Pine Gap

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Pine Gap is, regardless of the political euphemisms, a US military base about 20KM South West of Alice Springs in the Macdonnell Ranges.

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23°47’47″S, 133°44’22″E
at the end of Hatt Rd which goes West from the Stuart Highway about 21 KM South of Alice.

It was established by the “Agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of the United States of America relating to the Establishment of a Joint Defence Space Research Facility [Pine Gap, NT]” signed in 1966 and amended in 1988 to drop the words ‘space research’.

It was initially used (at least officially) to monitor Soviet missile launches to both provide early warning capabilities and for the purposes of arms control verification. While its capabilities and use have always been broader than that, in recent times with increased military use and reliance on space based resources, Pine Gap has grown in size, capabilities and use to the point that it is now one of the most important US bases in the world.

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Recent revelations by Edward Snowden, Pine Gap is now engaged in foreign satellite intelligence collection as part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance’s “collect-it-all” surveillance of global internet and telecommunications traffic. (SMH 31May 2015

This means that Pine Gap is part of a global network that has as its mantra “Collect it all”.  This means that Pine Gap collects ‘all’ satellite communications it can; phones, data, internet traffic, etc and sends it directly to the US National Security Agency. Who in turn make part of it available to its Five Eyes partners, UK, Canada, New Zealand & Australia. It has also been revealed that raw data is also shared with Israel. It is the stuff of Orwellian nightmares.

For a full idea of the capabilities of this system, check out Edward Snowden’s presentation of X-Keyscore

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Pine Gap also provides targeting information for the US’ extra judicial killings by drone according to a recent report by Philip Dorling in The Age, including the killing of two Australians in Yemen last year. The Human Rights Law Centre has been seeking the legal justification for these killings, and Pine Gap’s role from the Australian Governement, so far, to no avail.

The most respected expert on Pine Gap, Des Ball, who first brought it to the public’s attention in the early 1970’s and in his own words “provide(d) the verbal conceptual justification for the facility” has recently come out and spoke about its new role:

“We’re entering – we’ve already entered into a new phase of warfare where intelligence and unmanned vehicles of various sorts – under the water, killer satellites in space, battlefield, being fed from intelligence sources like Pine Gap, still one of the two biggest stations of the sort in the world, and we’re thoroughly embedded into it. It’s now information warfare, it’s now using data directly from censors, the satellites up above, down to Pine Gap, but directly to the shooters……..The drone program puts some of these dilemmas on a plate in front of you. You have to start confronting this conflation of intelligence and operations. I don’t know how many terrorists have been killed either by drones, but I would not be surprised if the total number of children exceeds the total number of terrorists.”

Des Ball is co-author with Richard Tanter of the Nautilus Institute, Duncan Campbell & Bill Robinson of a new report on Pine Gap’s expanded capabilities. (In fact, the Nautilus Institute is probably the best place to get information on Pine Gap at a level of detail way beyond the capabilities of this website.)

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Pine Gap has also played a significant role in Australian history, with Christopher Boyce who did 25 years in a US prison for revealing Pine Gap’s spying role, claiming it played a big role in the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government. John Pilger concurs and gives a run down of the events in his article on the occasion of Whitlam’s death.

In what is perhaps the ultimate political irony, Malcolm Fraser, the man who usurped Whitlam’s position called for the closure of Pine Gap shortly before his death in his book titled Dangerous Allies saying that:

“…i’t was possible that Australia’s involvement with the satellite tracking station south-west of Alice Springs made Australians vulnerable to crimes against humanity charges.”

The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network is planning a major convergence protest at Pine Gap in the Spring of 2016 to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the original agreement. Stay tuned for more.

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