FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Target Finding for the Empire: the NSA and the Pine Gap Facility

“The tasking we get at Pine Gap is look for this particular signal coming out of this particular location.  If you find it, report it, and if you find anything else of interest, report that as well.”

— David Rosenberg, former NSA Team leader, weapon’s analysis at Pine Gap, Aug 20, 2017

At times, there is a lag between the anticipation and the revelation, the assumption that an image might be as gruesome, or perhaps enlightening, as was first assumed.  Nothing in the latest Edward Snowden show suggests anything revelatory.  They knew it, as did we: that the US military satellite base spat on a bit of Australian dust in a part of the earth that would not make Mars seem out of place, is highly engaged.

Radio National’s Background Briefing made something of a splash on Sunday, with some assistance from the Edward Snowden National Security Agency trove.[1]  The documents do much in terms of filling in assumptions on the geolocating role of the facility, much of which had already had some measure of plausibility through the work of Richard Tanter and the late Des Ball.

As Tanter puts it, “Those documents provide authoritative confirmation that Pine Gap is involved, for example, in the geolocation of cell phones used by people throughout the world, from the Pacific to the edge of Africa.”[2]

“NSA Intelligence Relationship with Australia,” by way of example, discloses the NSA term for the Pine Gap facility, ironically termed RAINFALL.  “Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap (RAINFALL) [is] a site which plays a significant role in supporting both intelligence activities and military operations.”

Another document supplies some detail as to the role of the facility, confirming that it does beyond the mundane task of merely collecting signals.  It also does the dirty work analysing them.  “RAINFALL detects, collects, records, processes, analyses and reports on PROFORMA [data on surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery and fighter aircraft] signals collected from tasked target entities.”

Pine Gap has always generated a gaping accountability gap of its own, and these Snowden treats affirm the point.  Rather than being an entity accountable to the queries and concerns of the local indigenous population; rather than supplying the local members of parliament from the Senate and the lower house briefings about its activities, Pine Gap is hived off from usual channels, a reminder about how truly inconsequential democracy is in the Canberra-Washington alliance.

Pine Gap has always had its platoons of unflinching apologists, and a common theme, apart from the worn notion that the US security umbrella prevails with fortitude, is that the base is genuinely good.  In a Central Intelligence Agency’s National Intelligence Daily (Feb 13, 1987), the agency notes with approval the forthcoming Australian Defence white paper indicating strong “support or US-Australian joint defence facilities.”[3]

The publication would dispel any wobbliness on Australian military commitments, a point alluded to by the then minister for defence, Kim Beazley.  A further point was to note the “defensive” nature of the facilities, opposition to those “leftwing groups to the contrary.”

So what if Australians in the Northern Territory are ignorant that the communications facility pinpoints targets for drone strikes?  We can be assured that these are legitimate, vetted and, when struck, obliterated with fastidious care.

Much of this dressed up bunk is based on the notion, sacrosanct as it is, that drone strikes work.  They certain do on a few levels – in galvanising more recruits and liquidating more civilians. Like any military weapon, the hygienic notion of the engineered kill, the surgical operation on the battlefield, is fantasy.  If the target so happens to be embedded in an urban setting, one filled with non-combatants, the moral calculus becomes less easy to measure.[4]

The other through-the-glass-darkly feature of the Pine Gap facility lies not only in its geolocation means, but its value as a target. Having such conspicuous yet inscrutable tenants places Australia in harm’s way, a loud invitation to assault.

The CIA was already cognisant of this point in 1987, identifying awareness on the part of Australian defence officials that “the joint facilities would be attacked in a US-Soviet nuclear exchange but argues that removal of the US presence would increase the likelihood of superpower conflict.”[5] The end of the Cold War does little to dispel the significance of Pine Gap as a target of considerable interest.

Where to, then?  A firm insistence, for one, that Australia detach itself from the tit of empire, the bosom of Washington’s military industrial complex. This requires something virtually outlawed in Canberra: courage.  It has fallen upon such delightfully committed if motley outfits as the Independent and Peaceful Australian Network (IPAN), an organisation of calm determination committed to seeing Australia as something more than the grand real estate for empire.

With each disclosure, with each revelation about Australia’s all too willing complicity in facilitating strikes against foreign targets, many in countries Australians would barely know, the will to change may be piqued.  They most certainly will once Australian officials face their first war crimes charges over the use of drones, aiding and abetting their US counterparts in the whole damn awful enterprise.[6]

 

Notes.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-20/

[3] https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/

[4] http://www.drones.pitchinteractive.com/

[5] https://www.cia.gov/library/

[6] http://www.smh.com.au/comment/

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail