Top-secret intelligence is said to indicate that the hi-tech heart of America’s drone programme is in Germany.
An anonymous high-level source is quoted in a joint investigation by The Intercept website and Der Spiegel magazine as saying that the US military base at Ramstein performs an essential function in the lethal strikes carried out in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa.
“Without Ramstein, drones could not function, at least not as they do now,” the source is quoted as saying.
Two years ago, allegations that the huge U.S. base in Germany was being used to facilitate drone strikes caused massive controversy. In response, Berlin claimed it had no hard evidence of Ramstein’s role.
Use of the military base is on condition that the Americans do nothing there that violates German law.
The new evidence in a series of slides is said to give details of how Ramstein relays crucial information, enabling drone operators in the American Southwest to communicate with their remote aircraft in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.
The drone strikes have been criticised for killing civilians as well as hitting terrorist targets.
The new claims may embarrass the German government, already accused of failing to challenge Washington over Ramstein’s role.
According to The Intercept, German legal officials have suggested that drone strikes are only justifiable in actual war zones – in contrast to U.S. claims that its operations against terrorist targets are legal outside such areas.