Australian news, and some related international items

ASIO spied on Pine Gap military base protesters in the 1980s, declassified documents reveal

ABC Alice Springs / By Lee Robinson, Sat 21 Jan 2023 

Declassified ASIO files have revealed the national security agency planted spies among a group protesting against the Pine Gap military base in Alice Springs during the 1980s. 

The 1987 documents, released last year by the National Archives of Australia, show intelligence about peace activists and their protest plans were being fed to ASIO’s central office by one or more covert operatives who surreptitiously attended the group’s meetings.

The peace movement had gained momentum in the political landscape during the Cold War era, as concerns ran high over the threat posed by the Soviet Union and the possibility of nuclear warfare.

Pine Gap, the top-secret defence facility that had begun operating during the previous decade on the outskirts of town, was feared to be a target due its strategic importance to the United States Department of Defense and the Australian government.

Surveillance of peace group no surprise

Russell Goldflam was a bright-eyed idealist and vocal member of the Alice Springs Peace Group (ASPG) in the late 1980s.

Now a semi-retired lawyer still living in Alice Springs, he was not surprised to learn that ASIO had been surveilling the group’s activities.

“I would have been amazed if there hadn’t been a spy amongst our ranks,” Mr Goldflam said.

“We were campaigning against the largest spy base run by the United States outside the continental US.

“It would have been absolutely extraordinary if [ASIO] — or somebody in the security establishment — didn’t go to some trouble to try and make sure that there was no threat to that base from local people who were publicly saying, ‘We want to get it closed down’.”

Protest meetings documented

There are hundreds of files, with some revealing nothing more than bland meeting minutes, while others contain heavy redactions and delve into the perceived threats posed by peace activists……

Covert operatives remain a mystery

Mr Goldflam, who was arrested several times for trespassing at the military base during demonstrations, said he was never able to confirm the identity of any covert operatives…………………………………………………………..

A ‘great privilege’

Mr Goldflam has provided legal assistance throughout his career to a number of peace activists who had broken the law at Pine Gap and faced serious charges.

“It was a great privilege to be able to work as a lawyer for those people fighting for what are pretty fundamental rights, and that’s the right to be able to express an opposing point of view,” he said.

He believed the documents also painted the national security agency as holding grave concerns about the peace movement having a “malign influence” on local Aboriginal people, which Mr Goldflam said “couldn’t be further from the truth”.

“Our concern is where opinions tip into the promotion of violence, or actual acts of violence.”


January 23, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, secrets and lies

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