Australia spy facility pivotal to U.S. drone wars

The Pine Gap spy base is a joint Australian-American signals intelligence base, located close to Ayers Rock.

Its purpose is to track the “geolocation” of radio signals and mobile phones, with a focus on al-Qaida and Taliban leaders, although it mines data from across the Middle East to China, North Korea and Russia (1/3 of the globe). The facility was established by an Australia-U.S. treaty that debates back to 1966, and personnel stationed there control a set of geostationary satellites that are positioned above the Indian Ocean and Indonesia. The satellites are able to pinpoint the origin of a radio signal to within 10 meters. Edward Snowden recently revealed that Pine Gap was part of the NSA collection program known as “X-Keyscore” and PRISM surveillance.

More on the history of Pine Gap here:

Pine Gap is one of largest and most sophisticated satellite ground stations in the world. Its 26 antennas suck information from the sky and distribute it to US commanders in the field, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it is used to co-ordinate air strikes. In the 2003 “shock and awe” invasion of Baghdad, Pine Gap’s space-based signal intercepts of phone calls made by Iraq’s Generals, led directly to the US Air Force strikes against the country’s leadership. According to defense expert Richard Tanter, “all decapitation strikes missed their nominal targets, but resulted in the deaths of large numbers of Iraqi civilians”.

There were over 50 Pine Gap directed strikes in the invasion phase. Of four investigated by Human Rights Watch, 42 civilians were killed and zero soldiers. This averages 13 casualties per strike, which, when multiplied by 50, totals 650 corpses. During this time the Australian media and star commentators were waxing lyrical about the Pentagon’s “precision bombing”.

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