Pine Gap’s role in tackling terrorism

Defence Minister Christopher Pyne has delivered a stunning statement about Australia’s secretive military intelligence facility in Alice Springs that contains veiled warnings for the nation’s allies and “potential adversaries” alike.

It comes in the same week Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed foreign spies had launched a “sophisticated” cyber attack on Parliament House’s computer network and the nation’s three major political parties on February 7 and 8.

China is the key suspect, according to cyber and strategic policy expects, but authorities say they have yet to determine which country is actually behind the attack.

Today, Mr Pyne made a rare public statement about Pine Gap, a defence intelligence facility in the Northern Territory which Australia operates jointly with the US.

In his speech, Mr Pyne declared America to be Australia’s “most important ally” and notes “potential adversaries” should understand an attack on Australia is an attack on its alliance with the US.

Pine Gap facility essential to USA drone strikes

A group of Christian activists on trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court for entering the top-secret facility are arguing they did it to defend possible victims of drone strikes.

Timothy Webb, Andrew Paine, Margaret Pestorius and James Dowling are all charged with entering the prohibited area without a permit, while Mr Webb is also charged with filming while on the base, on September 29, 2016.

They have all admitted to climbing through a 1.2-metre high barbed-wire perimeter fence, but are seeking a defence based on self-defence and the defence of others.

The accused face a maximum of seven years in jail if found guilty.

Professor Richard Tanter, from the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, has written extensively about the secretive base and was called as a witness by the accused.

He told the court Pine Gap was "perhaps the most important US intelligence facility outside the US".

He said Pine Gap was "an essential part" of US drone strikes, as it could intercept signals such as mobile and satellite phones and radio communications, and help locate the source of them.

This information is then passed onto the US National Security Agency (NSA), which can then pass it on to the military or other agencies for possible drone strikes, Professor Tanter said.

The group had plans to enter the base three nights before they were arrested, but were discovered by police when they stopped for a rest outside the perimeter fence.

Pine Gap nuclear role - and the alternative

Leading politicians in South Korea and Japan are talking up the need for their own nuclear weapons, and Donald Trump is not saying no.

So, it’s hardly surprising that 122 countries voted at the United Nations in July to pass the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons.

Rather more surprisingly, but gratifyingly, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the Melbourne-born International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for its work leading to the nuclear ban treaty.

At root, building more nuclear weapons and banning nuclear weapons are the two logical opposite responses to the fact that there are still thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert.

With sober-minded experts putting the chances of war in Korea at 50/50, any thought of war with 75 million Koreans living in an area the size of Victoria is horrific, even if, by sheer dumb luck we avoid escalation to nuclear war.

Pine Gap will be central to US planning and operations for a Korean war, nuclear or ‘conventional’.

Here in Australia, the next task is to get the ALP to pledge to sign the ban treaty as soon as it takes office. And then, before we can ratify the treaty, the two struggles to bring Australia into compliance will begin. The first is to abandon the bipartisan commitment in our defence policy to reliance on US nuclear protection – the extended nuclear deterrence policy. The second, of course, is the reform of Pine Gap to require the removal of all nuclear-related activities from the base’s operations.

Stealth party to mark 50 years of Pine Gap

K. This is top secret. Pine Gap is turning 50 and will be celebrating the occasion with a stealth party.

As of course they would.

When? According to Donald Trump’s contacts in Moscow it will be this weekend.

It will be big.

There will be a dinner on Saturday at the Convention Centre and there will be something at the spy base – best guess it will be just outside the gates.

The local A-list of movers and shakers have been invited the the dinner which – according to our sources, well informed as they are, will include Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Local VIPs will include Minister Dale Wakefield and Councillor Jamie de Brenni.

Not that the Convention Centre will let anything slip: “Unfortunately the details of this weekend’s event are not available for public release,” is what we were told.

According to the Australian head of the base (she introduced herself as Barbara) there will be no media passes.

Chansey Paech, the Member of Parliament in which Pine Gap operates, did not score an invitation.

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.