Inside Pine Gap: The Spy Who Came in from the Desert
By David Rosenberg
Hardie Grant Books, 2011
216 pages, $35 (pb)
David Rosenberg found 1960s television show Mission Impossible “irresistible” with its patriotic tales of high-tech US government spies thwarting the “bad guys”.
After an 18-year career as a US National Security Agency (NSA) electronic signals analyst at the CIA’s Pine Gap spy base in Australia’s remote interior, Rosenberg’s book, Inside Pine Gap, makes it clear that he has yet to grow up.
An electrical engineer, Rosenberg worked at Pine Gap in Alice Springs from 1990 to 2008. Pine Gap is the electronic eavesdropping, ground control base for US satellites collecting foreign signals intelligence.
Rosenberg describes his role as analysing the military capabilities of countries “that pose a threat” to the US and Australia.
Rosenberg is keen to “debunk the myths, rumours and concerns of protest organisations” by stressing that Pine Gap “does not kill babies or civilians” because it “isn’t capable of initiating either the launch or activation of any weapons”.
This is highly questionable. There is well-founded suspicion that Pine Gap has been used to target bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rosenberg himself reveals that Pine Gap was important for guiding GPS-navigated US weapons in Iraq by countering Iraq’s GPS-jammers.
Even if Rosenberg’s claim of Pine Gap having its hands off weapons triggers is true, however, the claim of Pine Gap being non-lethal is merely trivially true. The intelligence “eyes and ears” of a modern army are essential to its war-fighting capabilities.
Rosenberg spent much of his time locating enemy military and strategic targets, the better for US bombs to find them. Pine Gap, as Rosenberg also shows, locates downed US pilots, the better to return them to their job of killing.
Even though Rosenberg found the George W Bush administration’s reasons for attacking Iraq in 2003 to be groundless, he and the rest of the largely sceptical spies at Pine Gap continued to perform their patriotic duty ― to “save the lives of Americans and Australians engaged in military operations”.
In other words, supporting a horrendous war by “supporting the troops”.
The CIA doesn’t run its largest spy base outside the US to provide an economic stimulus package for Alice Springs or to run a humanitarian mission during wars.
Pine Gap exists to defend the military, political and economic interests of US capitalism and to help fight wars for these interests when deemed necessary.
The very premise of Rosenberg’s book ― that it has been approved by the NSW and the Australian government ― invalidates the book as a true account of Pine Gap. Rosenberg is not so much a whistle-blower as a trumpet-blower, loudly peddling myths useful to US governments and their spy agencies.
Rosenberg is also a huckster flogging the saccharine reassurances about Pine Gap that its Australian government hosts resort to so readily ― even though no Australian parliamentarian is allowed to enter the base.
In 1975, then-prime minister Gough Whitlam made noises about closing Pine Gap.
Subsequent prime ministers have not made the same mistake nor suffered the same fate as Whitlam ― an undemocratic sacking for, among other things, threatening the cosy world of the US military, their political masters and the US corporations they all serve.