Daily Archives: June 11, 2007

Pine Gap: Crime and Punishment

*warning – this article contains information that has been withheld from the jury in the trial of the Pine Gap Four in Alice Springs in June 2007.

The government, the attorney general, the minister for defence, commonwealth lawyers, the prosecution and the judge in this has have used the law to hide from the jury the facts of this case.

If you are a member of the jury you are prohibited by the Justice system from reading the article below!*

Where is Pine Gap, what is it?

Pine Gap is in the central desert of Australia near Alice Springs. It is one of the largest satellite ground stations in the world, covering an area of 4398 acres and 20 perches. Pine Gap consists of ‘radomes’ [pictured below] that that have satellite dishes inside the outer dust proof shield.

Pine Gap was gazetted in 1967 as a restricted area by the then Defence Minister, Allen Fairhall and the Australian people were told that it was a space research station. This was a lie. This official cover-up lasted for the next 25 years.

The truth is the US military run Pine Gap to locate its nuclear targets throughout former Soviet Union but also China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq.

The U.S.-Australian Alliance

Head of the School of Strategic Studies at ANU, Prof Des Ball, stated in 1999 that Pine Gap gives:

“a good picture of missile developments in, over the years, not just the former Soviet Union but also China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere in an area that stretches from the Middle East across to the western Pacific.”

from JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON TREATIES Reference: Pine Gap MONDAY, 9 AUGUST 1999 CANBERRA. (This is an uncorrected proof of evidence taken before the committee.)

Pine Gap is an important part of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s world-wide intelligence setup.

“The CIA and National Security Agency are in control of Pine Gap today” comment by former CIA Agent on Channel Nine program “Inside Pine Gap” 1986 by Bob Plastowe.

Journalist Bob Plastowe asked US Senator Cohen from the committee into Intelligence : “Do you trust the CIA?” His answer was “90% to 95% of the time they (the CIA) live within the rules“. Many CIA employees are stationed at Pine Gap. Prof. Ball says that since the 1991 Gulf War started:

“The number of personnel there (Pine Gap) has now reached nearly 900 and the number of satellite ground dishes is now 26 which is about double what it was in the mid-1990s. It’s really been a very remarkable increase.”

Prof. Ball says that Pine Gap is used in advanced weapons development, such as ballistic missiles, used for arms control verification; signals from anti-missile and anti-aircraft radars; transmissions intended for communications satellites; and microwave emissions, such as long distance telephone calls.

The three major bases on Australian soil, Pine Gap, Nurrungar and North-West Cape were all of high importance to the US during the 1960’s and 70’s. Since the Gulf Wars in Iraq, Pine Gap has become more important. In 1999 the following Defence submission was made to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties inquiry into the Agreement to extend the period of operation of the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap :

The systems supported by Pine Gap will evolve to meet the demands of the post Cold War era, and it is expected that Pine Gap will remain a central element in our cooperation with the United States well into the next century.

Protest

In the 1980s people concerned with the military use of the US bases in Australia began a series of protests at the bases. In 1989, protestors went to Nurrungar (whose function was later transferred to Pine Gap).

The defence minister at the time, Beazley, called out the army against the protestors:

In early October 1989 the Minister for Defence (Beazley) called in the troops to back-up the South Australian police officers in charge of enforcing the law against demonstrators at the Nurrungar joint defence facility. As events transpired, ADF personnel did not come into contact with the protesters who, it seems, were unaware of the presence of the troops [not true].
If the troops had been needed to help control the protesters, as must have been anticipated when they were rushed to the base, then it seems most likely that the use of force would have been involved.
Four-hundred-and-ninety-two people were arrested during the course of the five-day protest…” (Report by Senate Estimates Committee concerning the use of force against protestors @ http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rp/1997-98/98rp08.htm#GENERAL

The Case of the Pine Gap Four

The Pine Gap Four are four people who walked onto the base at Pine Gap on 9 December 2005.

It was a non-violent protest on a minor scale.

But Government Ministers Hill and Ruddock have blown it all out of proportion because the government do not want Pine Gap exposed for what it is.

The Australian government wants Pine Gap closed off from review by the Australian people.

So the Commonwealth has dragged the PG4 into a lengthy trial in the Northern Territory Supreme Court, here wasting everyone’s time and tax-payers money; not to get at justice, but to try to create precedents for hiding the facts about Pine Gap from the Australian people.

 

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The Pine Gap case has been going on since December 2005 after four people entered the base on foot.

The Pine Gap Four (PG4) are charged with intentionally damaging property, namely outer and inner man proof fences situated on the northern perimeter of the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap, belonging to the Commonwealth. The Pine Gap base is situated on the lands of the Arrente people. They are the traditional custodians of the land.

The PG4 are also charged under the Defence Special Undertaking Act 1952 [DSU Act] which prohibits entering the base and taking photos.

The jury trial in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory is entering its third week.

The players, the evidence

Judge Sally Thomas is the star of the trial. She is being courteous to the PG4 and letting them testify as to their beliefs to prevent any possible grounds for appeal. So far Judge Sally Thomas has ruled against the PG4 on every major legal issue.

The judge ruled supporting the use by the Attorney General and Minister of Defence of out-of-date cold war legislation, the DSU Act, against the PG4.

She ruled in favour of the crown when it claimed Parliamentary Privilege to prevent important information about the use of the base in war. Here is how the barrister for the commonwealth prevented the jury from hearing the evidence given by Prof Des Ball to an Australian Senate committee on treaties (to permit the CIA running the US base here at Pine Gap).

The judge stated:

HER HONOUR: Thank you. Well, I propose to make a ruling on the arguments that have been put forward on this issue of the Parliamentary Privileges Act. I have had the opportunity to read and consider the submissions of Mr Begbie on behalf of the Commonwealth, both written and oral. I have also had obviously an opportunity to hear from the defendants as to what they want to say on this issue of the Parliamentary Privileges Act.

In considering the arguments that have been put to the court, I rule that the … (the Joint Finance Committee documents) … are not admissible in accordance with s 16 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act in the proceedings before this court. The transcript of a program on SBS Dateline dated 17 May 2000 which was exhibit M11 is not admissible so far as it makes reference to a Parliamentary Committee.”

The PG4 (clearly opposed to Pine Gap) wish to call evidence from Prof Ball. This is an indication how open the PG4 defence has been. Des Ball’s evidence to the JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON TREATIES concerning Pine Gap has not yet been heard by the jury. It was Des Ball who on MONDAY, 9 AUGUST 1999 came out in favour of Pine Gap with the following words:

“The one which I have had to force myself to come out in support of is Pine Gap, simply because I regard the intelligence which is collected there as critically important and collectable in no other way. I do not see any alternative other than to have Pine Gap here. That is whether one is concerned about monitoring, proliferation of ballistic missiles, nuclear proliferation or other advanced weapon systems in our region.”

According to Prof. Ball, Pine Gap is supposed to be a prime nuclear target. During the cold war Prof Ball said it was targeted by the Soviet Union, it is not clear who he means now. However Prof. Ball is opposed to the secrecy surrounding Pine Gap, particularly the refusal by the Americans to say what they are doing in there.

Governments play on the fear of ‘foreign attack’ and it gets them votes (regardless of political colour). Otherwise why would Howard and Beazley have been known to play the national security card. Remember it was Beazley who called out the army against the protestors at Nurrungur in 1989.

The judge also ruled that the public interest is to be served by preventing the defence making the link between Pine Gap and the Iraq war. The law calls this ‘public interest immunity’.

There was no defence barrister to argue the law of parliamentary privilege with the crown. Parliamentary Privilege is not the closed book that the argument in court would have us believe. In the High Court case Sankey v Whitlam it was ruled that a trial judge alone must weigh up whether justice will served by the examination of documents held by the parliament. Cabinet papers have been scrutinised by the courts.

The judge may however allow some evidence about Pine Gap to convince the appeal court that she acted fairly toward the PG4. For example she said that “Certain statements in the transcript which are exhibit M11 made by Professor Des Ball in the course of an interview which make no reference to the Parliamentary Committee are not excluded under the provisions of the Parliamentary Privileges Act.” However the prosecution may seek to exclude them under the rules of evidence.

When the judge sums up to the jury at the end of the trial, the judge may direct the jury there is no evidence there is a link between Pine Gap and the bombing of Iraq. The judge may tell the jury that the political or moral motivations of the PG4 are irrelevant.

The judge has asked the PG4 to look closely at the Criminal Code over the Queens Birthday Weekend and to consider the argument of the prosecution that the implementation of Government policy is not for a jury to decide but for “a matter for the representatives of the Australia community elected in accordance with our constitution”

The judge said they should look closely at the prosecution argument:

“To allow a jury to deliberate on such a matter would undermine and threaten our system of Government, making it a matter for the accused rather than the elected representatives of the people to decide which laws they will obey” If the judge rules this way on Tuesday 5 June 2007 there will not be much of a legal defence left to the PG4.”

Unfortunately jurors tend to follow judge’s instructions in criminal cases.

A penalty of seven years imprisonment is provided as a maximum penalty under the DSU Act. The defence contractor, Raytheon, claim that there is $12,000 worth of damage to the fences and alarm system. Jim Dowling has evidence that this is not correct. Yet he has been told by the prosecution that this is not relevant. The judge has ruled against him questioning the amount of the damage. The court has not seemed perturbed by the useless alarm system provided by one of the worlds largest arms suppliers at great expense to the taxpayer. While the Australian Defence force loses 8 rocket launchers in Sydney, while the Australian Wheat Board gives $300 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein the PG4 have to wear a $12,000 bill for damage to an alarm system that they did not actuate.

If the jury finds the PG4 guilty the judge will likely use the quantum of damage claimed by the unscrupulous contractor, Raytheon, against the accused. The judge may misinterpret the principled stand of the PG4 and call it lack of remorse for their actions. Thereby the judge may increase the penalty against them.

Crown Prosecutor, Hilton Dembo, is the Commonwealth’s leading man. The PG4, Donna Mulhearn, Bryan Law, Adele Goldie and Jimmy Dowling have been assigned minor roles in the court as the accused.

In the Alice Springs courtroom the local working class jury look on. We have no idea what they are thinking. A couple of women in the jury appear to be sneering at the accused. Like Lindy Chamberlain in the Alice Springs supreme court of 1980, the accused are all confessed Christians. A jury found Chamberlain guilty of the murder of her first daughter, Azaria, on October 29, 1982 and she was sentenced to life imprisonment. Her conviction was later overturned.

Back to the PG4 trial in Alice Springs June 2007. Hilton Dembo, prosecutor, has cut his teeth in the law making sentencing submissions against 51-year-old Indonesians pleading guilty to importing ecstasy and ice into Australia. This may be his chance to enter a new area of law apart from the prosecutor’s lot — the mire of drugs and social decay.

Lawyers representing the Commonwealth Government have competed with Mr Dembo to claim the prize scalps of the accused Pine Gap Four.

Yet the PG4 have already admitted entering the Pine Gap base on 9 December 2005 to inspect that integral part of the US war machine. Before they went the PG4 told the minister, the federal police, the local police, and the security officers at Pine Gap, in fact anyone who would listen that they were going to walk into Pine Gap and inspect the base.

Who owns Pine Gap?

The PG4 took the important step of asking permission from the traditional owners of the land at Pine Gap, the Arrente people. In late 2005, a tribal spokesperson, Pat Hayes gave them permission to enter the land. Of course the crown opposed this evidence being presented. Here is the argument in court:

THE ACCUSED, DOWLING: When was the Base opened at Pine Gap?

MR BURGESS (deputy chief of Pine Gap Base) —When was it opened?

DOWLING: Yes?

BURGESS —They started work at the facility in 1967.

DOWLING: Are you aware of any contract or agreement with the eastern Arrente people who were there for the previous 40,000 years before that?-

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BURGESS –Am I aware of any agreement with them?

DOWLING: To take over that land?

BURGESS —I don’t believe there was any agreement with them.

DOWLING: Right, so the land was just taken?

BURGESS —The land was acquired by the Commonwealth.

DOWLING: So you would understand if some people would think that it was still owned by the Arrernte people if there was never a new agreement to take – – –

HER HONOUR: Mr Dowling, that is not relevant and Mr Burgess cannot give evidence about how some other people may feel.

DOWLING: My contention is that it belongs to Eastern Arrente people and we were given permission by the traditional caretaker of that land to be there that night and we’re going to produce more evidence in regard to that.

The Politicians and Public Servants

The commonwealth lawyers are not alone in the hunting down of these warriors of faith and justice. The cast of commonwealth officers involved in the case runs into hundreds, Attorney General Ruddock, former Defence Minister Hill, Australian Federal police, public servants, an ASIO agent, even a person employed in the commonwealth map shop in Alice Springs. And this is not to mention the local Northern Territory police, the local hardware shop assistant, a joy flight pilot at Alice Springs (PG4 members took a flight in an attempt to see the base from the air), the list goes on.

Arrayed against the PG4 in December 2005 was the most sophisticated alarm system joint US and Australian ‘defence’ contractor, Raytheon, had to offer. Only one problem. There are kangaroos and snakes out there in the desert at Pine Gap. There are stray cows from nearby farms. These animals constantly set off the alarm signals that are fed back by the latest telecommunications technology to Florida USA. The security guards response? They turn off the alarms when it all gets too much. They ignore them when they feel like it. Yet at 4.07 am on 9 December 2005 an alarm went off that the officer David Derricks said he did not ignore. The guard immediately looked at the video camera that locked onto the point in the outer man-proof fence when the alarm was actuated. Nothing there. He rang for assistance. A car was sent to investigate. Still nothing there. It was not for another 12 minutes that Dowling and Goldie went through the bottom of the wire fences to climb a building called the CMAP building (pictured in foreground). Click to download the report showing the Faulty Alarms at Pine Gap that misled officer David Derricks.

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It was on the roof of the CMAP building that Adele Goldie and Jim Dowling were apprehended by security at the base. Dowling was handcuffed and his face was shoved down into the tin roof of the building by security.

Hilton Dembo for the Crown has come up with a cunning repost to the PG4, they can say what they did, they can even say that successive Australian governments (both Liberal and Labor governments) took the law into their own hands by prosecuting illegal wars against the Iraqi people, that these governments used space research as a front for use of Pine Gap in pre-emptive strikes against a harmless people.

But the court cannot hear any evidence that demonstrates what the PG4 are saying is true. But more than that, the prosecution is permitted to repeat time and again that all their motives are unreasonable. The star judge has already ruled that the prosecutions case is true and valid. The judge has already ruled that the jury cannot hear what Professor Des Ball of the Strategic Studies Centre, ANU has to say about Pine Gap since the 1991 Gulf War started.

Even the testimony given by Prof Des Ball to the Joint Senate Committee about Pine Gap providing signals, communications and intelligence to assist US ballistic missiles bomb targets in Iraq and Afghanistan has been excluded by the judge.

How has this been allowed to happen?

Judge Sally Thomas, an officer of the Citizens Military Forces (the Australian army reserve), has queried the relevance of anything that goes to the heart of the case against the accused, witness this exchange:

When Mr Burgess (yet another lawyer acting for the commonwealth) claimed that Pine Gap was used as a joint space research defence facility – one of the accused Jim Dowling said “are you serious” – what planets were they researching? When the Judge queried why this might be relevant, Jim stated that it was because everyone had lied about the base.

Of this we can be certain. As early as 1967 the then Minister or Defence Allen Fairhall declared under the Defence Special Undertaking Act 1952 that Pine Gap is a Space Research Defence facility[1]. This untruthful declaration was finally replaced by a new equally untruthful declaration by the Labor Defence Minister Robert Ray in the early 1990s. The new declaration claimed that Pine Gap was needed for the defence of Australia.

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Picture shows US Military plane landing at Alice Springs to deliver and pick up materials for Pine Gap.

Statements by the defence

Contrast this with the unique perspective of Donna Mulhearn who went to Iraq to witness first-hand the bombing of Fallujah. How the missiles are guided to their target by signals intelligence that is fed through Pine Gap. Now the judge says this is mere assertion by the accused. Yet Sally Thomas has not allowed the defence to prove the truth of their claims by skilfully saying she will permit cross-examination of the crown witnesses only to the extent that it may show what was in the mind of the accused at the time of their entering Pine Gap.

Jim Dowling gave evidence about his reasons for going to Pine Gap:

So, in – after the war started in 2003, I had a computer for the first time in my life, and I would read stuff about what was happening in Iraq every night, or a lot of nights, after you put the kids to bed, you turn on the computer and overall I don’t follow sport or anything else much, haven’t got many hobbies, don’t go out much with lots of kids, and so I read lots of horror stories about what was happening over there.

And I could have a pile of papers bigger than some of our legal friends have had here of those stories, but one story stuck with me, and I’d just like to read out a bit of it if I can, and submit it as something that – has informed my belief ever since. It is an article written for The Independent newspaper in the United Kingdom by Robert Fisk who is one of the well, one of the most famous journalists in the world, I suppose.

He spent 20 or 30 years in the Middle East reporting on various wars there, etcetera. And it is dated 2 April 2003, The Independent reports on a bombing that is, I realised at the time, and still realise today that it is quite possible Pine Gap had a role in. Here we go, I’ll give it a try, and the first part of it goes like this: ‘At least 11 civilians, 9 of them children – – –

Jim Dowling could not go on. Donna Mulhearn described what happened:

…then Jim (Dowling) took the stand. He talked about phoning the anti-terror hotline in 2003 to report Pine Gap and shared how the stories coming back from Iraq about civilian deaths were affecting him. He started reading a news report about civilian deaths but broke down in tears when it mentioned that nine children were killed in a bombing.

The judge adjourned the court and every(one) left quietly to the sound of Jim sobbing.

There was not a dry eye in the place, the court attendants, the security guards, everyone was affected. It was a very powerful moment.”

Here is the rest of what Jim Dowling had to say:

‘At least 11 civilians, nine of them children were killed in Iraq – in Central Iraq yesterday according to reporters in the town who said they appeared to be victims of bombing. Razak(?) Kazeem Kajaf(?) grieves over the bodies of his children who are in the southern province of Babylon.

Kajaf lost 15 members including six children of his family, as his car was bombed by coalition helicopters while fleeing Al Haradia(?) towards Babylon. Reported from the Reuters Newsagency said that counted the bodies of 11 civilians and two Iraqi fighters in a Babylon suburb, 50 miles south of Baghdad. Nine of the dead were children. One a baby.

A hospital worker said as many as 33 civilians were killed. Terrifying film of women and children later emerged from the Reuters Newsagency Associated Press were permitted by the Iraqi authorities to take their cameras into the town. The pictures, the first by western newsagency is from the Iraq side of the battlefront showed babies cut in half and children with amputation wounds apparently caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs.

Much of the videotape was too terrible to show on television and the agencies in Baghdad editors felt able to only send only a few minutes of a 21 minute tape that included a baby – holding pieces of his baby and screaming ‘cowards, cowards’ into the camera. Two lorry loads of bodies including women in floral dresses could be seen outside the hospital.’ I’d like to submit that as evidence if I could.’

Conclusions

The American Chief of Pine Gap should be called to give evidence of the real nature of the base to challenge the various ministerial declarations that the base is merely a Space Research Defence Facility.

For that matter the minister for defence and the Attorney General should also be called to explain why they have invoked the Defence Special Undertakings Act to continue the 40 year cover-up of the function of Pine Gap. But that is never going to happen. The justice system would never allow it. The principle of the separation of powers so often touted by the Commonwealth in the case is a ruse to keep from the jury, the Australian people, people everywhere, the sorry role of Pine Gap in war.

There is truth in the adage: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”The executive arm of government has taken control. A weak judiciary succumbs to the wishes of ministers. The US military can use Pine Gap to bomb whoever it likes, while the Australian people either don’t know or are too afraid to ask.


[1] The Pine Gap Four are charged under the DSU Act 1952 for entering the base and taking photos.

See also the following background on this story:

Activist on trial Pine Gap Four find Ground Zero Peace Convergence and Pine Gap