William McNeilly, the Royal Navy whistleblower who exposed security and safety flaws in Britain’s nuclear-armed submarines, has left the Navy and will not face court martial or any further punishment for his actions.
In a new nine-page report published online, he says that he has been dishonourably discharged from the Navy to protect its public image.
His report criticises the Navy for playing down the significance of his allegations that the Trident nuclear programme is a “disaster waiting to happen”, saying that it is “shocking that some people in a military force can be more concerned about public image than public safety.”
Following a brief inquiry the Ministry of Defence dismissed Mr McNeilly’s allegations as “factually incorrect or the result of mis- or partial understanding”. However, McNeilly has hit back, saying that all but three of the safety incidents he described were “either witnessed or read in documented reports on the patrol,” and that the remaining three were “described to me by experienced submariners.”
Dismissing the Navy’s enquiry, he said that “the officer who was explaining the investigation to me had never even been on a submarine”. He maintains that he was discharged from the Navy “on the claim that my sole aim was to discredit their public image.”
Mr McNeilly handed himself into police at Edinburgh Airport on 18 May, the day after his story hit the headlines. He was arrested for failing to report for duty and subsequently confined to military accommodation at HM Naval Base Portsmouth.
“All of the charges against me were dropped; there’s nothing that I can be charged with now”, he said. “Most people know that I acted in the interest of national security. However, I was still given a dishonourable discharge from the Royal Navy.”
An anonymous Naval source quoted in the Daily Telegraph said: “He is no longer in the Navy. He has not resigned and not retired.” The source said that Naval regulations allowed for a discharge when a sailor’s “views or actions are deemed incompatible with service life”.
Mr McNeilly believes more concerns on Ministry of Defence nuclear safety will come to light, and says he expects “worse” leaks to follow from other members of the armed forces. However, he warned that a balance needed to be struck between maintaining security and releasing information to demonstrate security shortfalls.
He said: “I must point out that I’m not suggesting everybody should release every bit of information they can get their hands on. Some people have no understanding of what should and shouldn’t be released.
”Don’t be like those guys who just put everything on a pen drive and release it all. All of my charges were dropped because I carefully selected information.
“There is a line between increasing security and damaging security. You must never cross that line.
”You should always start by raising your concerns from within the system. If that doesn’t work you can file a representation. I raised my concerns within the system first, but the staff never took the complaints seriously. They all thought they were salty sea dogs who knew best.”
In his new report Mr McNeilly openly criticises the need for nuclear weapons and their value as a deterrent. “When I joined the Royal Navy, I had no idea that I was going to work with nuclear weapons”, he says. When I found out I was happy. I used to think they were an essential tool in maintaining peace, by deterring war”.
“It wasn’t until I saw the major safety and security issues that I realised the system is more of a threat than a deterrent.”
Mr McNeilly believes the public were lied to about weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the Iraq war. “Now you’re being lied to about how safe and secure the nuclear weapons on your homeland are,” he says.