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[casi] US Eyes Only: A conspiracy of amassed incompetence

US Eyes Only: A conspiracy of amassed incompetence


US keeps intelligence secret from British

By Michael Smith in Arlington
(Filed: 20/11/2003)

The Americans are preventing the British and other key allies in the war on
terrorism from seeing intelligence that could save lives, a US conference on
military intelligence has been told.

British and Australian officers working in allied command centres during the
war in Iraq were not allowed access to the intelligence they needed to do
their job, one Australian complained.

RAF and RAAF officers were asked to leave the room during briefings, though
some of the information they were prevented from seeing had been provided by
the British or Australian intelligence services.

"They gave us stuff and we labelled it secret and then they weren't allowed
to see it," said Col Allen Roby, director of the US air force intelligence
directorate, one of a number of speakers and delegates who complained about
the issue.

The US military's failure to share intelligence fully with its major allies
dominated the conference after it was raised by Wing Commander Alex Gibbs, a
member of the air attache's office at the Australian embassy in Washington.

It was easy to spot the British and Australian officers working in the
allied combined air operations centre in Saudi Arabia during the Iraq war
because they had to have an American sitting alongside them accessing the
computer, he said.

The British and Australian officers had to ask an American to search the
databases and tell them what they were allowed to know, one USAF delegate
confirmed. "You could look over his shoulder but you couldn't touch the

Maj-Gen Tommy Crawford, commander of the US air force intelligence
surveillance and reconnaissance centre, confirmed to the conference that the
problem still existed, adding that it also affected other close US allies
such as Canada.

Responding to a series of questions from American delegates clearly unable
to comprehend the policy, Gen Crawford insisted that it was not a problem
dictated by the Pentagon and that Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary,
wanted it changed.

"It is a damn silly policy and there are two ways round it," he said. "We
can get this policy changed or we can make Britain, Australia and Canada the
51st, 52nd and 53rd states. The way to do business is to get this policy

America's failure to share intelligence with its partners has caused
extensive problems on a series of recent operations from the conflict in
Bosnia to the current occupation of Iraq.

Dutch infantry patrolling the Iraqi-Saudi border twice threatened to
withdraw this year after the Americans refused to give them imagery from
Predator unmanned aerial vehicles because it was deemed too secret to be
passed to a Nato ally.

Paradoxically, away from the battlefield, such information is routinely
shared among America's allies at Nato headquarters. There is no need to
protect the source since the capabilities and existence of UAV's such as the
Predator have been widely publicised.

The problems in Iraq are even more difficult to comprehend given that the
CIA and MI6 freely shared information from top-secret sources within the
Iraqi military when there were clear problems of source protection.

The intelligence that was not being shared appeared to be largely aerial
imagery from satellites, manned aircraft or UAVs.

The Americans have a history of sharing intelligence only when they have
something to gain, leading the parliamentary intelligence and security
committee to express concern over the lack of British involvement in the
latest US spy satellite programme.

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