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The Special Alliance
Britain's dependence on the US for sigint (intelligence derived from electronic monitoring conducted at intercept stations) has been well documented. Percy Craddock, chair of the key Whitehall committee, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) from 1985-92 has observed that even by 1953, "Britain ceased to be the senior intelligence partner in the alliance...the advent of phot-reconnaisance satellites emphasised this trend; the British received the product but did not launch their own". This alliance includes US rights to operate intercept and missile defence sites on mainland Britain such as RAF Fylingdales, RAF Menwith Hill and Molesworth, described as the hub of American intelligence in Europe. In fact Menwith Hill is not even accessible to British MPs.
Successive chairs of JIC have been unambigious on the implications of Britain's dependence on the US for communications-derived intelligence. Craddock notes that it makes "the US alliance the decisive factor in British foreign policy". Writing recently in Prospect on the second Iraq war, another JIC chair Rodric Braithwaite (1992-93) stated that "the US could get on perfectly well without GCHQ's input. GCHQ on the ohter hand, is heavily reliant on US input and would be of little value without it.
Is the special relationship over?
Limits of Tolerance
British intelligence has a love-hate relationship with Israeli counterparts. On the one hand, Britain is prepared to give credence to Israeli sources. On the other, it can also react sharply. It has been alleged that the Government closed Mossad's London base in 1987 after it was discovered that Israeli agents had withheld from British intelligence information about a plot to assassinate a Palestinian journalist. Naji Ali, a cartoonist, was shot dead in a South Kensington street.
In 1988, Prime Minister Thatcher expelled a five-man cell and two Israeli diplomats for using their agent Ismael Sowan for planning an operation against the Palestinian Abdul Rahim Mustafa, who was hiding in England at the time. Sowan had apparently infiltrated a PLO cell and was convicted for storing an arms cache in a flat in Hull on their behalf. British intelligence had not been informed of this operation.