America’s military presence is growing in Australia. That might not be a good thing.

THE US is strengthening a network of secretive military bases across Australia that could be used for waging wars against our interests, it was claimed at a weekend summit.

Instead of fostering crucial relationships, we are allowing the US to create enemies for us with its growing strategic presence on our soil, say the academics, politicians and campaigners who gathered for the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) conference attended by news.com.au in Alice Springs this weekend.
Under a burning hot sun in the red centre, experts and citizens shared their fears over what is happening in the most remote parts of the country. These mysterious bases may be invisible to the majority of us living in the most populated regions along the coast, but could threaten the fabric of all our lives. Here’s what you need to know:

NORTH WEST CAPE — SPACE WARFARE
Perhaps the most frightening of all the bases, North West Cape is at the cutting edge of warfare — in space.
The monstrous structure sits on the northwest coast of Australia, where kilometres of wire surround a soaring central tower and others fanning off it, sucking up huge amounts of electricity.

DARWIN — TROOPS ON THE GROUND
In 2011, President Barack Obama visited Darwin to announce US troops would begin making regular visits to the Northern Territory as part of the country’s “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region.
The Gillard government agreed to the “permanent rotation of US marines and US air force aircraft”, meaning we have a constant flow of US soldiers on the ground in Australia. There are currently 1500, but this could rise to 2500.
It was this development that triggered the establishment of IPAN in 2012 as onlookers became alarmed at the move from “the invasion of nerd and computer freaks” to actual “troops in uniform with rifles”

PINE GAP — ‘THE POISONED HEART OF AUSTRALIA’
Pine Gap was established in Alice Springs in 1966 when the CIA came up with the idea of putting satellites 36,000 kilometres above the earth’s surface. These had giant antennae that could listen to very weak signals from Soviet missiles testing, allowing the agency to work out the capability of enemy weapons.
The spy base was placed in isolated Alice in the NT because at the time, the massive amount of data had to be collected over 130km of land.

OTHER BASES
The Defence Satellite Communication Station at Geraldton in Western Australia, along with Kojarena 20km inland, was one of Australia’s spy bases. It is now shared with two large American operational military communication systems that pull down information on Indonesian and Chinese satellites from the sky. This is part of the Five Eyes surveillance system used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kojarena is creating “battlefield conditions”, says Mr Doherty, providing data a soldier in Iraq can use to ascertain what’s behind a hill — the visual, weather and so on — making it “an American war fighting base”.
Australia paid $800 million for one of the satellites used by this system. But if America does not approve of an operation the Australian Defence Force requests, for example in Timor, it can turn off our access, says Prof Tanter.

So why is the US using our bases a problem? Well, we aren’t just passive bystanders. “Australia is very, very deeply involved,” says Prof Tanter. “At least we’re not locked out the way we were before, but with that comes culpability. The government seems to lack the ability to ask the question, ‘When do Australian and American interests coincide, and when do they not?’”

Shhh ... we’re not really supposed to know about this

IT’S the top secret military facility in Central Australia that plays a key role in US intelligence and military operations around the world.


But rather than protecting us from a potential enemy attack, Pine Gap’s very existence makes us an ideal target.
That’s the view of Richard Tanter, a professor in the School of Political and Social Studies at the University of Melbourne, who told news.com.au the level of data collected from Pine Gap was beyond staggering.
Prof Tanter has conducted years of research into the facility with ANU colleague and leading authority on Pine Gap, Desmond Ball, and will next week deliver a keynote speech on the potential danger it brings to Australia.
Pine Gap will be just one of several topics discussed at the independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) national conference in Alice Springs on Saturday week.
Peace activists, academics and antimilitarism groups will all travel to the red centre to mark the 50th Anniversary of Pine Gap, aiming to illustrate the huge role it plays in US military activity.
Prof Tanter, a researcher with the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, said Pine Gap remains one of the most important intelligence facilities outside of the United States today.

According to Prof Tanter, its importance to the US military is enough to make Australia a target in any major war our American ally is involved in.
He said Pine Gap allows access to satellites that could spy on every continent — except the Americas and Antarctica.

The data collected is used for drone attacks in places where Australia was not even at war, he said.
Pine Gap also plays a vital role in collecting a wide range of signals intelligence as well as providing information on early warning of ballistic missile launches.
Intelligence gathered here could be used to target nuclear weapons and is also used to support US and Japanese missile defence.

“In the centre of Australia we have Uluru and nearby its ‘evil twin’.”

Thousands protest against drones at U.S. Air Force base in Germany

Several thousand demonstrators formed a human chain along the perimeter of a U.S. Air Force Base in southwest Germany on Saturday in protest against drone operations by the United States.

Several thousand demonstrators formed a human chain along the perimeter of a U.S. Air Force Base in southwest Germany on Saturday in protest against drone operations by the United States.

The demonstration was organized by the alliance "Stop Ramstein - No Drone War", which says the Ramstein base transmits information between operators in the United States and unmanned drone aircraft in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Syria.

Police estimated 3-4,000 people had formed the chain close to the base, which serves as the headquarters for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe. Organizers spoke of 5-7,000 people. No comment was available on Saturday from officials at Ramstein.

The use of drones is highly controversial in Germany, where an aversion to military conflict has prevailed since World War Two. Organizers say allowing data for drone deployments to be routed through Ramstein goes against the German constitution and want the base's satellite relay station to be closed.

Nearly 15 years after a drone first fired missiles in combat, the U.S. military program has expanded to become an everyday part of the war machine for carrying out surveillance and launching strikes.

Critics say drones often miss their intended targets, can only partly relay what is happening on the ground and encourage warfare with impunity, waged by people at computer screens far from danger.

President Barack Obama last month approved a drone strike in a remote area of Pakistan that killed Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour. U.S. officials said he had been overseeing plans for new attacks on U.S. targets in Kabul.

Hundreds gather at Ramstein to protest US drone strikes

Carrying signs telling the U.S. military “to go home” and “to stop war,” hundreds gathered for several hours outside Ramstein Air Base on Saturday, peacefully protesting against the ongoing military activities supported by the base.

The Berlin-based alliance Stop Ramstein – no Drone War organized the demonstration.

Protesters representing various political and peace organizations from all over Germany staged by the train station in Landstuhl before walking to the parking lot outside the base’s West Gate. One lane was blocked off, and protesters marched from the parking lot to the traffic circle while dozens of German police officers stood by in partial riot gear.

One of the aims of the demonstration was to call for the end of the base’s alleged use as a satellite relay station in the U.S. drone program overseas.

one sign in English read: “No to the killer terror drones.” Another sign said: “The war is over, you can go home now.” Most protesters were friendly, flashing peace signs to passers-by. Led by a couple of German folk singers and a rapper, they sang songs, waved their arms and clapped. A few marched barefoot.

Top End beach under mock attack by USA, Japanese, Australian troops

A deserted beach south-west of Darwin is under attack in an exercise involving United States Marines and Japanese and Australian soldiers.

Fog Bay, about 70 kilometres south-west of Darwin, is where the Talisman Sabre 2015 exercise is underway.

The exercise is described by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as a "biennial combined Australian and United States training activity, designed to train our respective military forces in planning and conducting Combined Task Force operations to improve the combat readiness and interoperability between our respective forces".

interoperability - you keep using that word.