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Thursday, 4 July 2013

Spend Independence day at Menwith Hill

Never before in history has the extent of global intelligence gathering been under so much scrutiny. Thanks to the bravery of Edward Snowden, what has long been known amongst the activist community is now common knowledge.

The NSA's Prism programme has been exposed. The scale of surveillance conducted by the US and UK governments on domestic, commercial and diplomatic 'targets' is almost beyond comprehension. There is no such thing as privacy, and every aspect of our lives is under the watchful eye of secretive state agencies.

In my book 'A Just Church' I told the story of being under surveillance by those working at Menwith Hill, monitoring even church emails for clues as to involvement in peace activities. Some disbelieved whether this had actually taken place, but recent revelations have shown that actually, the situation is much worse than imagined.

This is fine if you are naïve enough to believe that the state always acts in the interests of the common good. It clearly does not, it operates in the interests of big business and those with power. If you happen to, say, believe that nuclear weapons are wrong, or that war in Iraq/Afghanistan was wrong, then you are a legitimate target of the state.

Even if you are worried about the impact of a company like McDonalds on the environment, and are actually prepared to do something about it, the state may spy on you, even have sex with you, even fabricate stories about you.

Even if your son is killed in a horrific racist attack, and you are trying to seek justice, the state may spy on you and try to discredit you and your supporters.

I do not believe that the US and UK governments have the right to bug, sleep and spy their way across the globe to perpetuate their blinkered understanding of what the world is about.

Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, one of the worlds largest intelligence gathering posts for the US, supposedly an RAF base, is at the heart of the problem. That is why hundreds of us will be gathering at it's gates at 5pm tonight to call for an 'Independence from America Day'.

When Wendell Phillipps, the renowned abolitionist said in 1852 that 'Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty', he did not mean vigilance by a secret state - he meant by us, the people. So if you value your freedom, now is the time to get active in the civil liberty movements.

The people at Menwith Hill need to be held to account for a start.

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