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Cablegate: Dod Intel Flights: Fco Clarifies

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLO #1412/01 1411808
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 201808Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8688
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE IMMEDIATE
RUEHLO/USDAO LONDON UK IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT IMMEDIATE 0281

S E C R E T LONDON 001412

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: DOD INTEL FLIGHTS: FCO CLARIFIES
REF: A. LONDON 1350 B. STATE-LONDON SVTC MAY 9 C. LONDON 1159 D. MAY 1 GILLARD-TREMONT LETTER E. LONDON 1115 F. LONDON 1064 G. TREMONT-PMAT EMAIL APRIL 16

Classified By: Political Counselor Richard Mills for reasons 1.4, b/d.

1. (S/NF) Summary. U.S.-UK talks on clearances for DOD intel flights had become “unnecessarily confrontational,” FCO Director General for Defence and Intelligence Mariot Leslie told Acting U/S John Rood May 16. After reiterating the political sensitivities surrounding the Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) on Cyprus and the public and parliamentary pressure on HMG to maintain sovereign control of its territories (refs A, C, E, F), Leslie noted the USG use of Akrotiri had gotten “sloppy.” She reiterated the value HMG placed on U.S.-UK cooperation, but noted HMG was now asking the USG to comply with the same clearance procedures HMG itself used for intel flights. She made no attempt to hide her annoyance that the FCO working level had ratcheted up conditions as outlined in ref A. Leslie distinguished between ordinary intel flights and those that were also “operational,” such as CEDAR SWEEP, but maintained HMG insistence that all intel flight clearances must be sought in gov-gov channels, rather than the mil-mil channels used to date. End summary.

2. (S/NF) FCO Director General for Defence and Intelligence Mariot Leslie told Acting U/S John Rood May 16 that U.S.-UK talks on clearances for DOD intel flights had become “unnecessarily confrontational.” She noted that HMG “desperately needs” the SBA for its own intelligence gathering and operations and was committed to keeping them available to the U.S. (and France). However, the Cypriots are hypersensitive about the British presence there and, she said, could “turn off the utilities at any time.” That, combined with the “toxic mix” of the rendition flights through Diego Garcia, has resulted in tremendous parliamentary, public, and media pressure on HMG to maintain sovereign control of its territories, especially Akrotiri. Leslie noted that on a couple occasions recently the required process had not been followed, a process HMG requires of its own intel flights. She explained that because CEDAR SWEEP was an operational flight, as well as intel-related, “all sorts of additional UK legal obligations come into play,” including the EU Convention on Human Rights. UK law mandates a “dual-key” approach for approving intel flights, requiring both MOD and FCO assent to ensure nothing unlawful is approved.

3. (S/NF) Leslie expressed annoyance at the additional conditions conveyed by the FCO working level on May 14 (Ref A), noting she had not been aware beforehand that such a message would be conveyed. In fact, she regretted the tenor of the discussions had turned prickly and underscored HMG appreciation for U.S.-UK military and intelligence cooperation. To set the record straight, she clarified that the follow-on letter from MOD, dated May 9 (emailed to PMAT Action Team May 19), was merely meant to lay out that the HMG approval for CEDAR SWEEP was based on the U.S. assurance that the operation had been requested by the Government of Lebanon and was being conducted in a permissive environment. The letter was not/not intended to question whether the U.S. had obtained full GOL (vice just MOD) approval for the operation or to put any additional conditions on it. Furthermore, regarding the May 14 expectation that the U.S. must follow up on all cases of alleged terrorists who were detained as a result of CEDAR SWEEP intel, Leslie said that was not at all what HMG intended to convey to the USG. In fact, ministers had merely wanted to impress upon the USG that they take the human rights considerations seriously. Leslie said as long as the USG understood this, the issue needed no further discussion. Rood affirmed that the message was received.

4. (S/NF) Leslie, however, was very frank that HMG did object to some of what the USG does (e.g. renditions) and therefore does have some redlines. Primarily, all requests for intel flights must come in writing from Embassy London to Mr. Will Jessett at MOD; phone calls, demarches, and non-papers will not suffice. A/U/S Rood pushed hard to keep the process in mil-mil channels, but Leslie was insistent that Foreign Secretary Miliband believed that “policy-makers needed to get control of the military.” Leslie mandated that, for ordinary intel flights, the grid/chart format that EUCOM previously used would be acceptable if another column was added on the right that offered a very simple explanation and/or justification for the flight (e.g. “in support of the Camp David Accords”). But Leslie drew a sharp distinction between ordinary intel flights and those from which the USG shares intel with third parties. For the latter, she said, the more detailed submission discussed in ref E will be required. If a short notice approval were required, Embassy London should submit it in writing and HMG would do its best to push it through.

5. (S/NF) PolMilOff followed up with MOD contact Steve Gillard, in Will Jessett’s office, May 19 to confirm MOD’s understanding of Leslie’s explanation. Gillard had not received a readout of the Leslie-Rood meeting but confirmed that her instructions would be authoritative. He committed to closing the loop with MOD and FCO working level contacts. Recognizing that DOD had already done much of the work on the expanded submission that now seemed unnecessary for most of the flights, Gillard welcomed more, rather than less, information. PolMilOff expressed concern that submitting unnecessary information could set a precedent and raise unrealistic expectations in HMG for what the USG would submit in the future. Gillard acknowledged this concern and noted he would welcome any additional information offered with a letter caveating that in the spirit of cooperation additional information was being submitted that will not be included in future requests for ordinary intel flights.

Comment
-------

6. (S/NF) A/U/S Rood’s intervention has allowed us to obtain authoritative, albeit belated, guidance on HMG’s requirements for DOD flight clearances. Despite forceful arguments to keep the approvals process in mil-mil channels, HMG was adamant that requests will have to come from Embassy London (either the Political or Defense Attache sections) to Mr. Will Jessett at MOD. For ordinary intel flights, this will involve OSD- and State-cleared instructions for Embassy London to deliver to MOD the grid normally constructed by EUCOM on a trimester basis, but with an additional column containing an explanation/justification for the operation. Embassy also recommends that another column be added explicitly stating whether the operation entails sharing intel with third parties. Ideally, the answer should be “no” for every operation on the grid, but the column would allow Embassy London to ensure only the ordinary intel flights are contained therein. For flights that involve intel sharing with third parties, a more detailed submission, as described in Ref E, will be required. We understand that DOD has already compiled this additional information as a result of the instructions we received at the working level. We recommend proceeding with the more detailed submission for all flights but including a cover letter noting that the additional information is provided as a courtesy and does not set a precedent for future submissions.

7. (U) A/U/S Rood has not had the opportunity to clear this cable. Visit London’s Classified Website: http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Unit ed_Kingdom TUTTLE

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