 10 highest-paid NHS chiefs in the country. Some NHS analysts suggested Pleydell had been appointed to oversee wider changes across London hospitals.

Whittington is again undertaking a review of its Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. The A&E was under threat of closure last year. The nearby Royal Free Hospital, which did receive Foundation Trust status last year, has just announced a major upgrade of its A&E over the next three years.

As part of its push for Foundation Trust status Whittington Health has long been advancing “care in the community” services to clear beds. This has already led to it being classed as a “community care organization” rather than a district general hospital. In his first month in office, Hitchins announced that a district general hospital on the site was “no longer viable.”

When hospitals sell off “surplus” land they cannot expand in the future. Selling public land to cover debts caused by budget shortfalls creates a vicious circle because land is a discrete, non-renewable asset.

Private land developers stand to gain the most. As an example, the GLA has agreed to let Barratt Homes and Ward Homes “build now and pay later” on 83 hectares of land at South East London’s Cane Hill hospital site. Under the build now/pay later scheme, the government transfers public land to private developers for free and the developer eventually pays for the parcels after it recovers the development costs through sales and leasing. In the case of Cane Hill, the developer is receiving the equivalent of a £250 million interest-free deferred loan to develop the hospital site.

Barratt and Ward plan to build 675 housing units—including 400 luxury homes—and 70,000 square feet of commercial space. Only 25 percent of the development—168 apartments— will be “affordable.” Of these 60 percent will be affordable rent and 40 percent will be “shared equity”, where the tenant buys on a mortgage a part-share of the house and pays rent on the rest.

The paltry number of affordable units proposed for Cane Hill reinforces the fact that the fire sale of NHS assets will not benefit workers at all.

BRITISH GOVERNMENT PLANNED A 100,000 STRONG SYRIAN PROXY FORCE

By Steve James

British plans developed in 2012 for the creation of a huge “rebel” army to march on Damascus and overthrow Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have been exposed.

According to an investigation by the BBC’s flagship Newsnight TV programme, the scheme was one of a number of proposals put together by the British military at the behest of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron.

In late 2012, US-led pressures for a direct assault on Syria were escalating rapidly. In November of that year, British Foreign Secretary William Hague hailed the founding of a “united” Syrian opposition and pledged to support them by recognising them as the legitimate government and calling for the removal of a European Union arms embargo. The British government, the plans make clear, was also seeking a major military role in a new bloody neo-colonial adventure.

Drawn up by the British Army’s then most senior military figure, Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards, formerly the head of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces in Afghanistan, the plan envisaged a 100,000-strong force composed of Syrian recruits opposed to the Assad regime. According to the Guardian, Richards’ plan was backed by then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and David Petraeus, former CIA director and architect of the US military’s 2007 surge in Iraq.

According to Newsnight, Richards advised the government that it would take a year to recruit, arm and train a force capable of driving Assad from power. Training would be in Jordan and Turkey and, by recruiting Syrians would avoid British “boots on the ground.”

Once battle-ready, the army of Syrian “moderates” would, under cover of a “shock and awe” air war designed to destroy Syrian air defences and government infrastructure, seek to emulate both the US Army’s 2003 assault on Iraq and the 2011 destruction of the Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Simultaneous with the war preparations, Richards’ plan proposed the formation of a Syrian government-in-exile to be installed after Assad’s overthrow.

The plan for such a substantial proxy force emerged out of tensions between the British government and military. In 2012, the Guardian reported that Richards, at the request of Cameron, chaired a meeting of military brass from France, the US, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates—presumably to sketch out their options.

Richards, however, had let it be known publicly that the British military had serious qualms about any attack on Syria in which British forces would be involved—the fourth major war in a decade. Concerns focused on the extended naval and air operation required to destroy Syrian air defences, the lack of both a clear plan and any exit strategy. Press reports also noted that the then lack of a large aircraft carrier would compromise British capacity to participate in the enforcement of a no-fly zone.

Also, according to the Daily Telegraph ’s defence correspondent Con Coughlin, elements in the military were more concerned than the Cameron government about the dangers of such an intervention spiraling rapidly. Coughlin wrote last week of military trepidation: “if you set up a no-fly zone and it comes under attack from the Syrian regime, then you have to respond. Then, if you respond, the Assad regime’s allies—notably Russia and Iran—will feel compelled to intervene themselves, and before you know it you have the seeds of World War Three being sown.”

Coughlin added that “training a Syrian army might also give Britain some influence over the conflict’s outcome.”

As it happened, Richards’ proxy army was shelved following the August 2013 defeat suffered by Cameron at the hands of the Labour Party and Tory opponents of such a reckless and incendiary move. The Westminster vote was cast in the face of popular hostility to a new war and was followed by the expression of similar concerns in the US Congress. These forced the Obama administration into a tactical manoeuvre aimed at parking the Syrian conflict, seeking some level of limited rapprochement with Iran while escalating its conflict with Russia—via the installation of the current fascist backed right wing regime in Kiev.

In the intervening months, the US position in Syria and Iraq has unravelled under the impact of the sectarian civil war stoked for a decade by the US and Britain. Swathes of Iraq and Syria have fallen to forces organised under the umbrella of Saudi Arabia-backed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and armed by the US through its ongoing proxy operations against Syria. Some $287 million has been channeled to Syrian opposition forces since 2011.

As a result, variants of Richards’ plan are back on the agenda. In June, the Obama administration asked Congress to authorise $500 million in US military aid to Syrian insurgents as part of a much larger $65.8 billion request for Overseas Contingency Operations. The White House claimed to be seeking “vetted elements of the armed opposition” capable of being forged into a force capable of opposing ISIS.

Additional US cash poured into the fractious insurgents amounts only to the US government pouring petrol on the Syrian fire it has created. Only further catastrophe and mass bloodshed in Syria and the entire region can emerge from its policy.

For his part, Richards, now Baron Richards of Herstmonceux, a Knight of the Order of Bath, retired and with a life peerage, has taken to calling for increased British military spending and the militarisation of society. Richards, who while still an army chief in 2010, called for a new British “grand strategy” to “decide what Britain’s place in the world is” used his maiden speech in the House of Lords to warn of a “generational” threat of militant jihadism. He called for arms spending to be maintained at a minimum of 2 percent of British GDP and demanded a “societal consensus” that “joining the Armed Forces is a good thing.”

Last week, in a further marker of British imperialism’s determination to increase its global fighting capacity, the Queen launched one of two Royal Navy new super-carriers at the Rosyth naval dockyard in Scotland. The new strike carriers, costing to date £6.2 billion and to be equipped with up to 36 F-35 fighter aircraft and helicopters, will be the most powerful surface warships outside of the US Navy and are intended “to project power around the world.”

HARPSUND SUMMIT: CAMERON PURSUES ‘STOP JUNCKER’ PLANS

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Some are calling it the ‘Stop Juncker’ summit.

For blocking Jean-Claude Juncker’s bid to become European Commission President is widely considered to be British Prime Minister David Cameron’s aim at talks with three other EU leaders in Sweden.

Officially other topics are on the two-day Harpsund Summit agenda. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt is hosting Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch leader Mark Rutte at his country residence outside Stockholm to discuss the EU.

But Britain’s premier is not happy that, under new rules, Juncker is frontrunner for the EU’s top job.

“This meeting today is really about content, about what Europe should be doing in the next few years,” Cameron told reporters. “But I would just make this important point of principle, which is that as the democratically-elected leaders of Europe, we should be the ones who choose who should run these institutions, rather than accept some new process, which was never agreed and I think that is important.”

Seen as too federalist by Cameron, Luxembourg’s ex-leader is favourite, given the support he has from the centre-right European People’s Party, the EU’s largest political grouping after last month’s European elections. He has also had official backing from Germany’s Angela Merkel – but Cameron is hoping to win her over.

Facing re-election next year, Cameron has pledged to try to reshape Britain’s ties with the EU and to give Britons an in/out EU referendum in 2017. If he fails to block Juncker, he stands to lose face at home and abroad and could see his ruling Conservative Party’s fragile unity begin to fray.

 

UK’s CAMERON STEPS UP CAMPAIGN TO STOP JUNCKER GETTING TOP EUROPEAN UNION JOB

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By Kylie MacLellan and Andrew Osborn

HARPSUND Sweden/LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister David Cameron stepped up his campaign to stop Jean-Claude Juncker becoming the next president of the European Commission on Monday, moving to outflank the European Parliament and forge an alliance against him.

In the run-up to a meeting in Sweden with other European leaders that will discuss the matter, Cameron phoned Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Reinfeldt is hosting Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch premier Mark Rutte at his country residence outside Stockholm on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the EU.

On arrival, Cameron said EU leaders and not the European Parliament, whose largest political grouping backs Juncker, should nominate a candidate for the next Commission president.

“I would just make this important point of principle, which is that as the democratically elected leaders of Europe, we should be the ones who choose who should run these institutions, rather than accept some new process, which was never agreed,” said Cameron.

Juncker’s candidacy is not on the meeting’s formal agenda but Cameron is expected to use the mini-summit to try to get the others, and especially Merkel, who has spoken supportively of Juncker, on side.

Facing re-election next year, Cameron has pledged to try to reshape Britain’s ties with the EU and to give Britons an in/out EU referendum in 2017. He believes Juncker is too much of an EU federalist to give his reform plan a chance of success.

If Cameron fails to block Juncker, he stands to lose face at home and abroad and could see his ruling Conservative Party’s fragile unity begin to fray. His plans to reform the EU would also be unlikely to get a sympathetic hearing from a man he has spent so much time and effort trying to block.

Cameron’s campaign to block Juncker received a boost in Britain on Monday after the opposition Labour Party declared it would vote in the European Parliament to stop the former Luxembourg prime minister from becoming the next Commission president if it came to a vote.

Cameron used social media site Twitter to trumpet the development: “All major UK parties are now united on one point: Jean-Claude Juncker should not be President of the European Commission,” he wrote.

POLITICAL CAPITAL

Cameron has invested a big chunk of his political capital with other European leaders trying to block Juncker’s bid behind closed doors while refraining from criticizing him in public.

The Tweet was the first time Cameron had named Juncker in public.

He and his aides have been coy about whom they want to lead the Commission, beyond saying they want someone reform-minded. One person thought to be an acceptable compromise candidate for Cameron is Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

EU leaders are expected to decide on their candidate for the presidency of the EU executive – a job with major influence over policy affecting 500 million Europeans – by a summit at the end of June.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday the leaders meeting in Sweden would not make a final decision on who should get the post, adding that her position on Juncker was well known. Merkel said last week that she was pressing her European counterparts to support him.

All four leaders at the meeting in Sweden are skeptical of Juncker.

The battle over the job is becoming a struggle between EU leaders and the European Parliament.

Juncker has the support from the European People’s Party, the largest center-right political grouping in the European Parliament after last month’s European elections.

Sweden’s Reinfeldt offered Cameron his support ahead of the meeting on Monday, saying he too felt that EU leaders should choose the Commission president and that the bloc had to be careful to preserve the balance of powers within it.

He wanted to keep Britain inside the EU, he said, adding he was concerned by the prospect of Britain’s EU referendum.

“That worries me a lot. Because I see a big risk in such a referendum. It would be bad for the EU and also bad for Sweden if Britain did not remain in the EU.”

Cameron faces a difficult week in Europe.

His Conservative lawmakers in the European Parliament are set to vote on whether to admit Germany’s anti-euro AfD party into the political grouping they sit in. The AfD party are Merkel’s political foes.

If the vote goes AfD’s way it would be awkward for Cameron, who is trying to get Merkel to help him with both Juncker and his wider reform plans.

 

U.S. NUCLEAR-READY STEALTH B-2 BOMBERS DEPLOYED TO BRITAIN, LAND AT RAF FAIRFORD AIRBASE

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by RT

The US Air Force has sent more of its bombers to Europe, deploying two B-2 stealth aircraft as part of a military exercise. On Sunday they joined three B-52 StratoFortress bombers already deployed in Britain.

All the visiting American aircraft are stationed at RAF Fairford, a British air base west of London.

“This deployment of strategic bombers provides an invaluable opportunity to strengthen and improve interoperability with our allies and partners,” said Adm. Cecil Haney, commander, US Strategic Command in a USAF statement.

The B-2 bombers are assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing out of Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. They will conduct training flights in the US European Command area of operations, the statement said, offering no further details on the mission.The US has been sending additional troops to Europe lately in a gesture meant to reassure its NATO partners, especially those in Eastern Europe, that Washington is committed to defending them militarily. NATO says the deployments are needed for a possible aggression from Russia amid the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine.

Moscow is criticizing the buildup of NATO forces close to Russia’s borders, calling them provocative and warning that the US is using the Ukrainian events as a pretext to flex its muscles.

The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit is a multipurpose stealth bomber first used by the US during the 1999 war in Kosovo. It was designed primarily to deliver nuclear weapons, but has been used extensively as a conventional bomber in all major US military campaigns from Afghanistan to Libya.

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TWO B-2 STEALTH BOMBERS JUST ARRIVED IN UK FOR AN UNUSUAL OVERSEAS DEPLOYMENT

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B2
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By David Cenciotti | theaviationist.com

Using radio callsigns “Death 11″ and “Death 12″ two B-2s from Whiteman Air Force Base have arrived at RAF Fairford for short and rare deployment.

Even if the U.S. Air Force has selected three bases for B-2 operations outside the U.S. (RAF Fairford, in UK, Diego Garcia and Andersen AFB at Guam), overseas deployments of the Spirit stealth strategic bombers are quite unusual.

Indeed, B-2s don’t move from Whiteman AFB, in Missouri, too often as they are trained to conduct very long round-trip missions from their homebase in CONUS (Continental U.S.), as happened during recent training missions, extended nuclear deterrence sorties in the Korean Peninsula, as well as during real conflicts, as the Libya Air War in 2011 or the Allied Force in Serbia in 1999.

That’s why the deployment of two Spirit bombers with the 509th Bomb Wing to the UK is, at least, noteworthy.

Obviously, the official press release doesn’t mention the rarity of this “short-term deployment,” as it only mentions that the “multi-role heavy bombers will conduct training flights in the USEUCOM area of operations, providing opportunities for aircrews to sharpen skills in several key operational sets and become familiar with airbases and operations in the region.”

Little is known about this deployment, unlike the other one which involves three B-52s that have arrived at RAF Fairford last week and whose detachment had been exposed by aircrew patches produced ahead of the participation of the Stratofortresses to the Saber Strike and Baltops exercises.

“The training and integration of strategic forces demonstrates to our nation’s leaders and our allies that we have the right mix of aircraft and expertise to respond to a variety of potential threats and situations,” said Adm. Cecil Haney, commander, U.S. Strategic Command in the release.

For sure, the Russian threat in Europe is taken seriously by the USSTRACOM, that may have decided to deploy some strategic assets closer to Ukraine, more to show the local allies that Washington is capable to support them if needed rather than put some pressure on Moscow.

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U.S. DEPLOYS THREE B-52 STRATOFORTRESS STRATEGIC BOMBERS TO UK

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A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress subsonic bomber (AFP Photo / Paul Crock)

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress subsonic bomber (AFP Photo / Paul Crock)

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By RT

June 5, 2014

Three B-52 Stratofortress bombers have landed at Royal Air Force Fairford, England, for a two-week deployment to “become familiar with airbases and operations in the region.” One of the planes is set to take part in D-Day celebrations in Normandy.

Obama pledges $1bn for more troops, military drills in E. Europe

The bombers that have crossed Atlantic have come from two locations: two from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and one from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. All aircraft have arrived in the UK unarmed.

A U.S. B-52 Stratofortress bomber landing (Reuters)

A U.S. B-52 Stratofortress bomber landing (Reuters)

The B-52s will participate in various training exercises in the US European Command area of operations “providing opportunities for aircrews to sharpen skills in several key operational sets and become familiar with airbases and operations in the region.”

Though the ultimate destination of the B-52s has not been mentioned, it is most likely they will take part in the Baltops maritime exercise of 13 Baltic Sea region nations (beginning on June 6) and Saber Strike 2014, a US-Europe security cooperation exercise also conducted on the territory of three Baltic states (already underway, June 3-14).

Also during the deployment to Fairford, on June 7 one of the Stratofortresses will take part in celebrating the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration in France’s Graignes, where leaders of the WWII Allies will flock, also to discuss the present political situation in Europe.

The B-52 Stratofortress strategic multirole subsonic bomber was designed as a powerful tool of nuclear deterrence, armed with nuclear bombs and cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. It can also perform conventional missions of air support using high-precision GPS and laser-guided bombs and conducing search and rescue and also tactical maritime operations.

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U.S. DEPLOYING B-52s TO EUROPE

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Close air support

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By ORIANA PAWLYK | Defensenews.com
Jun. 4, 2014

The US Air Force plans to temporarily deploy heavy bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons to Europe one day after President Obama announced he would increase the US military presence in the region.

Two B-52 Stratofortresses bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and one B-52 from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota — currently operating from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota — arrived at Royal Air Force Fairford, England, on Wednesday, where airmen will train and integrate with US and allied military forces in the region, the Air Force said in a news release.

“During this deployment, which will span approximately two weeks, the multi-role heavy bombers will conduct training flights in the U.S. European Command area of operations, providing opportunities for aircrews to sharpen skills in several key operational sets and become familiar with airbases and operations in the region,” the release states.

The move comes amid Russian aggression in Eastern Europe where Moscow has annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Tens of thousands of Russian troops are also said to be massed along the border with Ukraine.

Obama on Tuesday called for Congress to approve $1 billion dollars to boost a rotational U.S. troops presence in Europe.

In March, the US repositioned F-15 and F-16 fighters to Lithuania and Poland.

“The Department of Defense routinely conducts training missions in support of geographic combatant commands to ensure the US has a credible and flexible capability to respond to a variety of potential threats,” the release said. “Bomber operations enhance this capability by providing the President a variety of options he may need to protect the nation or its allies and partners,” it said.

A B-52 will also take part in the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration in Graignes, France, on June 7 in recognition of the legacy of the US Eighth Air Force in the Allied invasion of Normandy in World War II, according to the release.

RAF Fairford has hosted B-52s over the years, most recently during the Iraq War in 2003. The US Air Force has maintained a presence at the base since the 1950s. It is jointly maintained by RAF and U.S. personnel in support of contingency operations.

The B-52 is a long-range, multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. B-52s can fly at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet.

Deployed aircraft will not bring live weapons into the United Kingdom, the release said.

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THREE U.S. B-52 STRATEGIC BOMBERS HAVE DEPLOYED TO THE UK

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By David Cenciotti | theaviationist.com
Jun 04 2014

Three B-52 Stratofortress bombers have arrived at RAF Fairford, UK, for a mini-deployment lasting two weeks.

On Jun. 4, two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and one from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, B-52 (currently operating from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota) landed at Royal Air Force Fairford, England, for a short deployment.

The aircraft relocated to Europe to conduct training activity “in the U.S. European Command area of operations, providing opportunities for aircrews to sharpen skills in several key operational sets and become familiar with airbases and operations in the region.”

Although the official release does not mention it, a patch produced for the deployment suggests that the B-52s were deployed to take part in the Baltops and Saber Strike 2014 exercises.

Whereas Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014 is an annual multinational maritime exercise held in the Baltics with assets from 13 participating nations involved in training scenarios that include air, surface, subsurface and mine warfare, Saber Strike is a U.S. Army Europe-led security cooperation exercise which, focuses, on the three Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

In such exercises as well as in real operations, the B-52s always play an important role: all weather nuclear deterrence aside, the Stratofortress can perform a wide variety of conventional missions ranging from the BAI (Battlefield Area Interdiction) to CAS (Close Air Support), to TASMO (Tactical Air Support to Maritime Operations), to SAR (Search And Rescue)… using GPS and Laser-guided bombs, cruise missiles and aerial mines.

Once there was Pivot to Asia. Nowadays there is a Pivot to the Baltics.

During the deployment to Fairford, lasting about two weeks (and according to rumors involving more B-52s coming from U.S. airbases in the next few days), a Stratofortress will also take part in the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration in Graignes, France, on Jun. 7.

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100 DAYS TO GO: SCOTLAND TO VOTE ON INDEPENDENCE, MIGHT RISK EUROPEAN UNION, NATO MEMBERSHIP

In exactly a hundred days, the people of Scotland will decide whether they want to break away from Great Britain. RT’s Polly Boiko reports.

ON SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE, OBAMA IMPLIES UK SHOULD REMAIN “UNITED”

OBAMA4

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Written by Warren Mass | The New American

Speaking at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the G7 summit in Brussels on June 5, President Obama said the United States has “a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies that we will ever have remains strong, robust, united, and an effective partner.” (Emphasis added.)

Obama’s statement was a reply to a two-part question posed by a British reporter about “two major decisions” that Britain is facing: “Whether or not Scotland stays part of the United Kingdom, and whether the United Kingdom stays a part of the European Union.”

The reporter asked the president what those decisions mean to him and to the people of the United States. Obama was diplomatic enough to not step too heavily on Scottish toes:

With respect to the future of the United Kingdom, obviously ultimately this is up to the people of Great Britain. In the case of Scotland, there’s a referendum process in place and it’s up to the people of Scotland.

I would say that the United Kingdom has been an extraordinary partner to us. From the outside, at least, it looks like things have worked pretty well. And we obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies that we will ever have remains strong, robust, united, and an effective partner. But ultimately these are decisions that are to be made by the folks there. [Emphasis added.]

Obama also answered the EU question carefully, while repeating the “unity” theme he used in answering the question about Scotland:

With respect to the EU, we share a strategic vision with Great Britain on a whole range of international issues, and so it’s always encouraging for us to know that Great Britain has a seat at the table in the larger European project. I think in light of the [Normandy invasion] events that we’re going to be commemorating tomorrow, it’s important to recall that it was the steadfastness of Great Britain that, in part, allows us to be here in Brussels, in the seat of a unified, and extraordinarily prosperous Europe. And it’s hard for me to imagine that project going well in the absence of Great Britain. And I think it’s also hard for me to imagine that it would be advantageous for Great Britain to be excluded from political decisions that have an enormous impact on its economic and political life. [Emphasis added.]

So this is why we have elections, and we’ll see the arguments made and I’m sure the people of Great Britain will make the right decision.

The world’s media, particularly those in the UK, were quick to read between the lines and interpret Obama’s comments as favoring British unity over Scottish sovereignty. The Guardian noted that while Obama stressed twice during the press conference that the decision on independence was “up to the people of Scotland,” he nevertheless made it clear that he wanted to see Scottish voters reject independence in September’s referendum.

Likewise, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party — which supports Scottish independence — reminded the U.S. president that Scotland was “deeply fortunate” that September’s referendum was being conducted “in a deeply democratic way,” unlike the U.S. war for independence nearly 250 years ago.

“An independent Scotland will mean that America has two great friends and allies here rather than one,” Salmond continued.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland, Salmond said: “America had to fight for its independence. We are very fortunate in Scotland that we have a democratic, agreed, consented process by which we can vote for our independence. So, in summary, I suppose my message to President Obama is ‘yes we can.’”

By borrowing the 2008 Obama campaign slogan, Salmond obviously intended to put a point on his message.

Douglas Alexander, a British Labour Party member who is the shadow foreign secretary and represents a Scottish district in the UK House of Commons, said Obama”s “clear statement of support for the UK staying together will resonate with many of us here in Scotland.”

“As a global statesman President Obama understands that interdependence is a defining feature of our modern world, and that building bridges, not putting up new barriers, is the challenge of our generation,” said Alexander, who clearly opposes Scottish independence. (Emphasis added.)

The Scottish Labour Party, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, and Scottish Liberal Democrats all opposed a referendum deciding on independence.

The term “interdependence” has long been favored by internationalists who seek to eliminate national sovereignty and place the world’s independent nations under the control of international and regional governmental organizations such as the UN, the EU, and NATO. As just one outstanding example, on United Nations Day, October 24, 1975, the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, anticipating the bicentennial of the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, unveiled a mockery of the great American document: “A Declaration of INTERdependence.”

The Obama statement was not universally praised in Britain, however. The BBC quoted a surprising statement from former UK diplomat Lord Malloch-Brown, who has substantial internationalist credentials, having served as development specialist at the World Bank and UN (1994-2005) and as UN deputy secretary-general in 2006: “I’m surprised that he has stepped into this. I don’t think it will be very helpful for anybody.”

Perhaps Malloch-Brown fears that Obama’s opposition to Scottish independence will be viewed by Scots as interference and will prompt a backlash.

While Obama’s statement regarding Scottish independence received the lion’s share of the attention, his remark’s on Britain’s continued participation in the EU are more significant. The European Union has grown from a trade compact known as the “Coal and Steel Community” formed among six European nations after World War II, to a virtual continent-wide government that has supranational authority over 28 formerly-independent European nations today. From the very beginning, the United States supported and nurtured regional government in Europe.

The post-War Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program), for example, played a major role in forcing what was to become the EU on the peoples of Europe. In a 1947 speech, then-U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall (a member of the internationalist-minded Council on Foreign Relations [CFR]) let it be known that European economic cooperation was a precondition for desperately needed American aid after World War II. The Marshal Plan, under which the United States sent $13 billion in economic support to Europe, was sold as a means of helping rebuild Europe as a way to prevent the advance of Soviet communism over all of Europe. But the real purpose of the Marshal Plan was to push for European “unification” (eventually, the EU). Congress inserted a clause in the 1951 Mutual Security Act stating: “… to further encourage the economic unification and the political federation of Europe.”

Just as Obama expressed concern that the withdrawal of Britain from the EU might hurt the regional government (“It’s hard for me to imagine [the EU] going well in the absence of Great Britain”), the U.S. establishment is concerned about what effect the withdrawal of Scotland from the UK will have on another international authority with joint U.S.-European origins: NATO.

Though NATO — like the Marshall Plan — was originally promoted as a way of thwarting Soviet designs on Western Europe, it has (like the EU) grown from a few nations (12) to 29 and has outgrown its originally stated purpose. But few people knew at its inception (or know now) that NATO was created as a “Regional Arrangement” authorized by Articles 51-54 of the UN Charter and is therefore a branch of the grandfather of all international organizations — the United Nations.

How would a withdrawal of Scotland from the UK impact NATO?

First Minister Salmond has indicated that, after Scottish independence, he plans to evict Britain’s Trident nuclear submarines from the River Clyde. The Telegraph (UK) reported that “there is widespread concern there is nowhere else suitable for [the submarines], meaning Britain would be forced to abandon its nuclear deterrent and NATO part of the ‘supreme guarantee’ of its members’ security.”

Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty establishing NATO states: “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”

Though Obama chose his words carefully, and risked appearing to be interfering in Britain’s internal affairs, his message still came through: The United States regards Britain’s support of the EU and NATO as critical, and we are opposed to any action taken by Britain or Scotland that will undermine these supranational organizations.

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