Pine Gap trial: a case of 'national security'

June 8, 2007

The trial of the "Pine Gap Four" in Alice Springs is continuing with the Crown lawyer arguing that the jury should not be determining the reasonableness of the activists' actions. Michael Maurice QC argued that, "Engaging in activities to disrupt the implementation of public policy can never be reasonable".

While Justice Sally Thomas ruled against this, she did agree to Maurice's request that the Crown be immune from disclosing operations at Pine Gap on the basis of "national security".

Four members of Christians Against All Terrorism — Bryan Law, Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie and Donna Mulhearn — conducted a citizens' inspection of Pine Gap in December 2005 to highlight Australia's critical role in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Previous incursions into the top secret US-Australia spy base have resulted in charges of trespass at worst. But Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has charged the Pine Gap Four under the previously unused Defence (Special Undertakings) Act of 1952. The act carries a sentence of up to seven years' jail.

Mike Burgess, deputy chief of the facility, suggested that national security would probably be better served by disclosure, not secrecy. He revealed that, while only four Australian MPs have access to the base, all members of the US Congress can enter. He could not give a reason why. Nor could he explain why this law from the Cold War period was being used, for the first time.

Burgess admitted that no authority from the East Arrente people had been sought, or granted, to use their land as a military base, and confirmed that "Pine Gap contributes to timely US and Australian knowledge that has military significance". The Pine Gap Four, on the other hand, had requested and received permission for their action with Patrick Hayes, a senior Indigenous custodian, who declared, "This mob is a good mob".

Australian Federal Police officer Ken Napier told the court that in the half hour before the citizens' inspection more than 30 false alarms had gone off due to heightened security at the base in anticipation of the inspection. He said that he told Mulhearn before the inspection, "You'd need a miracle to breach security at Pine Gap".

For progress reports on the trial, which will continue this week, visit . For background information, visit .

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