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Discharged Trident whistleblower rebukes Royal Navy ‘spin’

RT | June 17, 2015

Nuclear whistleblower William McNeilly, who had been dishonorably discharged from the Royal Navy, says military “spin doctors” have tried to obscure the safety and security concerns he raised in an extensive dossier last month.

McNeilly now claims to have been dishonorably discharged from the service, having not been heard from for over a month.

Reports over the intervening period suggested he was held in a secure military facility.

In a new nine-page document published online, he said: “It is shocking that some people in a military force can be more concerned about public image than public safety.”

McNeilly posted his original findings online last month while AWOL, raising up to 30 issues regarding nuclear weapons safety and base security.

The Navy immediately claimed McNeilly’s allegations were “subjective and unsubstantiated” and “factually incorrect or the result of misunderstanding or partial understanding.”

McNeilly has now responded, saying: “Other submariners have been anonymously releasing information to journalists.

“It’s only a matter of time before worse information comes out, and everything is proven to be true.”

There had initially been discussion over whether McNeilly would be charged under the Official Secrets Act, fears which seem to have abated.

“All of the charges against me were dropped; there’s nothing that I can be charged with now,” he said.

“Most people know that I acted in the interest of national security. However, I was still given a dishonorable discharge from the Royal Navy.”

McNeilly feels he was discharged by the Navy “on the claim that my sole aim was to discredit their public image.”

Having served aboard the Trident submarine HMS Victory earlier this year, McNeilly said he was shocked at what he saw there.

“When I joined the Royal Navy, I had no idea that I was going to work with nuclear weapons. When I found out, I was happy. I used to think they were an essential tool in maintaining peace, by deterring war,” he said.

“It wasn’t until I saw the major safety and security issues that I realized the system is more of a threat than a deterrent.”

The furor around McNeilly’s leaks saw Scottish National Party MP Alex Salmond raise the question of Trident safety in Parliament, saying “Trident is a key issue for people in Scotland.”

“It is bad enough that Scotland is forced to house these weapons of mass destruction, but these alleged breaches of security are deeply worrying – there must be absolutely no complacency,” Salmond said.

McNeilly has said claims he was an SNP agent are wrong, although he added he supports the party’s aim to remove Trident from Scotland.

“I’ve been strongly advised to remain silent and live a private life,” he said.

However, he has no plans to go quietly, it seems.

“I’m civilian now, and I have the right to free speech. I’m not going to waste that freedom by just sitting around on my ass, while the UK is in danger.”

A Royal Navy spokeswoman confirmed to Portsmouth News that McNeilly is no longer in the Navy.

Read more:

​Trident nuke safety questioned by Salmond after Navy whistleblower leak

‘Nuclear disaster waiting to happen’: Royal Navy probes Trident whistleblower’s claims

​Nuclear safety incidents soar 54% at UK’s Clyde sub base & arms depot

June 17, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NATO & allies stage thousands-strong drills across Europe

RT | May 4, 2015

Three sets of military exercises kicked off in Europe on Monday, involving thousands of servicemen from a variety of NATO nations and their allies, amid a wave of similar action across the area.

Estonia is holding its largest-ever military drills. Named Siil-2015 (Hedgehog), the maneuvers involve about 13,000 personnel. The number includes about 7,000 reservists, along with members of the volunteer Estonian Defense League.

Siil-2015, scheduled to last until May 15, also involves forces from the US, the UK, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands. American troops, who are staying in Estonia as part of the massive training operation Atlantic Resolve, will bring four Abrams main battle tanks to the exercise. British, Belgian and German air defense units, as well as several NATO warplanes, will also take part.

The Lithuanian Army is holding its own maneuvers as part of the largest national drills called Zaibo Kirtis (Lightning Strike). The training involves over 3,000 troops. It is focused on joint action by the army and civilian authorities against so-called hybrid threats combining both military and non-military methods of fighting, according to Army Commander Major-General Jonas Vytautas Zukas.

In a statement cited by TASS, the major-general said: “The exercises will simulate situations when the Interior Ministry’s forces and resources are insufficient to neutralize various extreme situations unrelated to the direct repulsion of an imaginary enemy’s attack and the army should be involved.”

Lightning Strike will also be testing the country’s mobilization system and cyber security works, according to the Defense Ministry’s press release.

In Norway, NATO and its allies have gathered for annual anti-submarine exercises. About 5,000 servicemen from 10 NATO countries and Sweden are taking part. The drills, codenamed Dynamic Mongoose, involve simulated sub hunts utilizing surface vessels, aircraft and a variety of radar and sonar technologies. The US, Germany and Sweden are providing the submarines.

The two-week exercise follows reports of a suspected foreign underwater vessel off the coast of Finland, which prompted the use of depth charges to scare it off. In autumn last year, a similar scare triggered a week-long search in the sea near Stockholm, for what later turned out to be a civilian workboat. In the latter case, the finger of blame was unequivocally pointed at Russia, amid rising tensions over the Ukrainian conflict.

When speaking to the media about Dynamic Mongoose, NATO commanders avoided sending a message to any country in particular: “Obviously we’re aware of the incidents that have happened in some of our partner nations’ waters,” NATO Rear Admiral Brad Williamson said. “I think what it does is it focuses our efforts and our training here.”

Read more:

NATO ‘Tornado’ military drills in Estonia to use laser training system

Sweden confirms mystery ‘Russian sub’…was in fact a workboat

May 4, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Another ‘Russian submarine’ excites Western media

By Danielle Ryan | RT | April 24, 2015

Once again Western media has rushed to judgment over a “Russian submarine”, this time in an incident off the coast of Ireland. But maybe they should have done their homework on this one. Britain and the US have worse track records in the Irish Sea.

Last week, while out and about in the waters of the Irish Sea a few miles off County Down, a fishing trawler “almost sank” when it was hit, presumably by a submarine.

The vessel, named the Karen, was hit and then “pulled backwards very violently.”

Skipper Paul Murphy told Down News that the boat had been travelling at just a couple of knots and then all of a sudden he was nearly knocked off his feet. “The crew were just in shock after this incident. It really was a close call,” he said.

Shaken from the day, and no doubt influenced by the deluge of Russian-subs-and-jets-are-coming-to-get-you propaganda in British newspapers, Murphy immediately hypothesized to the journalist that it could have been a Russian submarine. No wonder Stockholm couldn’t find it.

After I read the story, I posted the link to Facebook and then promptly forgot about it. It was only by chance, while reading an article in the Guardian about Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent program and the “unpredictable Putin” that I happened upon another mention of it.

It seems the Russian sub theory has spread beyond the Down News to the Guardian, the BBC and beyond. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not a theory entirely without merit. It very well could have been a Russian submarine.

Dick James from the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation (NIFPO) told the BBC, that the mystery sub may have been observing NATO marine exercises off the coast of Scotland.

Security analyst Tom Ripley, who writes for Jane’s Defence magazine, agreed. He told BBC Radio Ulster that the Russians “are famous for liking to watch these things [NATO exercises] and it is a strong possibility that they have sent one of their submarines to watch this activity.”

James added that, had it been a British submarine, Royal Navy protocols would have required it to “immediately surface to check on the health and welfare of the people involved,” and this submarine did not do that.

Subsequently, the initial media coverage of the incident seems to have been peppered with the assumption that while the Brits would never be so rude as to not surface and say hello, the horrible Russians wouldn’t feel bound by such niceties. It’s this fact alone — that the sub never surfaced to check the damage — that seems to have immediately convinced the entire British and Irish media that it could not have been a British vessel.

But let’s skip back for a moment, to April 18, 1982.

On that otherwise calm day at sea, a British submarine dragged the Sharelga, an Irish fishing boat for two miles before it eventually sunk and all five crew members were forced to jump overboard. They were, luckily, rescued by crew members of nearby boats.

The British sub did not surface and the British government denied any involvement in or knowledge of what had happened to the Sharelga. Only weeks later did they finally admit that in fact the Irish boat’s fishing net had been caught by the British submarine HMS Porpoise, which itself had been trying to spot Soviet submarines in the Irish Sea.

Four years later, the crew members finally received compensation, although according to the skipper Raymond McEvoy, it “didn’t even match half” of what he paid for the boat.

It took so long, likely in part because the Irish government didn’t want to, shall we say, rock the boat by getting too involved in a diplomatic entanglement with Britain. A document released decades later revealed that the Government was not interested in acting as “a party to the dispute” between the men and the British government.

The sinking of the Sharelga happened during a period of the Cold War that saw the Irish Sea earn the nickname ‘Submarine Highway’, so frequent was sub activity in Irish waters.

Seven years after the Sharelga sank, a Belgian trawler, the Tijl Uilenspiegel, sank approximately 25 miles south-east of the Isle of Man, presumably also by a submarine.

The incident prompted a discussion about submarine activity in the Irish Parliament in March 1989. Hugh Byrne, a member of parliament at the time, used his speaking time to deliver a chronological list of incidents to highlight the dangers to both fishermen and those on recreational vessels.

Here are some of the incidents he listed:

● In 1983, a yacht was struck and sunk by a submarine believed to be the British HMS Opossum, off County Wexford

● In 1984, a fishing vessel, the Algrie, became entangled with the HMS Spartan off the Cornwall coast

● In 1984, a US submarine surfaced in the middle of a fishing fleet near Kilmore Quay, prompting fishermen to flee in fear of their lives

● In 1984, Scottish fishing vessel the Mhari L disappeared with no distress call. A damaged British submarine entered Faslane base 24 hours later, but the Ministry of Defence denied involvement

● In 1987, the Summer Morn was towed for hours by a US submarine

● In 1988, the HMS Oberon collided with a yacht named the Drum

● In 1988, the Dalriada was sunk by the HMS Conqueror off Northern Ireland

● In 1989, a fishing trawler was struck by the USS Will Rogers.

Those are just a handful of incidents involving the damaging, sinking or disappearance of Irish and British boats in the waters surrounding the British Isles. Notably, none of the examples Byrne gave referred specifically to Russian submarines.

Occasionally the tragedies were blamed on “freak” waves, as in the case of the Boy Shaun off County Donegal and the Inspire off the Welsh coast, both of which were sunk while submarines were known to be operating nearby.

Overall, 50 fishermen lost their lives over nine years as a result of war games being played out in the Irish Sea. It’s important to note that the national identities of the subs were not confirmed irrefutably in every case, but a search through Irish government debate archives seems to suggest that Britain was regarded as a major, if not the major culprit. It’s not a particularly unusual assumption either, given that Britain (and its bases) is quite considerably nearer to Ireland than Russia, last time I checked.

During his comments, Byrne said that despite pleading with the British government, they continued to “ignore the loss of life and to respond with a ‘how dare you ask questions?’ attitude”.

“The attitude of the British Government, who contribute most to this devastation, baffles me because of their arrogance towards their people, particularly towards their fishermen,” he said.

Later in the same year, after a sonar buoy towed by a British submarine became entangled in the nets of a fishing vessel in the Irish Sea, the issue was raised in government again.

Member of the government at the time Peter Barry said that “as long as the NATO base [Holy Loch] remains located in Scotland,” and as long as NATO submarines were being shadowed by submarines from other superpowers, the danger would remain.

None of this information is readily available to your average consumer of news today, unless they go searching through old archives, which most people are not wont to do — and so it’s easy for the likes of the BBC, Sky News and the Guardian to bang out article after article about ‘Russian submarines’ with little to no historical context, let alone evidence to back up their assertions.

None of the reports on the latest incident with the Karen off the coast of Down last week made reference to the relevant history of dangerous British sub activity in the Irish Sea. Either the journalists didn’t do their homework or they felt that the frankly questionable British and American track records in the Irish Sea were not worth mentioning. It’s not that they needed to deliver an entire history of events in the interest of balance, but even a line or two would have been enough.

The argument by some against the relevance of this history will be that the 1980s were a different time and that surely if a British submarine inadvertently dragged a fishing boat today, they would immediately surface to check on the crew. It could also be argued however, that unfortunately today isn’t really as different from 1982 as we’d perhaps like to believe when it comes to NATO vs. Russia war games.

Despite a perhaps misplaced presumption of British courteousness, there are still plenty of reasons to assume a British sub would stay hidden after such an incident today, chief among them the fact that it just wouldn’t look good to admit such a mistake — particularly at a time when Russian military irresponsibility and “aggression” is the accepted bogeyman of the day.

Having to admit to almost capsizing a fishing boat in the Irish Sea would not look great given the current British government’s tendency to fear-monger over Russian jets and subs at any given opportunity and to use routine military maneuvers as a NATO rallying cry.

When I asked Dick James of NIFPO about the drop-off in incidents after 1990, he said it was likely due to the protocols being in place and of course the closure of the Holy Loch base after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which reduced submarine activity.

As for the identity of the sub that hit the Karen last week, when I asked if the media had been quick to judge, he accepted that it “could be NATO or not” adding that the British Ministry of Defence was being “reticent”. The Royal Navy later issued a statement claiming it was not one of their own.

But the question is: If Britain refused to acknowledge the mistakes of their submarines during periods of heightened tensions before, why would today be any different?

None of this is to assign blame or to claim that it wasn’t a Russian sub which dragged the Karen and shook her crew members last week. It very well could have been — but that theory is no more or less likely than the theory that says it was a British one.

Follow Danielle Ryan on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

April 24, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dozens of arrests as anti-nuclear protesters demand end to UK’s Trident sub program

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Anti-nuclear demonstrators at Faslane naval base, April 13 2015. (Photo by Veronika Tudhope)
RT | April 13, 2015

Some 36 anti-nuclear activists have been arrested at Faslane naval base in Scotland, according to organizers, as hundreds of protesters blockaded the home of Britain’s nuclear weapons system.

Workers at the naval facility were sent home after failing to gain access to the site due to the blockade, according to The Common Space journalist Liam O’Hare.

Scrap Trident, a coalition of organizations including the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (SCND) and Trident Ploughshares, have been demonstrating outside the facility since 7 a.m.

Protesters are demanding an end to the UK’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, which is up for renewal by the Westminster parliament in 2016.

Trident has become a contentious issue ahead of the general election in May, with Defense Secretary Michael Fallon pledging last week that a Conservative-led government would replace the Vanguard-class nuclear submarines with four new nuclear missile carriers.

Fallon’s election promise followed a statement by Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon, in which she said Trident was a “red line” issue the SNP would not support.

In the event of a hung Parliament, Labour may seek to form a minority government in an informal coalition with SNP.

Critics, including Fallon of the Conservative Party, argue that Labour would abandon the UK’s nuclear weapons program to secure power.

Shadow Defense Secretary Vernon Coaker rejected the idea, insisting last week Labour was committed to renewing Britain’s nuclear weapons program, which is set to cost taxpayers £100 billion over the course of its deployment.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said in January he supported renewing Trident, adding he is “not in favor of unilateral disarmament.”

Monday’s blockade of Faslane naval base follows anti-Trident demonstrations in Glasgow and London over the weekend.

Scrap Trident organizers claim that 36 anti-nuclear activists were arrested in the blockade.

O’Hare, of The Common Space, reports that police have attempted to move anti-nuclear activists camped outside the naval facility’s south gate, while the majority of demonstrators are protesting outside the north gate.

Arthur West, chair of Scottish CND, said in a statement: “The purpose of the event is to draw attention to the fact that all Britain’s nuclear weapons are based just 25 miles away from our biggest city [Glasgow].”

“We say get rid of nuclear weapons and spend the money on decent things like housing, jobs and education.”

Speaking to RT, West added: “Scottish CND are campaigning in cities and towns across Scotland in the run-up to the general election.”

“Our main message to voters at the election is to only support candidates who have given a clear commitment that they will vote against Trident replacement when the issue comes up in the next parliament.”

Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, was among the demonstrators at Faslane on Monday.

Harvie, a member of the Scottish parliament, said in a statement: “Trident is an obscenity. Through direct action and through the ballot box we can make the case for the UK to play a new role on the world stage.”

He added: “By choosing to disarm Trident we can reskill workers on the Clyde to provide defense of the strategically important northern seas, and diversify our economy for social good.”

April 13, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Government deems security risks too low to ‘exempt defense from austerity,’ says think tank

RT | March 9, 2015

The government believes strategic threats posed to Britain are not serious enough to merit insulating military spending from budget cuts, according to a report by a top defense think-tank.

The paper by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) centers on the economics of defense under austerity.

It concludes: “The government is not yet convinced that strategic security risks are high enough to justify an exemption for defense from austerity.”

The findings jar with recent statements by politicians and leading generals on the dangers faced by the UK.

In February, the top British officer in NATO – General Sir Adrian Bradshaw – referred to Russia as an “obvious existential threat to our whole being,” while Prime Minister David Cameron has called the rise of the Islamic State a “mortal threat.”

The investigation also indicates Britain is unlikely to meet the symbolic spending of 2 percent of GDP on defense, expected by NATO in coming years, and that thousands of soldiers could be cut irrespective of who wins the general election this year.

It warns that up to 30,000 service personnel could be axed. Given the Royal Navy may be largely exempt from redundancies, to ensure it can crew Britain’s aircraft carriers, the army could be forced to handle 80 percent of the intended reductions.

The report comes at a difficult time for David Cameron who this week faces a rebellion by a number of Tory MP’s over defense cuts.

Last week Bob Stewart, an army colonel turned Tory MP, argued defense is in a “parlous state” and that service chiefs should resign over cuts. He suggested he might step down himself, either as an MP or from the influential Defence Select Committee.

UK allies are also worried. General Raymond Odierno, chief of staff of the US Army, recently told the Telegraph he was “very concerned” at the cuts being made to the UK’s armed forces.

He criticized Chancellor George Osborne’s refusal to confirm whether the UK will meet NATO member states’ spending target of 2 percent of respective national GDP.

“What has changed, though, is the level of capability. In the past we would have a British Army division working alongside an American army division,” he added. Cuts mean the US Army now expects Britain to provide only half its previous commitment.

March 9, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nuclear safety incidents soar 54% at UK’s Clyde sub base & arms depot

RT | March 3, 2015

The number of “nuclear safety events” at Britain’s submarine base and warhead depot at the Clyde has drastically soared according to official records that showed 105 incidents in 2013-2014, compared to just 68 in the previous period.

Almost all of the incidents involved the reactors on Trident and other nuclear subs at the Faslane Naval Base, while six involved nuclear weapons stored at Coulport armaments depot.

Ministers were forced to disclose the information after a question in parliament by Angus Robertson from the Scottish National Party (SNP) who leads the party’s parliamentary group in Westminster.

Only 45 of the latest incidents were level C events, meaning there was a “moderate potential for future release or exposure, or localized release within a designated radiological controlled area.” The remaining 60 were classed as level D defined as “low potential for release – but may contribute towards an adverse trend producing latent conditions.” According to the records, the base has not recently suffered from any of the more serious Category A or B safety failures.

Overall in the past six years the Clyde naval base suffered nearly 400 “widespread” safety events, according to official records. Twelve of these cases were listed as “Category B” incidents meaning there was an “actual of high” risk of exposure to radiation or that there was a release of radiation which was contained within a submarine or a building.

Robertson, whose party wants the complete removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland, asked the MoD to explain what was being done to improve safety measures especially as construction work is underway for Faslane to house all of Britain’s nuclear submarines, some of which are currently in Devonport, Plymouth.

“A near doubling in the number of nuclear safety incidents within a year is totally unacceptable and needs urgent answers from the MoD. It’s important to note this doubling has occurred before expansion work at the base for more nuclear submarines is complete,” he said.

But the government maintained that the vigorous culture of reporting any incidents as well as putting them in the public domain ensured that there was never any threat to personal or the environment. The details of the incidents were not disclosed, but MoD insisted all of them were “minor issues,” such as incorrect labeling or not filing the correct form as required by standard procedures.

“This comprehensive, independent recording process allows Clyde to maintain a robust reporting culture, undertake learning from experience and to take early corrective action,” the UK Defence Minister, Philip Dunne, told MPs.

Read more:

March 3, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-nuclear MPs debate Trident, call renewal ‘waste of money’

RT | January 20, 2015

The future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent was debated in Parliament on Tuesday, hours after a Scottish opinion poll found nearly half of Scots oppose renewing the Trident program.

Parliament’s debate on Trident comes weeks after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) published a report revealing the cost of the program’s “assessment phase” will increase by an additional £261 million this year.

Renewal of Trident, which is based just 25 miles west of Glasgow, is expected to cost £20 billion.

The cost of the overall program over the next 25 years, however, is estimated to be £80 billion.

Tuesday’s debate was called by the Scottish National Party (SNP), Green Party, and Welsh national party Plaid Cymru, with the intention of demonstrating “opposition to Trident renewal in Westminster.”

It was boycotted by most members of the Labour Party, which officially supports Trident renewal.

Tuesday’s poll, conducted by Survation and commissioned by SNP, found that 47 percent of Scots oppose Trident renewal, 32 percent support it, and 21 percent “don’t know.”

The results, along with revelations of Trident’s rising costs, will boost SNP confidence, as the party pledges to oppose nuclear weapons ahead of May’s general election.

Angus Robertson MP, a member of the SNP, opened the debate in the House of Commons.

“Today’s debate is an opportunity to show there is opposition to Trident renewal in Westminster,” he said.

Robertson emphasized the ethical case for scrapping nuclear weapons.

“Each warhead [on Trident submarines] has an explosion eight times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945,” he said.

He also cited recent debates on austerity and food banks, saying “there is an alternative.”

In a press statement, the SNP criticized Labour’s boycott of the debate given the party’s support for austerity.

“Labour’s refusal to take part in the debate on Trident comes less than one week after the party voted along with the Tories for a further £30 billion of austerity cuts,” the SNP said.

“That Scottish Labour MPs support wasting another £100 billion on weapons of mass destruction while foodbank use is rocketing, and more and more children are being pushed into poverty, is simply indefensible,” they added.

A handful of Labour MPs did attend the debate, however. Speaking to the Commons, rogue Labour MP Dame Joan Ruddock supported scrapping Trident.

The former chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) asked how Britain can justify trident renewal “when we cannot raise millions out of poverty or fund our precious National Health Service.”

Ruddock described proponents of Trident renewal as being stuck in “Cold War thinking.”

“The threats that were part of the Cold War scenario are very different from the threats we face today,” she said.

“Real security lies in nuclear disarmament,” she added.

Her comments echo those of current CND General Secretary Kate Hudson.

“[Trident] is the wrong answer to the security challenges facing the UK. And when that wrong answer comes with a £100 billion price-tag, it’s no wonder it’s deeply unpopular with the British public,” Hudson said.

“[Prime Minister] David Cameron claims it’s the ultimate insurance policy – but even the former head of the Armed Forces has conceded that it is ‘completely useless’ to [sic] the threats we face.”

“It’s time the government recognized the colossal waste of money that Trident constitutes, and committed instead to investing the money in health, jobs and education,” she added.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon defended the planned renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons program, calling it “the ultimate guarantor of our freedom and independence.”

“Whether we like it or not, there remain approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons globally,” he said.

“We cannot gamble with our country’s national security, we have to plan for a major, direct nuclear threat to this country or to our NATO allies,” he added.

Fallon cited Russia, North Korea and Iran as potential nuclear threats given their desire to build or maintain nuclear weapons programs.

Parliament will vote on whether to upgrade Britain’s nuclear weapons program in 2016.

A mass demonstration against replacing Trident will take place in London on Saturday, January 24.

Organized by CND, the protest will begin at 12pm outside the Ministry of Defence on Horseguards Avenue.

READ MORE:

Nuclear ultimatum: Scottish National Party challenges Labour on Trident

‘Ticking time bomb’: Watchdogs slam UK nuclear weapons maker over safety practices

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

US Navy to kill, injure ‘thousands’ of whales, dolphins during drills – activists

RT | November 11, 2014

As the US Navy conducts war games off the coasts of California and Hawaii over the next four years, environmentalists are fighting back with legal action over concerns that hundreds, if not thousands, of marine animals will be injured or killed.

The Conservation Council for Hawaii has recently asked a judge to put an end to the naval exercises in the region on the grounds that they violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Washington Post reports. The group previously filed a lawsuit against the war games last year before the exercises began, arguing the drills should not have been approved in the first place.

At the center of the controversy are the lives and health of potentially millions of marine mammals, which can suffer hearing loss or damaged lungs from powerful sonar and death from underwater explosions.

The Council’s representatives in the lawsuit, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), argue that the use of sonar and explosives in the war games will kill too many blue whales, dolphins and seals to justify the training plans.

Environmentalists specifically point to the Navy’s own numbers in making their case. Back in 2013, the Navy projected that 155 marine mammals would be killed between 2014 and 2019 as a result of the war games. Thousands of animals would face permanent injuries, while almost 10 million would suffer temporary hearing loss or have their normal routines and behaviors disrupted.

“The more we look at the Navy’s activities, the more we’re finding the potential for harm,” said NRDC’s Michael Jasny to the Post.

For its part, the Navy has taken exception to the claims of advocates, saying they are misrepresenting the numbers. Navy spokesperson Kenneth Hess reiterated that the figures are not meant to depict one year’s worth of activity and also that they “represent worst-case scenarios.”

“Despite decades of the Navy conducting very similar activities in these same areas, there is no evidence of these types of impacts,” Hess said to the newspaper. He added that permits for these exercises “can only be issued if our activities will have no more than a negligible impact on marine mammal populations.”

Researchers who support the Navy’s position also argue that opponents are trying to gain attention by asserting all these sea-going animals will die.

However, environmental activists note that the Navy’s estimates go beyond the number of deaths permitted under the MMPA. Considering that is the case, they argue there is no evidence suggesting the Navy tried to scale back the potential damage after releasing its projections.

“No one is suggesting the Navy shouldn’t be allowed to do testing and training,” said Eearthjustice attorney David Henkin to the Post. “The question is whether they need every inch of the ocean … particularly biologically significant small refuges.”

So far, the US court system has sided with the Navy. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that environmental interests took a backseat to the military’s, but animal rights advocates are hoping that the link between sonar and animal health, as well as the Navy’s estimated fatalities, will help influence a different decision.

November 11, 2014 Posted by | Environmentalism | , , | 2 Comments

‘Russian distress call’ prompting Swedish sub hunt never existed – sigint source

RT | October 28, 2014

There was no Russian distress call. That’s the opinion of a Swedish signal intelligence (SIGINT) source after a massive $2.8mn military and media sub-hunt consumed the country for a week.

Reports of a Russian distress signal and a grainy-picture were enough to deploy the navy while the media widely concluded the vessel had to be a Russian submarine spooking Stockholm.

The proof of this was an alleged comms intercept, at distress call frequency, between the supposed sub and Kaliningrad base.

But the Dagens Nyheter daily cited a Swedish Intel source who confessed there was no distress call.

Citing freedom of information requests and its own sources, the paper said Sweden’s signal intelligence agency knows nothing about the alleged distress calls, and registered no spikes in communication with Kaliningrad at the time.

“I’d be glad to read about that emergency call myself. But it didn’t happen, this information is incorrect,” the newspaper cites a source as saying.

The navy operation, which was dubbed ‘Hunt for the Reds in October’ by the Swedish media, was reminiscent of the Cold War era, when Swedish warships patrolled the Baltic Sea looking for Soviet submarines.

During the search, many recalled the infamous 1981 incident, when a Russian submarine got stranded near Karlskrona, a major naval base. The incident, which caused serious diplomatic waves, was dubbed ‘Whiskey on the Rocks’ because the S-363 sub in question belonged to the Whiskey-class.

Russia has denied sending any subs to spy on Sweden, or having one suffer an emergency in Sweden’s waters. Sources in the Russian military suggested that the fuss was caused by a sighting of a Norwegian U-boat participating in a joint NATO drill in the Baltics.

The Swedish Navy’s efforts to find the elusive foreign activity cost the country 2.2 million euros ($2.8 million), it reported last week. The operation was the biggest in decades in a nation, where military spending accounts for about 1 percent of GDP and has seen steady cuts during the years of the European economic slowdown.

According to the latest draft budget published in the wake of the naval operation, Sweden plans to increase military spending for 2015 by $93.7 million.

READ: Sweden ready to use force to surface foreign sub as search continues

October 28, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Open-sea US Navy testing will kill hundreds of dolphins and whales

RT | August 31, 2013

The US Navy admits its underwater training and experiments will result in the deaths of hundreds of dolphins and whales over the next five years – but insists that its testing program is essential.

Computer models showed that the Navy will likely kill 186 whales and dolphins off the East Coast and 155 near the coast of Hawaii and Southern California – its main operation areas – between 2014 and 2019.

Results also showed that marine mammals on both coasts would likely suffer more than 13 thousand serious injuries and nearly 4 million minor ones.

Most of these will be the result of underwater explosions, though some injuries will be the result of physical contact with ships, or sonar testing. Larger species are particularly vulnerable to Navy activities.

The Navy is obliged to annually commission these studies – which take existing data about the impact of military activities on marine wildlife, and project it into the future – due to federal environmental regulations. If it injured animals without having done the impact study, it would risk seeing its off-shore activities suspended altogether, as it would be a violation of federal environmental law.

Rear Adm. Kevin Slates, the energy and environmental readiness division director for the Navy, defended the planned operations, regardless of the figures.

“Without this realistic testing and training, our sailors can’t develop or maintain the critical skills they need or ensure the new technologies can be operated effectively,” he told the media earlier this week.

The influential non-profit National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has said that the studies show that the Navy’s open-sea program is “simply not sustainable”.

Michael Jasny, senior policy analyst at NRDC, says that the real impact is greater still than what the Navy has projected.

The Navy studies show that there will be almost 28 million “minor instances” of behavior change that will occur as a result of the testing. But Jasny believes that these temporary disturbances – such as a dolphin that is not able to use a feeding ground, or a whale that is scared and starts panicking – can also prove to be fatal.

“These smaller disruptions short of death are themselves accumulating into something like death for species and death for populations,” Jasny said.

August 31, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Open-sea US Navy testing will kill hundreds of dolphins and whales

US to send ‘mothership’ to Middle East

Press TV – January 28, 2012

The US military plans to deploy a large floating base, unofficially dubbed the “mothership,” for commando teams to the Middle East amid recent developments in the region.

The Navy is converting an aging warship it had planned to decommission into a makeshift staging base for the commandos in response to requests from the US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

The floating base could accommodate smaller high-speed boats and helicopters commonly used by the United States Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land Teams, commonly known as Navy SEALs.

Lieutenant Commander Mike Kafka, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, declined to elaborate on the floating base’s purpose or to say where exactly it will be deployed in the Middle East.

There are indications that the Pentagon will send the vessel to the region by early summer, and Navy documents show that it could be headed to the Persian Gulf.

The deployment of the floating base to the Middle East marks a return to maritime missions for SEAL teams, who have been engaged in ground operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past decade.

The US Navy had earlier planned to retire the amphibious assault ship USS Ponce and decommission it in March 2012 after 41 years of service. The warship was sent to the Mediterranean Sea last year to provide military support to NATO air strikes on Libya.

The USS Ponce will be instead transformed into what the US military calls an Afloat Forward Staging Base.

January 28, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments