Britain made secret deal for attack on Cuba

A SECRET agreement allowing United States bombers to launch air-strikes against Cuba from a British base in the Bahamas during the 1962 missile crisis has been disclosed by the Campaign for Freedom of Information.

The deal - so secret that the British wanted 'nothing to be put in writing' - suggests a degree of duplicity by Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister at the time, who said in his 1973 memoirs that he had repeatedly urged President Kennedy to resist the military option during the crisis.

With the Public Record Office at Kew, west London, preparing for the annual release of 30-year British government papers on 1 January, details of the Anglo-American agreement highlight Whitehall's secrecy.

Maurice Frankel, the campaign's director, said last night that the United States had released about 15,000 pages of declassified records on the Cuban missile crisis since 1976.

'The US Freedom of Information Act is still a major source of information about British history - even about our safety,' he said. 'We still have to rely on the openness of other governments to reveal what our own government keeps secret.'

The papers show that weeks after the bungled landing by Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961 - and more than a year before Soviet missiles were detected in Cuba - the US State Department asked David Bruce, ambassador to London, to seek British permission to use a base on Mayaguana Island, in the British Bahamas, to mount air-strikes against Cuba. In a cable dated 13 May 1961, Mr Bruce was told to find out whether Whitehall would seek a 'quid pro quo, and if so, what?'

The State Department told him: 'It is our intent to use Mayaguana airfield only if no other means are available to support required number of tactical aircraft involved. We foresee there may not be sufficient aircraft carriers in (the) area to fulfil this mission. Facilities in US too distant. We recognise use of the Mayaguana airfield would require consent of HMG and that seeking (to) obtain this consent could pose political considerations (of a) most serious nature. However, unless in your view these political considerations militate against approaching HMG at this time, it is requested that appropriate steps be taken to obtain its consent . . . In this regard, you may assure (the) British no action would be taken, in terms of pre-stocking supplies or other activities which would in any way suggest contemplated tactical use of facility, until its use becomes necessary.'

British agreement to the plan was revealed in a US Marine Corps memorandum of October 1962, when the United States discovered Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba. It said: 'The British government has agreed the US may proceed with the prepositioning of supplies and equipment at Mayaguana, Bahama Islands. Conditions of the Agreement include the following: (1) Nothing is to be put in writing; (2) Facilities are not to be put to active use without prior agreement of British government.'

In the event, following a US naval blockade of Cuba, and the real fear of nuclear war, the Soviet Union backed down and withdrew the missiles. Mark Fisher, the Labour MP whose Right to Know Bill is due for its Second Reading in the Commons on 19 February, said yesterday: 'It's time we had the right to know what our government is doing in our name. Ministers should not be free to publicise the information which helps them, and suppress the rest.'

But under the terms of Mr Fisher's Private Member's Bill, information could be withheld if disclosure would cause significant damage to defence, security, foreign relations, law enforcement, privacy, and other interests - which would ensure secrecy for secret international defence agreements.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape