Pine Gap on standby as North Korea hints at war

THE Territory’s Pine Gap military intelligence base just outside Alice Springs is reportedly on standby as North Korea warns it is ready for “war” amid escalating tensions with the US.

The NT News understands the US has notified Australia that it is prepared to shoot down any missiles launched, potentially putting the Central Australian spy base in the firing line as a target in the event of a major conflict.

The top secret military facility plays a key role in US intelligence and military operations throughout the world.

It plays a vital role in collecting a wide range of signals intelligence as well as providing information on early warning of ballistic missile launches.

America announced on Monday that the USS Carl Vinson, loaded with fighter jets, had been pulled from its planned military exercises in Australia and ordered towards the Korean Peninsula.

Three guided-missile destroyers and cruisers joined the armada, which left from Singapore on Saturday.

In its response to America’s naval movements, the North Korean foreign ministry said the US’s “reckless moves for invading the DPRK have reached a serious phase,” and issued the warning that it was ready for war, AFP reported.

Professor Richard Tanter from the School of Political and Social Studies at the University of Melbourne has conducted years of research into the facility and says Pine Gap’s importance to the US military is enough to make Australia a target in any major war our American ally is involved in.

At a recent conference in Alice Springs he said rather than protecting the town from a potential enemy attack, Pine Gap’s existence makes it an ideal target.

He said in recent years Pine Gap had taken on a far more strategic role, including forming part of the controversial US missile defence system.

He says the early warning defence system was vital in detecting a potential North Korean missile “Pine Gap is used for nuclear war planning,” he said. “Today it is used for signals intelligence and as an early warning system.

“I’m not saying Pine Gap has no benefit. But when the benefits are far outweighed by dangerous consequences then that has implications for us.”

North korea hints, USA threatens.

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?’”

Pine Gap’s new spy role revealed

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.

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.

communications satellite interception is now being conducted from the top secret Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs.

Australian intelligence 'feeding data' used for deadly US drone strikes

Top secret documents leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden are likely to reveal new details of Australia's support for deadly US drone strikes. Meanwhile, human rights lawyers have called for a UN investigation of the killing by drones of two Australian citizens in Yemen last year. The Centre has also sought an investigation of the role of the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs in supporting US drone strikes.

Australian government “needs to come clean” about its support for US drone operations. “Thousands of civilians have been killed as a result of US drone strikes. We currently have no way of knowing whether our security forces are supporting unlawful killing of civilians.”