We don’t talk about Pine Gap any more. Or North West Cape, or any other US military spy bases in Australia. Forty years since the overthrow of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, Australians still don’t even want to admit that the CIA was involved. Meanwhile, Pine Gap has morphed into an integral part of the US drones program, which regularly kills innocent people in countries we will never visit. Such wanton destruction terrifies and alienates local populations, increases the likelihood that their support will turn to terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and makes a mockery of our stated National Security goals. It’s time Australia parted company with Team USA’s military madness, and closed all US bases on Australian soil.
But is that even possible now?
As Edward Snowden revealed, US intelligence bases like Pine Gap now help triangulate positions for US military drone targets around the world. And a new anonymous whistle-blower, who worked within the US drones program for years, has told The Intercept that up to 88% of people killed in US drone airstrikes are not the actual target. In fact, the chances of hitting the target are so low that successful strikes are called “jackpots”. To keep civilian casualty statistics low, the US military designates any victims in the immediate vicinity of their targets as “enemy killed in action”. But there’s no reason for Australians to tolerate such semantic games: whatever the actual statistics, there’s no denying that bases like Pine Gap are now being used to kill innocent civilians.
This is certainly not the stated purpose for which Pine Gap was built.
Until 1988, the sprawling base 20km from Alice Springs, in the very heart of Australia’s outback, was officially named the “Joint Defence Space Research Facility”. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser insisted that his 1976 decision to renew the USA’s original 10-year lease at Pine Gap was driven by the need to detect Soviet missile launches during the Cold War. Even Whitlam argued that Pine Gap was “not part of some weapons system”. A decade later, Australian Labor Party leader Bill Hayden used the exact same words to allay continuing public concerns. But if that was true back then, it is certainly not true any longer: Pine Gap now helps target and kill people on a daily basis.
Of course, Pine Gap also contributes significantly to a US National Security Agency collection program code-named ‘’X-Keyscore’’, which provides the NSA with almost unlimited surveillance of anyone anywhere in the world. So ironically, the Australian politicians who should be making the decision to close Pine Gap are themselves being spied on by the USA — via Pine Gap! Little wonder the Australian major parties are now so pathetically weak and compromised, and always so eager to tow the US line. It’s doubtful they would be able to close Pine Gap even if they wanted.
So how did it come to this? Evidence suggests that Whitlam became increasingly concerned about bases like Pine Gap and the CIA’s role in Australia, even if some of his comments on the subject were clearly disingenuous. After becoming Prime Minister in 1973, he issued public criticism to placate the left wing of his party, while privately assuring the US there was nothing to worry about. But more disturbing details kept emerging. Whitlam became the first Australian PM to even know about the Five Eyes intelligence alliance (between Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UK and USA), which emerged from the secret WWII UKUSA Agreement between UK and US spy agencies. When Whitlam discovered that Australian intelligence personnel were working as proxies of the CIA in destabilising the Allende government in Chile, he angrily ordered them home. At least some of the spies ignored him. Whitlam later ordered the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to terminate all communications with the CIA. But again, ASIO chief Peter Barbour ignored the PM’s order.
Is this why Whitlam was removed as Prime Minister by Governor General Sir John Kerr on November 11th, 1975?
Australians recently learned that the issue of government supply - which was always cited as the critical reason why the Queen’s Governor General was “forced” to remove Whitlam - was just a ruse. Kerr had already decided to remove the PM at least a week earlier, and Malcolm Fraser agreed to the conditions he demanded before the deed was done.
But Australian journos today are conveniently forgetting what we learned from rogue US defense contractor Christopher Boyce: Sir John Kerr, who had been an executive board member of the CIA-founded Association For Cultural Freedom for the previous 20 years, was referred to by the CIA as “our man Kerr” and “an asset”.
Was the CIA behind Gough Whitlam’s dismissal? Of course they were.
Two years after The Dismissal, US Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher visited Whitlam in Australia and promised that the United States would “never again” interfere with Australian politics.
Of course that was another lie. The truth is that the CIA has a long history of interfering in Australian politics.
There used to be protests. But our status as a US client state has become almost completely normalised. Australian troops remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though no politicians can adequately explain why. Australian award-winning journalist Julian Assange, who embarrassed the US government with WikiLeaks publications, has been abandoned for nearly five years. Our citizens are even tortured in Guantanamo Bay or rendered for torture by the CIA and the government in Canberra does nothing to help them, unless protestors create enough embarrassment. Meanwhile, the United States has opened a new base for US Marines near Darwin, which will continue expanding as part of President Obama’s Pivot To Asia, and has even begun constructing a secret new US Navy base nearby.
So did Australia lose our sovereignty when Whitlam was dismissed in 1975? No, we were never really a sovereign nation anyway. The truth is that Australia was an obedient British colony until World War Two, and now we are just another obedient US Client State. Even Whitlam’s ministers used to curry favour with gossip at the US Embassy. And even then, the USA was monitoring communications of Australian officials via Pine Gap’s Rhyolite satellite.
How can we ever have sovereignty without privacy?
Like the rest of the Five Eyes nations, we are in thrall to the US military-industrial complex’s global military madness. Other lackey governments like Sweden, Ukraine and Japan are also under the spell. Even Washington D.C. itself, as a recent biography of CIA founder Allen Welsh Dulles makes clear, is under the control of the Deep State.
So perhaps the real question is not who controls Australia, but who controls the Deep State?
As they say, follow the money. Whitlam was overthrown because the CIA thought he threatened the United States “National Interest”, a vague and endlessly malleable term which has slowly expanded from Cold War anti-Communism to globalized Neoliberalism Fascism.
Even Pine Gap is now run by US corporations.
- Latest evidence suggests that when Fraser started blocking supply on October 15, 1975, he knew how the CIA/Kerr plan would unfold. In London, the Palace was informed as early as August: the Queen gave the nod but made it clear that she did not want to be publicly associated. In the final weeks, Fraser ordered wavering Liberal MPs to burn copies of an internal memo questioning his supply-blocking tactics.
- For an excellent overview of the Whitlam Dismissal, including CIA involvement and latest revelations, see this blog post by Dan Mathews. As Dan notes, it is no longer possible to accept Kerr’s self defence at face value. Even Liberal PM Malcolm Turnbull has agreed that Kerr should have confronted Whitlam with his concerns rather than working behind his back. Kerr wrote in his diary that Whitlam “was not entitled to know… my thinking… because he was not open to reason”. In fact Kerr was the one blind to reason.
- The ALP has now supported PM Turnbull’s call for release of secret documentation about the Dismissal. But not the CIA stuff, of course, or Whitlam’s meetings with Kissinger — just the communications between Canberra and London (note that Turnbull is a Republican). On the 40th anniversary of the Dismissal, ALP leader Bill Shorten avoided further comment by arguing: “I was only 8 at the time.”
- Journalist Brian Toohey provides full details of how Whitlam was about to expose the CIA’s role at Pine Gap, and CIA funding for the Coalition parties, on the afternoon of the Dismissal. Richard Stallings, the CIA agent in charge of Pine Gap, was living in a Canberra house owned by the leader of the Country Party (part of the Liberal Coalition). It’s now clear that the head of the Australian Defence Department was also keeping secrets from Whitlam.
- The US Consul-General in Melbourne advised the State Department that News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch had directed his editors to “kill Whitlam” some ten months before the Dismissal. Murdoch’s papers played a key role in spreading lies, particularly in the election that followed the Dismissal. In November, 1974, US Ambassador Marshall Green reported to Washington that Murdoch privately predicted that “Australian elections are likely to take place in about one year, sparked by refusal of appropriations in the Senate”.
- Whitlam’s appearance at the National Press Club on November 11th, 1985: youtube.
- A 1977 US cable via Wikileaks shows that the Fraser govt terminated a Sydney Lawyer’s private prosecution of Whitlam for fear of revealing national secrets. Nothing to hide?
- Also recommended: Green Left Weekly summary of events.
- As Christopher Boyce revealed, the CIA was also infiltrating Australian Unions: Oxford graduate Bob Hawke spent a decade as president of the Australian Council of Trades Union. Three Americans involved in supporting Bob Hawke’s campaign for Presidency of the ACTU all worked for the CIA. WikiLeaks cables show Hawke was a frequent US Embassy information source before he became a very US-friendly Prime Minister whose government opened Australia’s financial regulatory system to global markets. Whitlam described Hawke as ‘a pro-Israeli fanatic’.
- In a new “Official History” of ASIO, author John Blaxland claims that ASIO chief Peter Barbour “revealed a surprising level of courage and inner strength” when he ignored Whitlam’s order to cease communicating with the CIA. Others might call it treason. Blaxland’s book has been criticized as deliberately misleading and even, in some places, plainly false.
- Comic Aussie TV media claiming US cables “dispel long-held notions that the USA played a role in Whitlam’s dismissal”. Nothing to back that up.
- A 1973 US cable (2 years before Whitlam’s dismissal) lauded his “POSITIVE PERFORMANCE IN PROTECTING OUR KEY DEFENSE INSTALLATIONS IN AUSTRALIA AGAINST LEFT-WING PRESSURE.” Later cables were somewhat less delighted. Whitlam’s private meetings with Henry Kissinger remain classified.
- When Henry Kissinger put the US military on nuclear alert in 1973, orders were relayed through bases like West Australia’s North West Cape (image below: the base is officially named after Australian PM Harold Holt, who mysteriously drowned in 1967). But the Australian government was not told about the alert till after it was canceled. US bases make Australia a military target, but the US government is not overly concerned about Australians’ safety.