Chapter 4

CHAPTER IV

SECRET ISLAND OR ISLAND SECRETS?

 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) do not always see eye-to-eye. Often, there has been conflict between the domestic agency and the so-called overseas organisation.

 

As previously noted, in 1987, the CIA acted against Lynden Pindling, partly because Pindling had granted sanctuary to the financier, Robert Vesco, wanted by the FBI. In September 1983, however, according to Time (19 September, “Vesco Redux”, p.25), a dispute developed between a proposed covert FBI operation and the CIA. Since 1972, the FBI had been investigating the activities of Vesco and Bahamian officials allegedly involved in illegal drug-smuggling into the U.S.. They intended to set up a “sting operation” to catch the officials taking bribes. But the CIA station chief in Nassau successfully opposed the FBI operation on the grounds that it would jeopardise the continued use by the United States of AUTEC and other activities on Andros including, presumably, the global submarine surveillance system. Richelson and Ball (The Ties That Bind, p.248) add: “AUTEC at Andros in the Bahamas includes one of the largest sea-bottom arrays in the US global submarine surveillance system.”

 

What were the Americans hiding on Andros? Why the secrecy? Why was the CIA so concerned? Was it another Area 51?

 

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Paul Albury, in his The Story of the Bahamas (p.245), mentions that to the east of Andros, there is a great submarine canyon called the Tongue of the Ocean, which was selected by the United States as an ideal site for testing its underwater weapons and protective devices. It is, he writes, close to Fresh Water Creek, and work commenced in 1964. Wikipedia merely notes that “The Atlantic testing and Evaluation Center Deep Water Weapons Range runs parallel to the east coast of the island, and operates a base on North Andros.”

 

In an article, “Secret Island Spy Base 110 miles from Florida”, published in the Portland Free Press of July-October 1996, Gene Wheaton asserts that the most closely-guarded secret of the U.S. covert operators is located on Andros Island in the Bahamas; and is controlled by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. “The cover under which this domestic intelligence operation is buried,” says Wheaton, “is a U.S. Navy facility called AUTEC, a sophisticated underground/undersea computerized center for tracking Soviet (and friendly) ships and submarines.”

 

However, continues Wheaton, the compartmentalized, illegal secret operation, buried within the AUTEC complex, is a covert intelligence project and operation directed against the civilian population of the United States. The reason for setting up the operation at Andros Island was to take it “off shore”, outside the boundaries of the United States, and bury it under the sea in a foreign country. Bahamian government politicians and bureaucrats were bribed into turning over control of Andros Island for this purpose, he claims, as previously noted.

 

In Wheaton’s view, this secret facility was central to Theodore “Ted” Shackley’s “Third Option”; and the project to create domestic unrest, chaos, and the illusion of a domestic terrorist threat within America. According to the Portland Free Press, the operation was controlled by the same group of CIA covert operators who were running the Jupiter, Florida-based Continental Shelf Associates/ANV (“acta non verba” – action not words), and the New Orleans-based Pacific Gulf Marine; the same “lunatic fringe” of the intelligence community who were investigated by the Pike and Church Congressional committees in the mid-1970s, and Senator John Kerry’s Guns, Drugs and Covert Operation Committee in the late 1980s, related to the Iran-Contra scandal.

 

Alleged to be involved was George Bush senior, who became CIA Director and, later, President of the United States, Theodore Shackley who was formerly CIA chief of station in Miami, Richard Helms, Robert Stevens, James A. Cunningham, Jr., and an élite inner circle of OSS and CIA veterans, Ray Clines, William Casey, Geoffrey M.T. Jones, et al. Incidentally, the Bush family oil company, Zapata Offshore, an off-shoot of the Zapata Petroleum Company, was allegedly used by the CIA as a cover in the planning of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (see The Last Supper, 1988 by Philip Willan, p.294). The Andros Island covert operations evolved from the mid-1970s intelligence scandals surrounding CIA officer Edwin P. Wilson, Jr. and the creation of Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) Task Force 157, Consultants International and several “front” companies. At the time Theodore Shackley was CIA Deputy Director of Operations, involving illegal gun-running, money-laundering and assassinations. Such operations were allegedly planned, launched and controlled out of Andros Island under the secrecy, unofficially, of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Wheaton says he “has reason to believe several questionable deaths are related to illegal covert operations under the secrecy of [the] NRC, and were planned and launched out of Andros

Island”. He alleges that the deaths included Prime Minister Olaf Palme of Sweden, Bill Casey, and Jim Cunningham, a friend of his who was the former head of the CIA’s Air America in Laos; and a number of other individuals, although he does not give any evidence. Gene Wheaton died shortly after. The late investigative journalist, Danny Casolaro, who died under mysterious circumstances in August 1991, associated former

presidents Reagan and Bush Snr., and sources within the CIA and the Mafia, of being part of much the same secret group of conspirators which he named “The Octopus”. How much of this is true, I have no idea.

 

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The National Reconnaissance Office was classified secret from its establishment on 25 August 1960. It was not supposed to exist. It was not until 1973 that its existence became public knowledge, due to an error made in a Senate committee report, which mentioned its existence. Yet its early budget was – maybe still is – probably far more than that of the CIA. It was, apparently, created in August 1960 after lengthy debates within the White House, the Department of Defence (DOD), the Air Force and the CIA. Its creation was in response to problems plaguing the missile and satellite programmes in general, and the shooting down of a U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in particular, earlier in the year. Annie Jacobsen, in her Area 51 (pp.168-169), states:

 

“President Kennedy…created a protocol that required the CIA deputy director and the undersecretary of the Air Force to co-manage all space reconnaissance and aerial espionage programs together as the National Reconnaissance Office, a classified agency within Robert McNamara’s Department of Defence. A central headquarters for NRO was established in Washington, a small office with a limited staff but a number of empire-size egos vying for power and control. The organization maintained a public face, an overt identity at the Pentagon called the Office of Space Systems, but no one outside a select few knew of NRO’s existence until 1992.”

 

The NRO manages all U.S. satellite reconnaissance for the entire intelligence system, which involves the collection of photographic and signals (SIGINT) intelligence. Its main objective during the Cold War was to monitor Soviet ships and submarines, other than those monitored by SOSUS and ship-based operations.

 

The NRO is directly supervised by an executive committee chaired by the Director of Intelligence; that is the CIA. Generally, the Under-Secretary of the Air Force has served as the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office, but there have been exceptions. The CIA’s component of the NRO is, or was, headed by its Deputy Director for Science and Technology. The naval component used to be the Navy Space Project of Naval Electronics System Command (NAVALEX); but it later became part of the Space and Sensor Systems Program Directorate of Naval Space and Warfare Command (NAVSPAWAR). The NRO would, therefore, have had particular interest in Andros.

 

At the head of naval intelligence is, or was, the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Intelligence, who is simultaneously the Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), a supervising organisation which directs the various naval intelligence operating agencies. Directly subordinate to the Director of ONI are: the Security of Military Information Division, and the Plans and Programs Division. There are other naval intelligence, security, investigative and technical organisations, too numerous to list here, but also including the Anti-Submarine Warfare/Ocean Surveillance Division, and the Undersea Surveillance Project which includes SOSUS and, presumably, AUTEC on Andros.

 

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According to Gene Wheaton, when George Bush Snr. was running illegal covert operations out of the White House, he moved his mother’s retirement home to Jupiter, Florida, primarily: (a) to place her under the intelligence protection and support of the covert operators of Jupiter-based Continental Shelf Associates and its agency ANV Limited; (b) to give a legitimate-looking cover for Bush and his associates to visit Jupiter without rousing suspicions and questions from the media, and (c) to give them close proximity to various CIA covert air operations in the area, run by Air America’s “front”, Southern Air Transport (SAT) out of Florida. (see Robbins, pp 68-74).

 

In his Portland Free Press article, Wheaton calls the CIA “spooks” a “lunatic fringe”. He claims to have come across what he says was “the Andros conspiracy”, in the mid-1980s, while investigating unsolved murders of some U.S. military and CIA intelligence officers connected with the National Reconnaissance Office. He travelled to Jupiter, and then Andros, on this investigation. He mentions that among insiders, the “assassination network” was called the “Fish Farm”. Wheaton also claims to have been employed by some of the covert-operations “front” companies; and was being groomed to be part of the inner circle, until he realised how dangerous and unstable these people were. Says Wheaton:

 

“I have reason to believe several questionable deaths are related to illegal covert operations under the secrecy of the NRO, and were planned, launched and controlled out of Andros Island.”

 

Security at the AUTEC facility is enhanced by divers and swimmers being moved on and off the island via underwater locks accessible to submarines, says Wheaton.

 

(In February 1998, Ace Hayes, the editor of the Portland Free Press died; and in 2000 his widow, Janet, passed some of my observations regarding Andros onto Gene Wheaton.)

 

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In his book, The Killing of Karen Silkwood, Richard Rashke briefly mentions Andros regarding the use of the island for training recruits in counter-insurgency, torture and assassinations. It, and such other Bahamian islands as Great Inagua (and, of course, Florida) were also used by CIA-trained Cuban exiles to infiltrate, and attack targets, on the northern coast of Cuba in small, but fast, boats. Indeed, Andros is ideal for guerrilla warfare training.

 

In the 1960s, the United States International Police Academy (IPA) trained foreign (mostly Cuban and other Latin American) police, intelligence, military and security officers in surveillance skills; and recruited promising students in counter-insurgency, and as CIA informers and operatives. Congress, however, closed the IPA down, notes Rashke, when the public learned that it had trained men who turned out to be assassins and torturers. In fact, the United States has been notorious, not just for using torture against alleged and actual terrorists (that is anti-American, not pro-American ones!), but for teaching torture techniques at the International Police Academy, as well as the infamous School of the Americas located in fort Benning, Georgia, later to become the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation. In October 1984, it was disclosed that the CIA had prepared a manual of instructions of torture and violence against civilian populations, in its war with the Sandinistas of Nicaragua. Following Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, CIA Chief of its Technical Services Division, wrote an 88-page handbook for the use of CIA personnel, titled Assassination Methods in which he advised “decision and instructions should be confined to an absolute minimum of persons, and ideally only one person will be involved whose death provides positive advantage” for the Agency. (Quoted in Inside British Intelligence by Gordon Thomas, pp.147-148.)

 

In 1973, a certain Jack Holcomb founded, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) as a replacement for the IPA. The CIA was in on it from the beginning, says Richard Rashke. It was a top-secret operation with CIA connections. Howard Osborn, the CIA Director of Security, was present when Holcomb and his colleague, Leo Goodwin Jr., drew up the plans. The local Florida police were informed of the NIA’s CIA connections – and agreed to co-operate in any way they could.

 

The National Intelligence Agency was housed in a separate wing of the Audio Intelligence Devices

Corporation (AID), another CIA “asset”, next to the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, where AID/NIA owned two heliports and a private airstrip long enough to land a 727 aircraft. AID paid the rent. Goodwin, and his foundation, put more than three million dollars into the project.

 

According to Richard Rashke, the Audio Intelligence Devices Corporation became the largest private company to design and sell high-grade wiretapping, bugging, tracking and other surveillance equipment in the United States.

 

The NIA offered two-week courses on the state-of-the-art in electronic surveillance. The students, who stayed at the Tradewinds Hotel owned by Goodwin, were taught how to bug a room, and tap a phone, in five minutes in the NIA’s secret classroom containing a fully-equipped telephone “city” with nearly every kind of indoor and outdoor terminal used by telephone companies. Potential CIA agents, double agents and informants were recruited at the NIA, and sent to Andros for more sophisticated training, according to Rashke in his book, The Killing of Karen Silkwood.

 

Security was tight. There were armed guards at the building and the airstrip, television cameras, and roving patrols who watched the roads around the building. CIA-owned airlines, like Air America, used the airstrip; and there were 13 flights a day to and from Andros. A private investigator, William Taylor, secretly spent four days snooping, having been dropped by helicopter, into the island’s interior jungle areas. He said he saw that Andros was full of underground facilities. The bases and jungle were, he claimed, used for specialised training of some kind. He also said that the CIA and British intelligence had command posts on Andros Island. Not surprisingly, the CIA agent, Lester K. Coleman, who was sent to the Bahamas to “dish the dirt” on Lynden Pindling, was later loaned to the National Intelligence Agency at Fort Lauderdale, as Director of Video Operations, at the time housed on the premises of Technos International, also known as AID.

 

In October 2012, Steve Shannon of Mississauga, Ontario, told me that a guy he recently met, said that in 1988 he sailed a 35-foot yacht from Canada to the Bahamas. All you could see near Andros, presumably from the sea, he continued, were black helicopters with no markings. He added that the island was a base for drug smuggling. He thought, at that time, it was also a CIA base. Shannon felt that the U.S. authorities may have put out the story of a drug smugglers’ hang-out to keep people away from Andros Island. It always was notorious for smuggling, however. But not just Andros.

 

In 1984, a Royal Commission may have cleared Lynden Pindling of drug smuggling: nevertheless, since the early 1970s, the smuggling of drugs has been a considerable problem for the Bahamian authorities, particularly South American cocaine. The close proximity of the United States makes the Bahamas a natural base of operations for the drugs’ trade, with hundreds of islands and cays, many uninhabited.

 

On Norman’s Cay in the Exumas during the 1970s, the notorious Colombian trafficker, Carlos Enrique Lehder, established a base of a powerful drug-smuggling ring. He was deported from the Bahamas in 1982.

 

The Bimini Islands are approximately mid-way between the northwest coast of Andros and Miami in Florida. They are less than 50 miles from the coast of Florida; and on a clear night you can see the glow of Miami’s lights. It is said that there is money on Bimini – and there is no secret from where it comes! North Bimini has a narrow creek leading from the open sea to a natural harbour, which is even depicted on maps as Drugs Channel. Fast boats can carry cargoes of cocaine and marijuana to America in a matter of a few hours. Not surprisingly, some local men spend their “vacations” in a Miami jail. Large American cars abound on the tiny islands.

 

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Jonathan Kwitny, in his The Crimes of Patriots, confirms my view that, for at least three decades, most of the leading members of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency were quite mad, and that the Agency was out of control. It has been suggested that, for example, had Theodore “Ted” Shackley been working for the Soviet KGB, he could not have done more damage to American interests in Cuba and elsewhere.

 

Kwitny notes that Shackley, as CIA Chief of Station in Miami, was running an “anti-Castro” terror program called JM/WAVE” of assassinations and illegal attacks on Cuba. Indeed in South Florida, by the 1970s, the police could scarcely arrest a dope dealer or illegal weapons trafficker without encountering the claim, generally true, that the subject had CIA connections. The CIA’s anti-Castro operations, some of which certainly were organised from Andros and elsewhere in the Bahamas, were distinguished by the seemingly endless number of thugs and dope dealers, on whom the Agency had bestowed the legitimacy of U.S. government service, states Kwitny. He details Shackley’s activities, in collaboration with another career CIA officer, Edwin P. Wilson, and two CIA field officers, Patny E. Loomis and William Weisenburger, in a CIA unit inside the Naval Task Force 157, set up under the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), originally in the mid-1960s.

 

According to the Wall Street Journal (11 November 1982), Wilson infiltrated (on behalf of the CIA) first the American Longshoremen’s Union, and, then moving to London, the docks’ section of the Transport and General Workers Union (the TGWU). From there he moved to the Netherlands, where he regularly sent a courier to Britain with CIA funds, with which to pay off agents and informers recruited in the TGWU.

 

Edwin Wilson allegedly retired from the CIA in 1971, and went to work as a civilian employee of Naval Task Force 157, but he continued to liaise regularly with Shackley, Loomis and Weisenburger. The Task Force was supposedly created to provide the United States government with low-profile, workaday spies that the CIA was originally founded for, but did not always provide. So, it was set up under the cover of the Office of Naval Intelligence. Wilson was “planted” by the CIA or, at least, Shackley, as a “mole” inside the Task Force 157.

 

Task Force 157 gathered information on maritime affairs worldwide; it paid particular attention, however, to the activities of the Soviet Navy and the movement of its nuclear cargoes. To facilitate Task Force 157’s intelligence work, ONI permitted staff who did the spying to set up their own business “fronts”, and to recruit foreign nationals as agents, a normal procedure of intelligence agencies I would add.

 

According to Jonathan Kwitny, there is no record of Task Force 157 ever engaging in covert operations to actually change events on which its agents reported. It was the very model of an intelligence agency the United States considered it required – until Edwin P. Wilson joined it! Unlike other Task Force 157 agents, who operated from ports worldwide, Wilson was able to set up an office in downtown Washington; and with financial support from a number of mainly Republican politicians, he founded a variety of shipping companies and international consulting firms. These were bigtime.

 

Wilson only occasionally visited Task Force 157’s head office; and his salary was officially only $35,000 a year; yet he owned an estate in Virginia valued at the time at $4 million where he regularly entertained numerous senators, congressmen, and military and intelligence officers including Shackley. Wilson, it has been said, was a specialist in procuring unusual spy gear, unusual boats, and electronic equipment for Task Force 157 and the CIA. According to Kwitny, Wilson “was selling his services for high fees to companies or foreign governments that wanted government contracts or weapons”. This has become public knowledge. In 1975, Senator Frank Church, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, likened the CIA to a “rogue elephant on the rampage” (Covert Action, p.5).

 

By 1976, however, Vice-Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, then Director of Naval Intelligence, who discovered what was going on at Task Force 157, ordered Wilson’s contract not to be renewed; and when later the Task Force’s budget came up for renewal Inman, by then Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), closed down the operation. Nevertheless, Wilson continued his business activities, worked with Shackley who was still a CIA employee, and hired some other CIA personnel. He exported explosives and weapons, as well as ground-to-air missiles to foreign countries including Libya.

 

Together with another former CIA agent, Frank Terpil, Wilson not only supplied President Muammar Qaddafi of Libya with sophisticated assassination gear and bombs, he also hired anti-Castro Cubans from Shackley’s old JM/WAVE programme to carry out murders against Qaddafi’s opponents in various countries. Wilson hired U.S. Green Berets, with CIA blessing, for the Libyans.

 

For years, the American government took no action against Wilson. Theodore Shackley “was retired” from the CIA in 1979. And Edwin P. Wilson? He was eventually convicted and sentenced in the U.S. to a 52-year prison term for conspiring to trade arms with Libya; and for conspiring to murder two American prosecutors and six other people. The Wilson case resulted in several dismissals and resignations from the CIA.

 

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From 29 November 2005, a number of participants briefly discussed AUTEC on the Above Top Secret (ATS) website, under the title of “Area 51 and other Facilities: A.U.T.E.C. The Naval Area 51?”

 

“Shadow XIX” began by noting that AUTEC maybe is not as secret as Area 51, as it has its own website,

although it is still hard to say for sure what is going on there. Testing new types of sonar, torpedoes or unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs)? This seems to be the place where the Navy “test its new underwater toys as Area 51 is a test bed for the Air Force”.

 

“Esoteric Teacher” replied that he/she was under the impression that AUTEC was one of the top (U.S.) bases for the practical application of experimental Naval technologies, as well as for sub-contractors.

 

Two other contributors, besides “Shadow XIX”, and I previously, found it especially interesting that AUTEC is located within the Bermuda Triangle. “Shadow XIX” pointed out that the U.S. is just waiting for Castro “to kick the bucket”, so that it could take over Cuba. And “Since we aren’t allowed to officially search their waters, AUTEC is the perfect launchpoint to do just that.” The Navy knows what is exactly down there.

 

Interestingly, four other contributors appear to have been in, or have worked in, AUTEC. “JIMC 5499” claims to have been there several times. “AUTEC is just Top Gun for ASW.” (ASW – anti-submarine warfare.) There are ranges there that create sonar targets, and other ranges where live torpedoes are dropped. “We would fly down there several times a year. I used to jump at the chance to go because of the snorkelling on the reefs,” he noted.

 

“Alan II”, who was in the British Royal Navy for 12 years, and was an ASW operator, went to AUTEC on a number of occasions. “Super 70” spent a week at AUTEC. He was more concerned with the mosquitoes (“you can’t step outside without getting covered with them”), which infested Andros, than anything else. Outside of AUTEC there were few people. “The water was clear and the snorkelling fantastic, if you don’t mind the schools of barracuda and a few friendly sharks. If there is anything bizarre going on there, they sure hide it well.”

 

In the view of “orangetom 1999”, there is nothing mysterious about AUTEC. It is merely a sound testing range, although “A certain amount of security is necessary there because of the state of the art applications.” The geography, location, helps. “orangetom” continues:

 

“I know this place because when we deliver a new submarine there are a certain number of sea trials which take place before acceptance. During one or more of the sea trials the boat will be taken to this range to do a sound signature on it to check for quietness levels. Various speeds and depths are run on this course. She is then brought back into port, and changes or adjustments are made for problems identified. I am speaking of a new boat here. Obviously boats already in service will be run occasionally through this course as modifications and changes to them are made.”

 

“Orangetom” says that the military has lots of real estate like AUTEC. Such as Diego Garcia. “No big mystery here outside of certain work being done which is not open to the public for security reasons.” Quite. According to “Shedinja 726”, who claimed to “live at AUTEC”, there is no conspiracy regarding AUTEC. “All we do here is test sonar, do test recoveries (recovering fake bombs from the seafloor), and stuff like that.”

Furthermore, the canal they cut into the harbour is 25 feet deep at most, he says. Submarines can’t fit into it. Apparently it was made for the Hammerhead boat, and the barge that ships in supplies for AUTEC. “And the reason the security is so tight is because it’s a NAVY base. There isn’t a single NAVY base that doesn’t have strict security.” Contributor “Anonymous ATS”, who also claimed to work there, adds: “It’s a Government Naval base. Of course there are going to be secrets, for god sake. The government keeps everything a secret.” He says that AUTEC was built in 1966; and he was employed there from 1975 to 1976, working on the main base and down the test range which consists of five test sites, the last four only being accessible by boat or a “chopper”. Sometimes the systems would go down in the middle of the night during a test, and “we’d have to show up at the main test building and get things cooling again”, continues “Anonymous ATS”. Apparently, Navies “from the free world would come to test their ships and play wargames with dummy torpedoes, etc.”. There was nothing mysterious about it. He was stationed at AUTEC as base communications and security officer, and later in the weapons department.Another contributor, “Zemouk” (in April 2010), commented that there were cables going from AUTEC directly down in the ocean, “so deep as you can’t see where they go”. On 31 August the same year, “hardeeboy” asserted that the U.S. Navy “mostly conduct joint exercises with the British Navy”. Replying to “hardeeboy”, another contributor was not so sure that nothing secret “is going on”, adding: “Many crafts have been known to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean down there and not resurface.” AUTEC may be another, underwater, Area 51. And it is within the Bermuda Triangle.

 

Indeed, “Access to Andros Island is limited and must be arranged through the Commander, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division in Newport, Rhode Island” (see Global Security.org).

 

NOTE

The Above Top Secret website, according to Annie Jacobsen, is the most popular conspiracy website in America (see Area 51, p.332).

 

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SUMMING UP

Andros was, and is, uniquely situated for clandestine, covert and secret activities, particularly against Cuba. It is less than 100 miles from the United States, to the west, and about the same distance from the north coast of Cuba. Yet it is part of a nominally independent country – the Bahamas.

 

It is hot and humid, and subject to hurricanes. Much of the island is covered with forests, jungles and swamps, interspersed with channels. It was, and still is, sparsely populated, with only a few small settlements entirely on the east side of the island; and with few roads also to the east. The waters, particularly towards the Florida Keys, are shark-infested; and it is just within what is termed the Bermuda Triangle, of which over the years, considerable mystery has, quite deliberately, been fostered, thus keeping hoards of tourists away, except for a handful of cavers and bone fishermen towards the southeast coast of the island.

 

The Tongue of the Ocean is an added bonus for the use of mainly U.S. submarines by AUTEC. Nosy journalists and investigators have not been welcome. Andros is, indeed, America’s Secret Island.

 

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‘More dirty work – in the Atlantic’

Between 1965 and 1972, the British government expelled, deported or forced out the indigenous people of the Chagos Islands, and particularly, Diego Garcia, known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). This was because it had signed a “defence” agreement with the United States, leasing the islands to the US for an intelligence, military and naval base and, later, a nuclear and fuelling depot for long-range bombers. The BIOT is located strategically in the centre of the Indian Ocean, so controlling it provides power and influence in the whole of Southern Asia and much of the Middle East. (See “Dirty Work in the Indian Ocean”, Socialist Standard, September 1996.)

 

History may never actually repeat itself exactly, but the present situation on island of Ascension, midway between Africa and South America in the Atlantic Ocean, is very similar.

 

In 1956, the British government leased to the United States Wakefield Airfield, now a top-secret base on Ascension. According to the Observer (12.02.06), it is one of the Pentagon’s most important military communications hubs; and is also used for troop deployments. Cable & Wireless, GCHQ and the BBC also have facilities on the island. Furthermore, Ascension is 1,000 miles off the oil-rich coast of West Africa.

 

About 1,100 people live on Ascension Island, some indigenous, many of them from St. Helena 750 miles to the south and most of them British citizens. According to the Observer of the same date, after the Human Rights Act was adopted by the British government in 1998, the then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, published a White Paper with the aim of bringing democracy, as well as establishing a right of permanent abode, and full property rights, for all residents. Previously, although many of the islanders were born there, they were, and still are, only allowed to remain as long as they have jobs. In 1999, the British government pledged that this would change. Following Ascension’s first general election in 2002, a local council was formed which went on to create a national park on the extinct volcano in the centre of the island. There was a plan to encourage eco-tourism to take advantage of the unique plant and seabird species, first discovered by Charles Darwin in 1844. Many of the islanders bought shops and other small businesses. But it was all to no avail.

 

In January 2006 the Foreign Office minister, one Lord Triesman, wrote to the Islanders informing them that the government had changed its plans, and that “they would not have a right of abode or right of tenure”. They would be thrown out if necessary. Says the Observer:

 

“The Foreign Office is accused of covering up the true reason for its change in heart. Many blame the Pentagon for pressuring Britain. They believe the US wants to expand its military operations on the island and objected to plans to increase tourism. Washington does not want its activities to be subject to unwanted scrutiny. The west African coast has become of increasing strategic interest to the US, with discoveries of oil that have turned countries such as Equatorial Guinea into wealthy trading partners.”

 

And Lord Triesman, who has allegedly bowed to the Pentagon’s wishes, or dictates? He is better known as David Triesman who, as a sociology student at the University of Essex in the summer term of 1968, was suspended, but was later reinstated following a student occupation of the university. And who wrote an essay ‘”The CIA and Student Politics”, in a Penguin Special book, Student Power, Problems, Diagnosis, Action, in which he exposed the CIA for financing and largely controlling the International Student conference and British NUS, adding: “The generation developing in this country will not want to pay mere lip service to the international struggle against imperialism, colonialism and racism; it will be in conflict with capitalism as the parent of these enemies.” (p. 157) It would seem that the good Lord Triesman has since changed his mind regarding American imperialism, the CIA and capitalism. (“American Imperialism, the CIA and capitalism”, as I wrote in theSocialist Standard, April 2006)