Targeting Gaza From US Spy Hub in Australia

Peter Cronau reports on Canberra’s secret support for Israel’s brutal assault on Palestinians in Gaza through NSA intelligence satellites in the U.S. Pine Gap base near Alice Springs. 

Smoke and flames billow after Israeli forces struck a high-rise tower in Gaza City, Oct. 7. (Palestinian News & Information Agency, Wafa, for APAimages, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Peter Cronau
Declassified Australia

The Pine Gap U.S. surveillance base located outside of Alice Springs in Australia is collecting an enormous range of communications and electronic intelligence from the brutal Gaza-Israel battlefield — and this data is being provided to the Israel Defence Forces. 

Two large Orion geosynchronous signals intelligence satellites, belonging to the U.S. and operated from Pine Gap, are located 36,000 kms above the equator over the Indian Ocean. From there, they look down on the Middle East, Europe and Africa, and gather huge amounts of intelligence data to beam back to the Pine Gap base.

After collecting and analysing the communications and intelligence data for the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), Pine Gap is providing it to the Israel Defence Forces, as it steps up its brutal assault on Palestinians in the Gaza enclave.

“Pine Gap facility is monitoring the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas with all its resources, and gathering intelligence assessed to be useful to Israel,” a former Pine Gap employee has told Declassified Australia.

David Rosenberg worked inside Pine Gap as “team leader of weapon signals analysis” for 18 years until 2008. He is a 23-year veteran of the NSA. 

The joint Australia/USA communications facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs in Central Australia, April 2008. ( Skyring, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

“Pine Gap has satellites overhead. Every one of those assets would be on those locations, looking for anything that could help them.”

“Pine Gap facility is monitoring the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas with all its resources, and gathering intelligence assessed to be useful to Israel.”

Rosenberg says the personnel at Pine Gap are tasked with collecting signals such as “command and control” centres in Gaza, with Hamas headquarters often located near hospitals, schools and other civilian structures. “The aim would be to minimise casualties to non-combatants in achieving their objective of destroying Hamas.”

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that killed over 1,400 Israelis, both military and civilian, the Israel Defence Forces has bombed hundreds of targets inside Gaza, killing far more than Hamas militants. An estimated 9,000 people so far have been killed, including most shockingly 3,600 children.

United Nations agencies have deplored the nearly four-week Israeli bombing campaign saying,

“Gaza has become a ‘graveyard’ for children with thousands now killed under Israeli bombardment, while more than a million face dire shortages of essentials and a lifetime of trauma ahead.”

Pine Gap’s Global Role

Pine Gap–controlled Orion SIGINT surveillance satellites, showing collection coverage over the Middle East.  (Desmond Ball, Bill Robinson and Richard Tanter, “The SIGINT Satellites of Pine Gap:  Conception, Development and in Orbit”, NAPSNet Special Reports)

The sprawling satellite ground station outside Alice Springs, officially titled Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap (JDFPG), has been described as the United States’ second most important surveillance base globally.

About half the 800 personnel working at the Central Australian base are American, with Australian government employees making up fewer than 100 of the increasingly privatised staff. 

The base is no mere passive communication collector. Personnel at the Pine Gap base provide vital detailed analysis and reporting on SIGINT (signals intelligence) and ELINT (electronic intelligence) it collects. 

As well as surveillance of civilian, commercial and military communications, it provides detailed geolocation intelligence to the U.S. military that can be used to locate with precision targets in the battlefield.

This was first conclusively documented in a secret NSA document, titled “Site Profile,” leaked from the Edward Snowden archive to this writer and first published by ABC Australia in 2017:

“RAINFALL [Pine Gap’s NSA codename] detects, collects, records, processes, analyses and reports on PROFORMA signals collected from tasked target entities.”

These PROFORMA signals are the communications data of radar and weapon systems collected in near real-time — they likely would include remote launch signals for Hamas rockets, as well as any threatened missile launches from Lebanon or Iran.

This present war in Gaza is not the first time the dishes of Pine Gap have assisted Israel’s military with intelligence, including the detecting of incoming missiles, according to this previous report.

“During the [1991] Gulf War, Israeli reports praised Australia for relaying Scud missile launch warnings from the Nurrungar joint U.S.-Australian facility in South Australia, a task now assigned to Pine Gap.”

During the early stages of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the NSA installed a data link to send early warning of any Iraqi missile launches detected directly to Israel’s Air Force headquarters at Tel Nof airbase, south of Tel Aviv.

Israel’s Access to ‘Five Eye’ Jewels 

Rendering of the “Five Eyes” intelligence network that includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., the U.S. (@GDJ, Openclipart)

The NSA “maintains a far-reaching technical and analytic relationship with the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU),” according to documents published by The Intercept in 2014. The documents show the NSA and ISNU are “sharing information on access, intercept, targeting, language, analysis and reporting.”

“This SIGINT relationship has increasingly been the catalyst for a broader intelligence relationship between the United States and Israel.

“The Israeli side enjoys the benefits of expanded geographic access to world-class NSA cryptanalytic and SIGINT engineering expertise.”

It’s thanks to the Pine Gap base, with its satellites so strategically positioned to monitor the Middle East region, along with its targeting and analysis capability, that Israel is able to make use of these benefits.

Another leaked document, a targeting exchange agreement from the U.K.’s surveillance agency, GCHQ, reveals one of the “specific intelligence topics” shared among the NSA, GCHQ and ISNU was “Palestinians.” The document states that “due to the sensitivities” of Israeli involvement that particular program does not include direct targeting of Palestinians themselves. 

The NSA considers their intelligence-sharing arrangement as being “beneficial to both NSA’s and ISNU’s mission and intelligence requirements.” 

This wide intelligence sharing arrangement potentially opens up to the Israelis the “jewels” of the Five Eye global surveillance system collected by the NSA global surveillance network, including by Australia’s Pine Gap base. 

Declassified Australia asked a series of questions of the Australian Defence Department about the role of the Pine Gap base in the Israel-Gaza war, and about the legal protections that may be in place to defend personnel of the base should legal charges of war crimes be laid. No response was received by deadline.

Peter Cronau  is an award-winning investigative journalist, writer, and film-maker. His documentaries have appeared on ABC TV’s Four Corners and Radio National’s Background Briefing. He is an editor and cofounder of DECLASSIFIED AUSTRALIA. He is co-editor of the recent book A Secret Australia – Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposés.

This article is from Declassified Australia.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

10 comments for “Targeting Gaza From US Spy Hub in Australia

  1. Vera Gottlieb
    November 4, 2023 at 12:50

    The Axis of Evil…hand in hand once more. I call it the ‘Asses of Evil’.

  2. Carol
    November 4, 2023 at 07:53

    If Israel and Australia have so much intelligence information and communication information how was it that Hamas was able to get into historic Palestine and resist the constant killings, colonial apartheid occupation?
    Israel certainly didn’t respond quickly from accounts from Israelis.
    We have all seen the map that Netanyahu presented with the plans to claim Gaza and the West Bank as part of Israel.

  3. WillD
    November 3, 2023 at 23:10

    “The aim would be to minimise casualties to non-combatants in achieving their objective of destroying Hamas.”

    That’s no doubt the official line, but the evidence suggests otherwise – that the Israeli forces are not making any attempt to minimise casualties to non-combatants.

  4. November 3, 2023 at 16:44

    “Pine Gap” ? Pine Furniture , more like. Why didn`t the Aussie Drongos warn the Jewish
    Nobheads on October 7th ? CIA “Eye in the Sky” ? Pie in the Sky. Why didn`t the Pine Gappys save 1,400 Israeli Lives ?

  5. November 3, 2023 at 16:34

    As a South-Australian, I hang my head and say that, so lacking in any separated identity are we, that we’ve allowed successive governments to lie down, roll over and say, ‘have all of me’, to the US.

    • Charles E. Carroll
      November 3, 2023 at 19:25

      Now we have lost our good friends in Australia, When will it in my friend!

    • Still Scared
      November 3, 2023 at 19:53

      As an Australian, I have come to understand that my elected government is not in charge of my nation. The corporate power of the US empire is dictatorial, and I don’t get to have a say in anything this nation does. The empire is ruled by psychopaths who kill millions for their own profit. There is no salvaging, or reforming this arrangement because policy is dictated by the economic giants who behave like psychotic fascists. US representatives don’t represent the wishes of their population, only those of the corporate psychopaths. Then a narrative is crafted to con people into accepting war-for-profit as if it is done in their names.

      The lawless aggression of the empire has forced nations which want independence into alliance all over the world, and as the empire declines, and profits fall, it is ordinary people who will be squeezed in the vice of austerity and cruel subjugation. The empire’s support of genocide is serving to unite the Arab and Muslim worlds against the West, and the rulers of the West do not seem to understand that they cannot continue to brutalize anyone they want anymore. The world is not having it. Not anymore.

      The big unspoken fear of the psychos at the top of the empire, is that they will be treated in the same way they treat others if they cannot arrest the decline they brought upon themselves. If Australia moved to be independent, the US would regime-change us before the month is out. We don’t need these sorts of “friends”. We need neutrality, and to expel the US military from our land. Anyone know how to do that when elections have no connection to policy at all?

    • Paul Jackson
      November 3, 2023 at 20:54

      I’m English so I can well imagine how you feel. Britain has not been independent country since the Second World War.

  6. gcw919
    November 3, 2023 at 15:24

    Cronau cites David Rosenberg, an NSA employee: “The aim would be to minimise casualties to non-combatants in achieving their objective of destroying Hamas.”
    Here’s a headline from Al Jazeera (11/3): “Israel-Hamas war live: Israeli strike hits Gaza medical convoy”
    What sort of sociopaths continue to support this ongoing massacre? Over 3500 children murdered! The US gvt. and its lackeys are opening the gates of Hell, and perhaps the best thing we can hope for is that this does not become a regional war which escalates into a nuclear holocaust. Nevil Shute’s “On the beach,” a prophetic novel from the late 1950’s, gives us all a glimpse of where this current insanity could lead us.

    • Francis Lee
      November 4, 2023 at 09:55

      ”What sort of sociopaths continue to support this ongoing massacre? Over 3500 children murdered! ”

      Those ones who worked the concentration camps in WW2. These are/were a species apart and not fit for human society. The west should stop kidding itself about this sort of scum that has insinuated and into decent human society.

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