The Pine Gap military spy base was established 50 years ago on the traditional lands of the Arrernte people, about 20 kilometres outside of Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory.
Pine Gap is supposedly a joint US-Australian defence facility, but very little of it is “joint” or “defence” related.
The Australian government has no authority to enter the base, which is vital to the US' aggressive collection of internet and satellite data. Through the use of this data, Pine Gap has made critical contributions to US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially in terms of targeted US drone assassinations.
Pine Gap has responsibility for controlling US spy satellites passing over China, large parts of Russia and the Middle East, all of which are of strategic importance for the US.
Documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden show Pine Gap is also used in the PRISM surveillance program conducted by US intelligence agencies.
Beginning on September 26, a five-day Close Pine Gap protest convergence will take place near the facility to protest the continued presence of the US base.
It will be followed by a National Peace and Anti-War Gathering hosted by the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) in Alice Springs from September 30 to October 2.
The continued role of US bases and troops in Australia will be assessed at the conference, which will focus on Pine Gap, the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS), Australia-United States Ministerial Consultation (AUSMIN) talks and the Five Eyes Intelligence Network.
ANZUS forms the basis of a military alliance between Australia and the US, and binds the two countries to cooperate specifically on military matters in the Pacific region, and conflicts worldwide more generally.
AUSMIN is the main annual forum for consultations between Australia's foreign affairs and defence ministers and US secretaries of state and defence.
The Five Eyes Intelligence Network is a secretive, global surveillance arrangement involving the US NSA, Britain's Government Communications Headquarters, Communications Security Establishment Canada, the Australian Signals Directorate and New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau.
The Five Eyes alliance was initiated in 1946 to share intelligence. For almost 70 years, it has built up a global surveillance infrastructure capable of spying on the world's communications.
The conference hopes to build a broad public dialogue and develop campaigns around these issues.
Confirmed speakers at the conference include Greens senators Lee Rhiannon and Scott Ludlam, former Western Australia senator and founder of the Nuclear Disarmament Party Jo Vallentine, Professor Lisa Natividad from Guam and Professor Kosuzu Abe from Okinawa, Japan.
[For more information about the Stop Pine Gap camp visit closepinegap.org. To find out more about the IPAN conference visit the IPAN website.]