On Thursday the Guardian revealed crucial aspects of the history behind the allegations of Russian interference in the presidential campaign in favour of the Republican candidate and now President #Donald Trump. The allegations are serious but they also give hints of a world of international surveillance that we all assume but few of us know about the international network that runs and uses the intelligence gathering services that monitors our countries.
Growing up in Australia during the Vietnam War it was impossible not to have opinions on the country’s active participation in the war as America’s ally and the international consequences of the decades old alliance.
As the anti war Moratorium movement gathered pace a secretive military base in central Australia began to be named. Popularly known as simply Pine Gap, its official name is the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap and as the name suggests the facility is run jointly by the Australian and American governments and has been the centre of controversy since then.
At the height of the #cold war anti American protesters accused the facility of making Australia a nuclear target in the case of a war between the #United States and the then Soviet Union. No doubt today’s protesters fear the same fate from the new Cold War between Australia’s ally and Russia whose President Vladimir Putin is a graduate of the KGB Academy and thus trained at the height of the old Cold War.
The photos of the giant white balls that cover the antennas at Pine Gap have been the source of much speculation but in recent years that speculation has become a certainty that the facility is part of a network that is now much in the news due to the reports of alleged contacts between members of the Trump team and Russian agents during and after the election campaign.
The Pine Gap facility is part of an international alliance for intelligence gathering that goes back to 1946 and was therefore part of the original Cold War. Essentially an alliance of five English speaking countries the agreement originally known as the UKUSA agreement had the intention of gathering what was then known as “signals intelligence” (SIGINT) which had already played an important part of the recently concluded Second World War with the Enigma case in Great Britain against the Germans and the American efforts in breaking the Japanese codes in the war in the Pacific.
The active part of the agreement is undertaken by the intelligence services of the respective countries, the United States National Security Agency (NSA), the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) Canada’s Communications Security establishment Canada (CSEC) the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). This group of agencies in now known as the Five Eyes security alliance.
Thus began the spying on the Soviet Union that would pass onto Russia and that led to the revelations that have been haunting the Trump Administration this month.
Yesterday’s report in the Guardian was not the first time that the British GCHQ was mentioned in regards to the investigations into Russian interference. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer drew a rare and unusually sharp reply from the British organization when he repeated a Fox News report, since withdrawn, that the alleged wire tapping of Trump Tower tweeted by #President Donald Trump had been undertaken by the British at the request of the Obama Administration.
The Guardian’s report stated that the contacts between Russian agents of the Trump team had been picked up in routine monitoring of Russian agents not only by the Five Eyes countries but also by other foreign security services such as the French General Directorate for External Security (DGSE). The report reveals that America’s intelligence agencies began receiving notifications of the alleged collusion in 2015, much earlier than previously stated.
Over recent weeks the United States has seen the confirmation by FBI Director James Comey in public testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that the intelligence investigations have been ongoing.
Further proof of the veracity of at least part of the leaks was the resignation of Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor due to his contacts with the Russian Ambassador in Washington, the confirmation of the FISA warrant to monitor former Trump Advisor Carter Page reported by the Washington Post and also the continuing allegations against Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, in regards to his business dealings in Russia and the Ukraine which all form part of the web surrounding the 45th President that only fuels speculation about the possible Russian rile in the election.
The Guardian’s revelation coincides with the strain in relations between the United States and Russia over the Al-Assad regime in Syria that heated up as a result of the Syrian government attack on Khan Sheikhoum and the subsequent American retaliation o the airbase from which the attack was launched.
There will be no quick answer to the questions raised by the allegations but the public should be aware that the revelations do not come from simple hearsay but, as can be shown by the list of agencies above, from America’s allies that are worried by what their own monitoring of Russian agents has so far revealed.
The information being revealed is not easy reading for any country, let alone for one that is considered the Leader of the free world. For this reason the accusation must be investigated and the country’s intelligence services have a duty not only to America’s citizens but also to its long term allies to ensure that the information provided is treated seriously and to ensure that it is either corroborated or to provide the proof that it is false.
In the middle of a new Cold War with an opponent that has proven to be adept at manipulating information any suggestion of underestimating or ignoring the information provided would be tantamount to dereliction of duty by those responsible for the security of the country.
We can only wonder what else will be revealed in the future but we must also hope that definitive answers come quickly because the doubt only undermines the Oval Office in a difficult period of world politics.