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Aerial view of United States spy base, Pine Gap, situated on the outskirts of Alice Springs. (AAP/Terry Trewin)

Recently leaked information reveals that sweeping eavesdropping activities at Pine Gap position Australia squarely as a target for a nuclear strike in the event of a major conflict involving the USA and its strategic rivals. 

By
Bertrand Tungandame
Published on
Wednesday, August 23, 2017 - 17:31
File size
5.2 MB
Duration
11 min 23 sec

The leaked information published simultaneously by The Intercept and the ABC stems from documents obtained from former NSA scientist turned whistle-blower Edward Snowden. But, what’s just been revealed to the public is no news to the scientific community.

"What the Intercept and Background Briefing revealed is basically what we already knew from various sources," Professor Richard Tanter tells NITV Radio. "From American military correspondence, American testimony to Congress, and from following the careers of people who worked at Pine Gap."

"We pieced together a picture of an enormous expansion for Pine Gap," says Professor Tanter. "Its transformation from a large base to a vastly bigger place."

Professor Tanter is Senior Research Associate, Nautilus Institute, and Honorary Professor in the School of Political and Social Studies at the University of Melbourne, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate subjects on 'Nuclear Weapons and Disarmament.'

He has spent many years studying the Pine Gap defence facility in the Northern Territory and co-authored some of the most authoritative reports about the secretive facility.

"If there is a major war involving the United States and Russia or the USA and China there is a very high likelihood that Pine Gap would be a nuclear missile target."

According to the academic, Pine Gap has vast computing capabilities, most people wouldn’t know what the facility does, its legal and strategic ramifications.

Scientists have long known about metadata harvesting from Pine Gap and tied this to our privacy issues. They’ve documented cell phone intercepts and tied them to US legal and illegal killings by drone in the Middle East and Africa.

Professor Tanter warns that the wide-ranging activities carried out at Pine Gap don’t make Australia any safer.

“I have no doubt, and the Defence Department is also of the same opinion, that if there is a major war involving the United States and Russia or the USA and China there is a very high likelihood that Pine Gap would be a nuclear missile target," says Professor Tanter. 

"And that would bring devastation to Central Australia and to Alice Springs in particular.”

Professor Tanter also questions Australia’s approach to Foreign Policy.

"We have a habit of volunteering for wars even before America asks for our contribution. We really need to think about this,"  Professor Tanter says.

Listen to Professor Tanter's full interview with NITV Radio in the audio player above.

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