Pine Gap 2

Pine Gap

Another Episode!

Veil drawn around base's role By DUNCAN CAMPBELL Sunday 23 July 2000

Newspaper article in the Age in Australia.

R E L A T E D Secret web world of spy suspect Pine Gap becomes even more  important US intelligence officials have won a secret battle to keep Australians  from learning basic information about the purpose of the Joint Defence Facility  at Pine Gap, according to a top secret document published in Washington.

The document - a September 1995 letter from the State Department to the then  director of the National Security Agency, Vice-Admiral Mike McConnell - warns  that were the US Government even to admit that it runs electronic eavesdropping  satellites in space, there would be "undesirable repercussions" in host nations  such as Australia.

The spy-satellite disclosure is made more controversial because of the recent  revelation that Pine Gap has quietly been converted into a front-line base  for the controversial US National Missile Defence system, which differs in  name only from former President Reagan's Star Wars plan unveiled at the height  of the Cold War. It has angered Russia and China and created fears of a new  nuclear arms race.

The 1995 letter shows that US anxieties were then focused on America's three  most secret intelligence stations abroad. These control and operate a constellation  of high-tech listening satellites costing more than US$10billion. In the case  of Australia, it appears that the State Department expected that "the government  will be particularly sensitive to unfavorable speculation" about spy-satellite  bases.

After high-level discussions between US intelligence agencies, the proposal  to declassify "the fact of" overhead SIGINT (signals intelligence) collection  was rejected. Since then, Canberra and Washington have continued to refuse  to give MPs or the public information about what happens at Pine Gap. The  State Department letter, marked "Top Secret" and "Handle Via Comint (Communications  Intelligence) channels only", was obtained under the US Freedom of Information  Act by the National Security Archive, an independent group based in Washington.  Many parts of the letter were blanked out, including names of countries where  the US did not wish to admit that it ran spy-satellite bases. But according  to project director Dr Jeff Richelson "it is clear that the department was  anxious about the impact in the foreign countries where the US operates ground  stations for SIGINT satellites" - the UK (at Menwith Hill), Germany (at Bad  Aibling) and Australia (at Pine Gap). The document enlarges fears loudly expressed  last year by the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, which  said that MPs were kept in the dark about information that was given to the  US Congress or was publicly available. Members complained that although US  Congress officials had visited Pine Gap and received classified briefings  about its functions, the Treaties Committee was "entrusted with less information  than can be found in a public library".

As a result, the committee was given only limited and unverified information  by two professors from the Australian National University. One of them, Professor  Des Ball, told the committee: "I believe that we could have a statement that  confirms that there are listening satellites in operation. I think you could  say that Pine Gap is the ground station for those satellites and I think that  one could canvass the type of signals which are interceptable by those satellites.  Anyone who knows anything about signals propagation and antennae design can  work out what sort of signals are interceptable." Pine Gap, which has been  operated by US intelligence since 1968, was the ground-control centre for  the first CIA eavesdropping satellite, code-named RHYOLITE.

Controversy over Pine Gap began 25 years ago and was linked to the downfall  of the Whitlam government. Its precise functions remained secret until the  arrest of a US spy revealed that it was a CIA intelligence base, code-named  MERINO.

Although details of the plans for the expansion of Pine Gap into missile  defence have been available in Washington for years, it was only a week ago  that Australians were told that, since October 1999, Pine Gap had been "very  much" involved in NMD. Even this admission, in an interview with US Secretary  of Defence William Cohen on Channel Nine, is less than the full truth. Pine  Gap will be the front line of the planned tracking and missile defence network.  The new system, called SBIRS (Space-Based Infra-Red System) is planned to  be operational by 2004. In a third development, an aviation magazine has revealed  that Australia and the US have agreed not only to help run the controversial  space battle system, but to build a new test range in Western Australia. The  new range, north of Broome, would be allocated land extending 100 kilometres  inland. According to Flight International, the new range would allow the US  Navy to stake a larger claim in the "Star Wars" plan by testing ship-based  anti-missile systems. Simulated ballistic missiles would be launched from  Australia, and -if the tests succeeded - quickly be shot down by the US Navy.

[area51] [Australia] [Pine Gap] [UK] [Anti Gravity]

(c) Copyright 1993-2008 Rajon International