Source – theguardian.com
– A Royal Navy submariner who blew the whistle on a catalogue of alleged security failings around the Trident nuclear programme has said he will hand himself in to police.
Analysis Trident whistleblower needs to be listened to, even if he is exaggerating
We do not have to believe Able Seaman William McNeilly to be anxious about the picture he paints of the problems with UK fleet of nuclear submarines
Able Seaman William McNeilly, 25, a newly qualified engineer, claimed that Britain’s nuclear deterrent was a “disaster waiting to happen” in a report detailing 30 alleged safety and security breaches, including a collision between HMS Vanguard and a French submarine during which a senior officer thought: “We’re all going to die.”
McNeilly wrote that a chronic shortage of personnel meant that it was “a matter of time before we’re infiltrated by a psychopath or a terrorist; with this amount of people getting pushed through”.
The police and the navy launched a hunt for McNeilly after he failed to report back for work last week at the Faslane submarine base on the Clyde. But on Monday morning he said he would hand himself over to the authorities despite facing a possible prosecution under the Official Secrets Act 1989.
William McNeilly’s Royal Navy identity card
William McNeilly’s Royal Navy identity card. Photograph: William McNeilly/Scribd.com/Handout
Speaking to the BBC, McNeilly said: “I’m not hiding from arrest; I will be back in the UK in the next few days and I will hand myself in to the police.
Prison – such a nice reward for sacrificing everything to warn the public and government. Unfortunately that’s the world we live in. I know it’s a lot to sacrifice and it is a hard road to walk down, but other people need to start coming forward.”
In the 19-page report, titled The Secret Nuclear Threat and published online alongside a picture of his UK passport and Royal Navy identity card, McNeilly said he wanted “to break down the false images of a perfect system that most people envisage exists”.
He described bags going unchecked and said it was “harder getting into most nightclubs” than into control rooms, with broken pin code systems and guards failing to check passes. “All it takes is someone to bring a bomb on board to commit the worst terrorist attack the UK and the world has ever seen,” he wrote.
McNeilly, who said he was on patrol with HMS Victorious from January to April, accused navy bosses of covering up a collision between HMS Vanguard and a French submarine in the Atlantic Ocean in February 2009.
At the time Ministry of Defence officials played down the incident and said the Vanguard had sustained only “scrapes”. But McNeilly said a navy chief who was on board at the time told him afterwards: “We thought, this is it – we’re all going to die.”
The more senior submariner allegedly told McNeilly that the French vessel “took a massive chunk out of the front of HMS Vanguard” and grazed the side of the boat. Bottles of high-pressured air came loose in the collision, he claimed, meaning the British submarine had to return slowly to Faslane to prevent them from exploding.
He also raised concerns about a number of his fellow seamen, including one whose hobbies he claimed were killing small animals and watching extreme pornography. Another submariner, whom he named only as “Pole”, had threatened to kill two fellow navy personnel and was routinely aggressive, McNeilly claimed.
He described how HMS Vanguard’s missile compartment doubled up as a gym, leading to potentially disastrous mishaps when seamen dropped weights near the boat’s missile firing system.
McNeilly said he raised these and other concerns through the chain of command on multiple occasions, but that “not once did someone even attempt to make a change”.
The whistleblower also revealed that there had allegedly been a fire in the missile compartment when the boatwas in harbour. He claimed the blaze was sparked by overheated cables setting light to stacks of toilet roll. “The chief said if it had been at sea there would’ve been about 50 dead bodies on three deck because of the amount of people struggling to find an emergency breathing system,” he claimed.
McNeilly said his decision to go public was “the easiest yet most painful” of his life, and that he had “sacrificed everything” to make the claims.
He wrote that he was hopeful of receiving a pardon from David Cameron when he handed himself in to the police. “I also believe it’s in the prime minister’s best interests to release me. Prosecuting someone for alerting the people and the government to a major threat isn’t a good image for any government,” he added.
Angus Robertson, the Scottish National party leader in Westminster, described the claims as extremely concerning and said the allegations add weight to calls to scrap Trident altogether.
He said: “It reads as a nightmare catalogue of serious safety breaches aboard and alongside these nuclear-armed submarines … Shortages of all types of crew on these submarines has been well-documented and the description of personnel in extremely stressful situations must be alarming given the huge responsibility some of these sailors are given.
“Failure to follow standard safety procedures is unacceptable in any workplace but on a Vanguard submarine on patrol it could result in extreme tragedy not just for those on board but indeed for the entire planet.”
A Royal Navy spokeswoman said on Monday that the service disagreed with McNeilly’s assessment, describing the report as containing “a number of subjective and unsubstantiated personal views”.
The spokeswoman said it was right for the allegations to be investigated but that the publishing of the report did not pose a security risk. She added: “The Royal Navy takes security and nuclear safety extremely seriously and we are fully investigating both the issue of the unauthorised release of this document and its contents.
“The naval service operates its submarine fleet under the most stringent safety regime and submarines do not go to sea unless they are completely safe to do so.”