‘Nuclear disaster waiting to happen’: Royal Navy probes Trident whistleblower's claims
HMS Victorious is seen berthed at the Clyde Naval Base in Scotland (Reuters / Danny Lawson)
UK authorities are “concerned for the whereabouts” of the 25-year old whistleblower, who went absent without leave and cooperated with WikiLeaks to post a detailed 18-page report called The Nuclear Secrets.
McNeilly, a weapons engineer, who allegedly served from January to April this year on board the HMS Victorious, claims that a number of security lapses and technical faults with the Trident missiles carrier exposes the UK nuclear deterrent to potential terrorist attacks that “would kill our people and destroy our land.”
Possible attackers have “the perfect opportunity to send nuclear warheads crashing down on the UK,” he claims.
In his revelations, the whistleblower notes some 30 safety and security flaws on Trident submarines that are based out of Faslane on the Clyde, Scotland. McNeilly took his time outlining the ease at which potential terrorist can infiltrate the secured base.
“At a Base security brief we were told that thousands of Royal Navy IDs go missing every year. A terrorist can use them, or create counterfeits with them and easily gain access down the submarine. Considering most of the guards barely look at them from a few metres (couple of feet if they’re the rare ones) away the fakes wouldn't have to be too perfect,” the whistleblower explains.
“I've shown a room card or nothing, at least once at every check point,” McNeilly wrote.
An intruder could bring inside the secured facility any private electronic device to potentially steal top secret data – or even weapons and explosives, since the whistleblower claims, contractors and their equipment are hardly ever being searched.
“You can carry anything through the security check points without it being checked!” he says in the report. Personnel Electronics should be banned yet the policy isn't enforced. You can bring whatever electronic devices you want onboard... They use their own personal electronics right beside the missiles.”
Lack of security checks was not because McNeilly was among the Royal Navy personnel, but because “that was a standard procedure.”
“100's of contractors go down the boat when it's alongside. Their equipment isn't searched and they are not pat down. All it takes is someone to bring a bomb onboard to commit the worst terrorist attack the UK and the world has ever seen,” he wrote.
Besides the evident security flaws, the weapons technician lists a number of equipment problems, including a seawater leak, a flooded torpedo compartment and defective toilets. His revelations include missile compartment being used as an exercise gym, and the communication system that was difficult to understand.
“There were a lot of red tags on equipment in most of the compartments we went into. I highly suspected a lot of them were for defect rectification, rather than standard maintenance Tagouts. Seeing the condition of the security and equipment made me more than concerned, for the safety of the people,” he wrote.
The state of affairs is so chaotic that McNeilly says any “psychopath” can gain access to UK’s nuclear site.
“It's just a matter of time before we're infiltrated by a psychopath or a terrorist,” he says. “There were some people that I served with on that patrol who showed clear psychopathic tendencies.”
In his testimony the runaway weapons engineer submariner also claims that the missile launch tests failed on three occasions during his serve time, meaning a successful launch would likely be impossible.
“Basically they're endangering the public and spending billions upon billions of tax payers money for a system so broken it can't even do the tests that prove it works,” he wrote.
McNeilly also writes that there was a “massive cover-up” of the HMS Vanguard submarine colliding with a French nuclear submarine, Le Triomphant, in the Atlantic in February 2009. In his report, he quotes a senior officer who was on Vanguard at the time as saying: “We thought, this is it, we're all going to die.”
The Royal Navy has launched an investigation into McNeilly’s report, calling his claims “subjective and unsubstantiated,” adding that “submarines do not go to sea unless they are completely safe.”
While acknowledging that McNeilly’s report does “not pose any security risk to our personnel or operations,” the Ministry of Defense is nonetheless working with the police to find him.
“The Navy is concerned for the whereabouts and wellbeing of able seaman McNeilly and is working closely with civilian police to locate him,” the Navy said.
The whistleblower who has not returned from his leave of absence since taking off last week, acknowledged that “the penalty for releasing this will be life prison if I’m lucky.”
“The worst fear for me isn’t prison or being assassinated, it’s the fear of sacrificing everything I have just to warn the public and yet never be heard,” the 25-year-old wrote.
Some Scottish Civil Rights organizations have welcomed the sailor’s courageous act.
“He should be commended for his action, not hounded by the Royal Navy. He has exposed the fact that Trident is a catastrophe waiting to happen - by accident, an act of terrorism or sabotage,” John Ainslie, co-ordinator of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, told The Herald.
Meanwhile the leader of SNP in London, MP Angus Robertson has called for full explanation and action remedy from the Royal Navy.
“These revelations, if true, are extremely concerning. It reads as a nightmare catalogue of serious safety breaches,” Robertson said. “Failure to follow standard safety procedures is unacceptable in any workplace but on a Trident submarine on patrol it could result in extreme tragedy, not just for those on board but indeed for the entire planet