During the 1960’s Menwith Hill was formally known as the 13th U.S. Army Security Agency Field Station and was used primarily for the collection of tactical intelligence information. Today Menwith employs approximately 1,200 staff and is run by the National Security Agency (NSA) and two other organisations :- The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the United States Intelligence Space Program (USISP) which were both founded on the 28th of August 1966 and have since been accused of illegally tapping telephone lines and listening in. This was done via the help of RAF Chicksands. This operation was classified Project Moonpenny with the classified units USAFS/13, USASAFS/OL, USASAFS/FZ and USASAFS/6950ESG.
A journalist named Dunken Campbell wrote in the New Statesman and Society on the 12th of August 1983 that Menwith may be responsible for easdropping on cable runs regarding West Europe’s vast telephone systems. There has been some interesting debates regarding the monitoring of major domestic trunk networks of British telephone systems and in some circumstances Menwith do look to be the party responsible.
One tap allegedly involves 3,600 London and Paris telephone lines. Also a Circular Disposed Antenna Array (CDAA) and a VHF Interception Antenna are said to be used in connection. The Office of Space Systems Department 4C-956 at the Pentagon spent over 50 million dollars between 1979 and 1989, some of which was to be beneficial to the Menwith installation. New equipment has steadily been installed within the complex and an expansion program which cost a little over 26 million dollars was put into operation. This was called Project P415 which involved training staff to deal with the new equipment; these training sessions were done via flying the personnel to the United States for specialised training operations. In 1983 Michael Heseltine approved a 70 million dollar program called Project Zircon. This was to be related to the Space Satellite Industry and they launched a satellite during 1983; it was placed 53 degrees to the East, and Logitude resting over the Indian Ocean. This is not the first time Menwith has been connected to satellite launches.
The Rhyolite Satellite Program was launched on the 19th of June 1970 and placed a satellite in a geo-stationary orbit at 22,300 metres above the equator. There were two more satellite launches, one during 1973 and 1977.
Today, Menwith is said to own 22 satellite tracking dishes which were constructed from 1985 to 1990. The largest pointing to high elliptical orbit and being able to sink into an underground complex. This dish which stands approximately 46 feet in height lifts from a grass covered platform and rises like a scene from ‘Thunderbirds’. The other dishes point towards the Soviet Union and U.S. Main Satellite Systems. There are other facilities which are said to work closely with Menwith, such as, RAF Chicksands in Bedfordshire, Brawdy in Wales which is said to be used by the NSA for Ocean Surveillance and RAF Uxbridge in Middlesex which is said to be a base of operations for many UK/US divisions.
Menwith Hill comes under the Official Secrets Act 1989 and mentions the security of section 1, 2 and 14. Anyone can obtain the Official Secrets Act Document for free by contacting the Ministry of Defence, Whithall, London. After careful examination of this document and several discussions with the Ministry of Defence and of course a couple of letters off the NSA, Fort Meade, Maryland, USA; I eventually came across the relevent information.
The Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act was the most interesting. This section had been replaced in 1989, the predecessor being wrote in 1911. After reading Section 1, it was so broadly framed that it can easily be interpreted to mean that photography of the facility is definately illegal. The Phrase ‘Sketch, Plan, Model, or Note’ definately includes photography, as it says so later in the text. You don’t even have to have a sinister motive to be guilty. The phrase ‘Might Be’, in subsection one part b, is intended to include ‘Any’ unauthorised record that could, however remotely, be ‘Useful to an Enemy’. Section 2 hammers this home by stating that you don’t have to be guilty in order to be convicted ! (I’m not Exaggerating). It only has to ‘Appear’ from your ‘Circumstances’ that your purpose in taking the photographs or video film was ‘Prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State’ for the prosecution to prove its case.
So... all in all, the truth of the matter is... The normal burden of proof in criminal cases is reversed ! Now you know why this is such a controversial law. In July 1995 I spent a very pleasant afternoon with some colleagues on Ilkley Moor. Several hot air balloons were visible travelling in a Westerly direction towards Addingham, notorious for its UFO sightings. Sometime later our attention was drawn to a dark object in the distance. Our rational minds said it was just another hot air balloon passing by, but was it ? There was an absence of a basket and this so called balloon was perfectly circular. Its rapid vertical descent also gave us the impression, this was no balloon ! We watched it disappear from view in amongst several large domes which at that time we presumed were part of an industrial complex. Curiosity drove us to the A59 and the Menwith Hill installation. The several large domes turned out to be 22, along with a number of vertical antennas, two communication dishes, high powered lighting, CCTV, many MOD warning signs and its full compliment of wire fencing and armed guards. I was so impressed I set up the video camera and started to record what we saw. You could clearly see bunkers and some type of underground facility. Several minutes later it was brought to my attention that three white security jeeps were heading our way. I obviously thought this to be related to our filming of a sensative installation and needless to say, I did not wait to exchange pleasantries. We quickly retreated to a near by country lane hoping to outwit our pursuers. After a length of time we saw a small aircraft lift from the facility. We packed the camera film away in case we were to be stopped and searched. We we lucky… We waited for half an hour and then made our way back home.
We decided to conduct some research. Civilian airports were contacted for information. We were told that the installation had been decomissioned two years ago. Obviously, this was not the case as the station was a hive of activity with over two hundred cars parked within.
RAF Shorebury were told that a balloon flight was to take place in the vicinity of Addingham and asked about the restrictions near the facility. It took them a little over twenty minutes to find the information. We were told that there is a perimeter restriction of 2.15 nautical miles and a height restriction of 6,500 feet and mentioned high radiation risks. We examined RAF flight charts, civilian flight charts and geographical charts. MOD spokes person for American Bases on British Soil, Lucy Knight, was asked for information on Menwith Hill. She told us there was no information available to the public and if we took any photographs of the facility we could be arrested. She then asked a strange question, “Are you a UFO enthusiast ?” The obvious reply was ‘No’!
Menwith Hill security police were contacted, they were extremely rude and put the phone down on us. Also a colleague was sent to the security guard house at Menwith armed with a running dictaphone. The guard would say nothing about the station. However, he did speak of an incident that took pl;ace several months ago. Apparently a hot air balloon came too close to Menwith and the hole base was put on red alert. Afterwards to two balloonists were arrested and taken for questioning.
After some time we started to hear that Menwith was a secret listening facility run by the National Security Agency and that they were involved with the manufactur of top secret satellite equipment. We decided to send some of the photographs of the facility along with a letter to the NSA Headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland, USA; to see if we would get a response. Questions such as, Is this facility run by the NSA, Its location and What does this facility do... We did not expect to get a reply so soon. We received a letter from NSA on November 17th 1995. It stated the following:-
Dear Mr. Mera...
We received your letter containing several questions about Menwith Hill Station. As a result, you were provided an interim response explaining that you letter had been registed as a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and that further information would be forthcoming. Your letter however, should not have been treated as a FOIA request and cannot be processed by this office. We suggest returning your correspondence and suggest that you contact RAF Menwith Hill directly or the British Ministry of Defence for answers to your questions.
James. P. Cavanaugh.
Deputy Director of Policy.
Hmmmmmm. Well, we already tried to contact Menwith Hill direct and would not assist. We also tried to get answers from the Ministry of Defence. The MOD wrote :-
Dear Mr. Mera...
1. Thank you for your letter dated January 15th 1996.
2. Regarding your request for information about Menwith Hill Station. As far as our records show, this facility is no longer in use and was last operative in 1994 as an early warning installation. Any further use of this facility would be controled by American Establishments. I suggest that you contact them directly regarding your questions. Please contact Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, 20755-6000.
Well... As you can see, we already tried thart. It looks like we were going to get knowhere. This format of given the run-about seems common when establishment do not want to assist.
In February of 1996 we had managed to compile a large report on Menwith. The local residents to the facility believe it to be a neuclear plant and Menwith is no stranger to protesters, however, we could find no evidence of any for of neuclear power. No warning signs, no literature and building that resembles a nuclear plant. In fact, we started to think this was just a cover story, so to keep people away and to protect the truth about what really goes on there.
We eventually contacted two reporters from two different papers that were interested in running an artical about Menwith, however, both our reports were returned along with letters stating that they were sorry, but could not use the material due to irts sensitivity. Despite the fact that the NSA very effectively control the flow of data which is routinely analysed by agency staff on a day to day basis, a substantial body of evidence exists to show that the NSA takes a keen interest in the UFO phenomena, and has done so since its inception in 1952. It is stipulated that the NSA intercept foreign government communications, break codes and monitor diplomatic, military and commercial traffic, domestic telephone systems, modems, faxes and of course mobile communication systems.
On March 24th 1980, the public filed a suit against the NSA in the district court, Washington DC, on behalf of the Citizens Against UFO Secrecy (CAUS), in an attempt to try and secure the release of sensative information. Thus began one of the most sensational battles in UFO history to date. In the court of law the NSA admitted to having sensitive UFO information but to disclose that would also mean having to disclose the operations and how they were conducted, therefore it was ruled that it remain the NSA’s responsibility to hold their information back or not. The NSA ruled ‘NOT’ !
The Menwith Hill Station seems to have two main perimeters, these perimeters separates the British and the American justification. The outside perimeter is controled by British security police. The inner perimeter is controled by American armed guards. Also the presence of flight restrictions and high powered radiation waves would lead you to think that no aircraft are seen in the area, well... that would be an incorrect statement. As previously mentioned a light aircraft seemed to take off from the facility, indicating that they must have their own small runway. As for Project HOMEC, possibly (Home Office Monitoring of Electronic Communication) and HELLMET another similar project; these easdropping systems have apparently been taken back out of British Telecom according to OFTEL (Office for Fair Trading of Telecomunications). The systems were apparently a breach of the Civil Liberties Act and Data Protection Act, however, there are many tjhat feel this not to be true. Such Members of Parliment like Alice Marn from Hallifax has strong feelings on this issue. Of course it is illegal to conduct this format of easdropping and Duncan Capbell who is back working for the Guardian Newspaper believes it will continue as British Telecom was original Government controlled. Specialised satellites that can monitor up to 7 million e-mails are operative and the new system known as Project X is no stranger to the Menwith Hill installation.
During the Spring of 1996 I had many troubles with communication. Clicking sounds could be heard almost every time I discussed sensitive material over the phone. Out of curiosity I had a computer monitoring system watch my calls for a few days. On the first day I received a call from the computer system informing me that my calls were being intercepted via a remote source. What did this mean...? I talked with the ICT Interception of Telecomunication Tribunal and they informed me that I could not do much about it. As to who and why this was happening remained a mystery to date. I now believe its best not to discuss any form of sensitive material over the phone, keeping in mind I’m not really into the conspiracy theory. On July 3rd 1996 Parlimentary discussions took place regarding Menwith Hill Station. Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty’s Government, whether interception of telecomunications is conducted by the US National Security Agency at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire, and if so, what messages are intercepted and for what purpose. The Parlimentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence Earl Howe stated :- It is not government policy to comment on the detailed operations at Menwith Hill Station. However, no activity considered inimical to British interests is, or would be, permitted at this facility. More discussions took place on July 14th 1997 regarding the interception of communications. Mr. Robin Cook stated :-
United Kingdom law applies to US operations in the UK and prohibits the unauthorised interception of communications carried on UK public telecommunications systems. National Security Agency personnel comply with that law.
Dr. Reid was quick to mention that ‘Under the terms of the agreements that we have with the US authorities, the US visiting forces are subject to the laws of the UK in the provisions of the Interception of Communications Act. We are content that the US authorities adhere scrupulously to these agreements.
Below is what looks like a bunker set into the ground. The large domes are said to house large satellite dishes that are constantly in use. Apart from having a large dish that rises from the ground. Menwith has a geostationary satellite in orbit around the Earth, that can look strainght down onto the surrounding area and facility itself. Menwith Hill will continue to conduct its secret work and the parliment debates on communication interception will also continue. Menwith may never give up its secrets, its no Area 51 but is certainly interesting. For those who wish to see Menwith in its full glory, just be careful. Security officer do not like photography of the facility nor video filming. You could be stopped and have your equipment convascated or even worse....... you could be arrested. Cautious is the word. A number of local roads do not appear on in the A-Z for obvious reasons.
Latest News on Menwith.
Menwith Hill is to play a front line role in a "Star Wars" system to warn the Americans of ballistic missile launches anywhere on Earth. New radomes at the base on the outskirts on Harrogate and Ilkley, West Yorkshire will be directly linked to American infra-red eyes in space and will be operational by the millennium. The change of direction at the controversial listening centre has been confirmed by the Ministry of Defence. Previously the only comment about the erection of the two new radomes -The distinctive golfballs which can be seen at the base' - has been local concern about the extension of the area of the base. Civil Liberties expert Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes in Sussex, claimed the adaption of the communications base as a super- early warning centre was proof that the Government had become unable to control the activities of the base. He said: In the EEC there are already major worries over revelations that Menwith Hill can monitor communications throughout the European Union and America could use that information for their economic advantage. This step outside common
communications is very worrying. Construction of the two radomes at RAF Menwith Hill was due to begin in November 1999 and was scheduled for completion in February 2000.
The radomes will support the new US Space Based Infra-Red System, providing early warning of ballistic missile launches." A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence refused to comment further on activities at Menwith Hill. Mr Baker said his further Parliamentary questioning showed 1,370 American
personnel were now working at the base. We are now being used as Airstrip 1 in the missile issue. Many officials have stated, 'We are appalled and outraged, but it is not a surprise. It moves Menwith Hill to a totally different level. 1t was a major target as a command and communication centre, but its new role makes it even more important. This is another huge reason why Menwith Hill should not be here and why at the very least it should be accountable.
UFO Investigators stated 'We are not that concerned about the function of monitoring what happens on the planet. What we find fascinating is the emphasis that this programme gives to monitoring deep space. "That will be its capacity and it is slightly ironic bearing in mind years of denial about space reports of unidentified craft are still being obtained via
Landing at Menwith Hill
Indications often emerge that the authorities do infact take an active interest in UFO reports. This was effectively illustrated in the aftermath of a case which occurred in 1972. A middle aged couple were motoring home over the Yorkshire Moors to Manchester one afternoon in August 1972 when, near the Menwith Hill top secret telecommunications base, they saw a landed UFO. There was a doorway in the object which the couple saw very well, it seemed to close like the iris of a camera would. The local police investigated the case and called on the couple, the press were notified and a journalist arrived to
interview the couple. However, before the story could be made public, a car turned up at the couple’s house and two smartly dressed men climed out. These unexpected visitors then produced information to prove they were from the Ministry of Defence, and told the journalist to leave, which he did immediatley. The officials wanted to interview the couple, but only seemed to be interested in one minor detail of the sighting ‘the door the couple has witnessed closing’. Again and again they asked one of the witnesses to
describe the operation of the door. Does this show that some of our so called men in black are government agents ? Unsurprisingly, when civilian investigators contacted the MOD to verify the visit, its occurrence was completely denied.
Menwith : The Facts.
GCHQ does not monitor internal calls in Great Britain, however NSA Menwith Hill do monitor the major domestic trunk networks of all British telephone systems.
There are at least five high capacity microwave networks situated around Menwith Hill which feed directly into the base from the British Post Office Tower at Hunter Stones.
Digital Exchanges of British Telecom have been invaded by chrome coloured interface units that fix directly onto the major loom that controls all the telephone lines in the exchanges area. This equipment monitors the lines and feeds back to other exchanges, all the way back to the Home Office. This operation has been coined Project HOMEC and internal BT workers are asked not to discuss the operation. This woul allow the Home Office to monitor all British Telecomunications and word has it that they can also be recorded via large computer systems and that these computer systems are available to NSA Menwith Hill. The National Security Agency took over Menwith Hill on the 1st of August 1966.
Menwith Hill perimeter is potrolled by armed guards and MOD Security Police, and they do carry guns and drive left hand drive vehicles. They will give chase so,.... discretion is the word.
Compiled By Stephen Mera.