Rare glimpse at the secrets of Pine Gap spy base that directs US Pentagon drone wars.
IPAN statement against Turnbull’s excessive arms spending http://ipan.org.au/#/dwp
Central Australia’s Pine Gap spy base has taken on a new electronic surveillance role, making it a “multi-purpose mega-intelligence centre,” as Australia and our allies massively increase interception of global satellite communications, a new report by leading espionage experts has revealed. from Philip Dorling.
The United States–Australia Joint Defence Facility at 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.
The new report by Australian National University emeritus professor Des Ball, British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, Canadian intelligence researcher Bill Robinson and Melbourne University professor and Nautilus Institute researcher Richard Tanter, an independent policy think tank, draws upon secret intelligence documents leaked by former American intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and a wide range of publicly available information.
The authors, all with decades experience in researching intelligence activities, reveal a massive expansion of satellite communications surveillance capabilities by the US National Security Agency and its other Five Eyes partners, the Australian Signals Directorate, the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment and New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau.
The report shows the expansion of satellite communications interception has involved growth in the number of antennas located at Five Eyes intelligence facilities and the deployment of “multiple advanced quasi-parabolic multi-beam antennas, known as Torus, each of which can intercept up to 35 satellite communications beams.”
“There are about 232 antennas available at identified current Five Eyes FORNSAT/COMSAT [foreign satellite/communications satellite interception] sites, about 100 more antennas than in 2000,” the report states. “We conclude that development work at the observed Five Eyes FORNSAT/ COMSAT sites since 2000 has more than doubled coverage, and that adding Torus has more than trebled potential coverage of global commercial satellites.”
The Torus interception network complements well-established satellite interception facilities including those operated by the Australian Signals Directorate at Kojarena, near Geraldton in Western Australia, and Shoal Bay, near Darwin.
The report also reveals that communications satellite interception is now being conducted from the top secret Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs.
Pine Gap’s original and still most important function is to serve as the ground control station for US National Reconnaissance Office signals intelligence satellites that intercept ballistic missile test telemetry and microwave telecommunications. In addition Pine Gap relays data from US missile launch detection/early warning satellites –the Space-Based Infrared System.
As revealed by Fairfax Media in 2013, the facility also intercepts a very wide range of radio and mobile telephone communications to provide tactical intelligence support for US military operations across the Eastern hemisphere, including drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.
Professor Ball and his colleagues show that Pine Gap’s secret role in satellite communications interception probably began in the early 2000s and has been supported by the deployment of US Air Force intelligence detachments to the facility. A Torus multi-beam antenna was installed at Pine Gap in 2008.
Few details of the actual targeting of foreign satellite communications have been disclosed. However a 2012 National Security Agency document leaked by Mr Snowden revealed that the Australian Signals Directorate has accessed bulk call data from Indosat, Indonesia’s domestic satellite telecommunications network including data on Indonesian officials in various government ministries.
Professor Ball said there has been “a fundamental transformation” in the role of the Pine Gap facility from “a highly specialised mission” to a “multi-agency, multi-purpose mega-intelligence centre.”
“Pine Gap is engaged in ‘collect-it-all’ surveillance, military as well as civilian, linked directly to military operations, including drone strikes,” he said.
He pointed out there have been no official statements about the expansion of Pine Gap’s capabilities and called for “an informed public re-assessment” of the facility’s roles.
“Each of these need to be re-evaluated, publicly justified,” Professor Ball said.
Successive Defence Ministers have assured Parliament that Pine Gap operates with the “full knowledge and concurrence” of the Australian government.
In 2013 then Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the facility “delivers information on intelligence priorities such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and military and weapons developments” and that it “contributes to the verification of arms control and disarmament agreements”.
He added that “concurrence” means that the Australian government approves the presence of a capability or function in Australia but “does not mean that Australia approves every activity or tasking undertaken”.
Philip Dorling is a visiting fellow at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
October 3-10, 2015 Keep Space for Peace Week International Week of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space
Stop Drones Surveillance & Killing
No Missile Defense
No to NATO
End Corporate Domination of Foreign/Military Policy
Convert the Military Industrial Complex
Deal with climate change and global poverty
David Axe, editor-in-chief of War Is Boring, says the war in space won’t look anything like what Hollywood has long pictured. Slow moving robots, lasers and logistics will dominate combat above the skies. Axe dispels the popular myths of space as a battlefield and let’s us know what’s really going on in Earth’s orbit. Axe describes how to weaponize existing satellites, the missiles America and China have developed to knock those satellites out of the sky and the low-cost plans the Pentagon has to maintain its edge in the stratosphere.
Space for Peace newsletter
We have to protest about the US marines in Darwin. And the war preparations containing China.
Background on Darwin Peace group Basewatch http://basewatch.org/#/
Darwin protester disrupts Talisman Sabre Saturday, July 18, 2015 By Justin Tutty, Darwin
A US Navy hovercraft on Lee Point Beach near Darwin as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre. Photo: Justin Tutty
Despite standing in the water off Lee Point, right in the path of the US Navy LCAC amphibious craft, it continued to rush back and forth past me until I was removed from the area by water police. Its final pass, before I was plucked from the water by police, came so close that the bow wave knocked me over. I was disappointed that I was unable to present enough of a hindrance to at least delay them while they waited for my removal.
When I woke to the news that the US military would be conducting amphibious manoeuvres on my local beach, I decided to seize the opportunity to protest, in the context of a growing foreign military presence in and around Darwin.
This growing foreign presence has contributed to the largest ever Darwin component of the biennial Talisman Sabre war rehearsals, amid counter-strategic posturing towards China.
As someone with American family, friends and colleagues, I believe that Australia should maintain good relationships with the US. I even accept that this may include a military alliance.
But I am determined that Australia should not be dragged into every war the US might consider, and our relationship should certainly not extend to tolerating US military bases in Australia.
While it may make sense to do some joint training, we should be careful not to allow this to be abused by the US to send unhelpful signals to other nations in our region. The mainstream media has clearly detailed the way in which the US is using their growing presence in the top end to send signals to China, who have responded in kind. Rather than indulging this unhelpful interplay, I’d like Australia to play a constructive role in developing useful relationships in our region.
My lone stand in the sea off Lee Point was made in solidarity with two protesters who, at the same moment, went on to the Shoalwater Bay live-fire training range to disrupt war preparations there.
Earlier in the week, three other protesters were arrested in the same area; and then another two. These rolling protests against war preparations demonstrate community ambitions for a peaceful and independent Australia that is not tightly integrated into the US military’s attack formation.
Recent Australian Defence Force public relations have celebrated the value of “inter-operability”, as though the defence of Australia should be based on our capacity to act as an efficient component of a foreign military empire.
In reality, the more tightly we shackle ourselves to a foreign power, the less able we are to build the kind of relationships we want to have with our neighbours, and the more difficult it becomes to choose to not participate in any war that our (significantly larger) ally may choose.
Even if our parliament were to decide that the next US war of adventure is not in our strategic interests, can we really convince anyone that the US communications base at Pine Gap is not being used to command and target weapons, as it has in recent wars? Or that the US bases co-located at RAAF Darwin, RAAF Tindal and Robertson Barracks on the edge of Darwin are not giving logistical support — or even deploying — to a war in which Australia wants no part?
I am particularly motivated to take a stand against the apparently unbounded growing foreign presence in and around our town. When Prime Minister Tony Abbott came up to oversee the commencement of the war rehearsals, he left the door open to extending the scope of the US presence even further.
Already, we have all the equipment for a full Marine Air Ground Taskforce permanently located on the edge of Darwin, and a number of US Air Force assets and personnel co-located at RAAF Darwin, right in the middle of the suburbs.
Funding for a massive expansion of Tindal RAAF Base in Katherine has been announced to facilitate plans to permanently base USAF there, and we’ve heard it suggested by a US Navy leader that a further number of marines may be sited permanently just off the coast of Darwin in a sea-basing arrangement.
Add to that the unexplained “partial briefing” of the Tiwi Land Council over not only US navy use of the controversial Port Melville, but possibly even training facilities being built on the islands. Clearly in just a few short years we’ve already far exceeded the scope of the original announcement of plans to base marines in Darwin.
So I call on the community in Darwin to acknowledge this reality. Let’s be confident and clear in expressing our shared ambitions for a peaceful and independent Australia. Please add your voice to BaseWatch and join other locals who want to set sensible limits to the impacts Darwin will inevitably bear from the foreign presence, as we work towards a truly Independent and Peaceful Australia free of any foreign military bases.
More reasons to oppose the expensive purchase of the F35
The F35 is a bigger waste of money than previously thought to be the case.These military journalists are completely on board with the imperial project of the US. They are none the less scathing about the cost and utility of the F 35/JSF.
With the apparent failure of the F35/JSF,the USA may be surrendering air superiority to existing Russian and Chinese planes like the SU 35 and later the PAK 50. This may be the last generation of jet aircraft before they are replaced entirely
by a new class of unmanned robotic combat drones.
The most expensive weapon in human history fails to meet it’s own goals.
Why are we buying this? The cost savings are most significant.
Why climate change is Australia’s greatest national security issue
I recently gave my “National Security and Counterterrorism” Masters students a syndicate exercise at the end of their course requiring them to prioritise the most serious threats to Australia’s national security (with national security being defined as safeguarding the “wellbeing” rather than “survival” of Australia – “survival” being more relevant to the Cold War era).
They were given 13 threats or potential threats to consider: adverse global trends and challenges to the international system; terrorism and piracy; instability and failed or failing states; poverty, inequality, and poor governance; serious and organised crime; WMD proliferation; climate change; civil emergencies, including natural disasters and pandemics; state-led threats (such as rising powers and balance of power issues); competition for energy and resources; social cohesion; sovereignty issues (including illegal fishing and illegal entry to Australian waters and airspace) and; cyber threats.
They then had to rank them by scale of impact, geographic proximity and urgency in time, and come up with a 1-13 list in order of priority. I don’t have the space here to go through the list of outcomes, but the students’ calculations based on current intelligence projections indicated that climate change should be our top national security concern.
Most people in Australia may not think of climate change as a national security issue, but the US has been issuing reports about the national security impact of climate change since 2008
In June 2014 the US Department of Defense went further and produced a Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan focusing on the need for resilience while adapting to the impacts of climate change. It notes “Sustainability and adaptation to climate change go hand in hand”. Similar reports have been produced by the EU, NATO and Britain.
Among the sustainability aspects covered in the US plan are the need for US Defense to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make use of sustainable buildings, have better fleet management, improve water-use efficiency and management, improve pollution prevention and waste reduction, engage in sustainable procurement, have better electronic stewardship (to reduce energy use), make more use of renewable energy, and have energy efficiency-based contracts.
The plan notes that “climate change is a clear national security concern. It affects us today and is forecast to affect us more significantly in the future. The Department is taking sensible, measured steps to mitigate the mission risk posed by climate change, managing the unavoidable and preparing for the possible.”
Climate change is predicted to affect national security interests in many ways, particularly in deteriorating regions of the world already prone to conflict. Climate change can also directly influence military activity by changing areas available for training exercises and operations, reducing available water supplies, increasing flood and fire hazards, and increasing severe weather risks. The latter aspects underline the need for defence forces to be able to engage in disaster relief as a primary task.
The British Ministry of Defence’s Strategic Trends Program: Global Strategic Trends – Out to 2045 notes that “climate change, a rise in sea levels, desertification and reducing biodiversity are all issues that could affect us even more over the next 30 years. They are likely to impact on agricultural production and fishing, and could exacerbate humanitarian crises. National security impacts of climate change include major population movements, changes in disease patterns, and climate-affected changes in economic development.
In June 2015 a report released by the Australian Centre for Policy Development, The Longest Conflict: Australia’s Climate Security Challenge, warned that Australia faces a significant national security threat if defence and security policies do not urgently start to address climate change. It found that “Australia will struggle to deal with climate vulnerabilities domestically and within our region. Interviews with experts from our closest allies, the United Kingdom and United States, reveal Australia has become a laggard in taking necessary action to prepare our defence force.”
On April 4, 2014, Tony Abbott and then Defence Minister David Johnston announced that Defence would produce a new Defence White Paper to be released in 2015. The press release noted “The White Paper will include a comprehensive review of Australia’s strategic environment, including the changes underway in our region and across the globe and the implications of these changes for Australia.”
It is to be hoped that the new White Paper will recognise the importance of climate change and provide comprehensive coverage of what Australian Defence will be doing to address climate change-related challenges. It should include: improving the energy-efficiency of defence systems and facilities, preparing the Australian Defence Force for the operational impacts of climate change, and requiring all future procurements and contracts to be energy-efficient.
Clive Williams is an adjunct professor at Macquarie University’s Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism and a visiting professor at the ANU’s Centre for Military and Security Law.