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Cablegate: Hmg Raises the Bar On Intel Flights

VZCZCXYZ0002
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLO #1350/01 1351506
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 141506Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8598
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE IMMEDIATE
RUEHLO/USDAO LONDON UK IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT IMMEDIATE 0277

S E C R E T LONDON 001350

SIPDIS
NOFORN

STATE FOR U/S ROOD, PM ACTION TEAM AND EUR/WE/UK
OSD FOR USDP EDELMAN
EO 12958 DECL: 04/24/2018
TAGS MARR, MOPS, PINR, PREL, LE, UK
SUBJECT: HMG RAISES THE BAR ON INTEL FLIGHTS
REF: A. STATE-LONDON SVTC MAY 9
B. LONDON 1159 C. MAY 1 GILLARD-TREMONT LETTER D. LONDON 1115 E. LONDON 1064 F. TREMONT-PMAT EMAIL APRIL 16

Classified By: DCM Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4, b/d.

1. (S/NF) Summary and Recommendation. FCO contacts explained May 14 that HMG’s May 1 approval (ref C) for CEDAR SWEEP flights had been widely considered at MOD and FCO, with some departments flagging concerns about the information provided by the USG. HMG is concerned that the request for reconnaissance flights may have been made by the Lebanese MOD, rather than the entire GOL. Embassy will be receiving a new letter from HMG setting out that HMG approval for CEDAR SWEEP was based on the understanding that the flights are approved by the entire GOL. Secondly, FCO is concerned that human rights reports, including the State Department’s own, do not reflect the sterling reputation of the LAF as conveyed in our April 14 request for use of Akrotiri airbase. HMG expects the United States to monitor use of the CEDAR SWEEP intel and ensure the LAF lives up to its commitment to maintain high human rights standards. Embassy London is concerned by HMG’s piling on of concerns and conditions, which portend a burdensome process for getting the rest of our intel flights approved, per ref B. We recommend high level approaches to MOD and FCO counterparts to register concern about these new conditions. Embassy Beirut may also want to consider having the GOL engage the British directly. End Summary.

Concerns And/Or Implied Conditions
----------------------------------

2. (S/NF) John Hillman of FCO’s Whitehall Liaison Department informed PolMilOff May 14 of several HMG concerns/conditions about CEDAR SWEEP that could jeopardize future use of British territory. First, Hillman said that the FCO regional bureau responsible for Lebanon had questioned USG assurances that the reconnaissance missions were requested by “the Government of Lebanon.” The regional bureau was concerned that the request for reconnaissance assistance may have only been made by the Lebanese Ministry of Defense, rather the entire Lebanese cabinet, which apparently requires consensus on controversial issues. HMG believed the GOL could disavow assertions that it requested reconnaissance assistance if the flights were made public. Hillman said that HMG was “entitled to accept” the USG understanding that MOD was authorized to make the request on behalf of the entire GOL. HMG has sent Embassy London a follow-up letter (not yet received) emphasizing that HMG’s May 1 approval was contingent on the understanding that the request was made by the GOL. Hillman said that, should the GOL disavow the request and it become clear that the entire GOL was not supportive of the flights, HMG would have difficulty approving the involvement of British territory in CEDAR SWEEP.

3. (S/NF) Second, Hillman said the FCO human rights department noted that, despite the Lebanese MOD’s assurances that it would not use the shared intel unlawfully, Human Rights Watch and even the State Department’s own Human Rights Report had documented cases of torture and arbitrary arrest by the LAF. Hillman underscored that if there were any risk that detainees captured with the help of CEDAR SWEEP intel could be tortured, HMG would expect the USG to impress upon the LAF that assurances of lawful treatment must be upheld in practice. Furthermore, Hillman said, to the extent that the USG becomes aware of arrests made as a result of CEDAR SWEEP intel, HMG expects the USG to ensure the detainees are treated lawfully. If the U.S. became aware of “reasons to doubt LAF assurances,” HMG would expect to be notified immediately. Hillman noted that these human rights considerations would undoubtedly be reviewed in the next Cedar Sweep approval cycle.

Comment and Recommendation
--------------------------

4. (S/NF) Hillman emphasized that the decision to approve CEDAR SWEEP had been widely discussed in MOD and FCO, with the decision made by Minister Kim Howells, but even Foreign Secretary had been informed. He noted that “the highly cautious approach is a reflection of Parliamentary, public, and media attention to issues involving UK complicity in human rights violations.”

5. (S/NF) Embassy London finds these additional conditions for HMG approval and assumptions about our ability to monitor every CEDAR SWEEP-related apprehension to be not only burdensome but unrealistic. We recommend that DOD and State officials raise with UK counterparts the concern that excessive conditions such as described above will hinder, if not obstruct, our cooperative counterterrorism efforts. While we share HMG’s concerns that human rights not be sacrificed for the sake of CT, we cannot take a risk-avoidance approach to CT in which the fear of potentially violating human rights allows terrorism to proliferate in Lebanon. We also recommend that Embassy Beirut consider whether it would help to have the urge the GOL engage the British directly. HMG is supportive of the Siniora government and may be less rigid if asked to assist by the Siniora government itself. Visit London’s Classified Website: http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Unit ed_Kingdom TUTTLE

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