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The bush track to Pine Gap

So what's happening with Webdiarist Bryan Law and friends? Glad you asked. I'm sure this story hasn't ended yet and we will be following it avidly. Bryan introduced the idea in Entering the 'gap' between what's right and what's legal, and filed his first story from the road to Pine Gap If you want peace, work for justice

Dear friends,

In the early hours of Friday morning I was part of a group of four concerned citizens to enter Pine Gap military base with the aim of conducting a citizens inspection.

How on earth can a hotch-potch group of unfunded, untrained, unarmed (and in my case unfit!) Christian pacfists break into one of America and  Australia's most signifcant military bases, and in relative ease, causing the base to be shut down for several hours?

In a nutshell: it was a miracle!

For heaven's sake we even told them we were coming!

I have yet to write all the details of my experience, but our chief activist Jim Dowling, has written this colourful account which I want to share with you.

I have four charges against me and we are bailed to appear in Alice Springs court next week (hopefully Monday) with the trial to be some time early next year. We are all pleading not-guilty as we believe we have committed no crime.

Attached is one of our team, Adele, on the roof of one of the buildings giving a cheeky peace sign. You can see the outline of the famous white 'domes' in the background. This photo was smuggled out without being detected, and has not been published so it's an exclusive for the Pilgrim list!

I've also included a photo that I took on approach to Pine Gap with it all looking very spooky.

We are thrilled to have achieved our aim to put the spotlight on Pine Gap and expose its activities that have resulted in the loss of innocent life in other countries.

I've got aching legs and sore ankles after trudging though thick Northern Territory scrub for several hours in the dark - but it was worth every hole I fell into!

More to come
your pilgrim

Friday 9th December 2005

Today we were part of a miracle. When I first proposed the idea of exposing the terrorist nature of Pine Gap by attempting to enter it and perhaps climb on one of the structures, my intention was to get a group together to do it in secret. Then the most enthusiastic person I met proposed an alternative of openly announcing our intention to inspect Pine Gap with or without permission. Plan “B” was accepted and “Christians Against ALL Terrorism” was born.

Michael the one with the new idea dropped out and Bryan Law took his place. Bryan introduced enormous energy and made the group viable. He notified police and Senator Robert Hill we were coming and even told them the planned date of our action: December 8th.

We were full of enthusiasm, but still it was a firm belief of most participants that only a miracle would enable us to succeed given that Pine Gap is the most secure military establishment in Australia.

Today that miracle took place.

On Wednesday morning we sought out Pat Hayes, the traditional Arrente caretaker for the Pine Gap area and asked his permission to walk on his land in order to expose the violence of the base which occupied part of that land. No permission had ever been sought or given for Pine Gap to be used by the military. However Pat graciously gave us permission to enter the area.

Late at night on Thursday the 8th, four of us, Donna Mulhearn and Brian Law in one group and Jessica Goldie and myself in the other started the walk to the base from two different directions. We walked for five hours and three hours respectively. At 4 am Adele and I came close to the first 3meter high security fence. As we lay on the ground perhaps 500 metres from the fence security vehicles drove nearby with their floodlight panning the area. We thought they must have known of our presence and were searching for us. At least twice we thought they must have seen us and our attempt to enter the base was over. Later we realised their surveillance was routine, and they had miraculously not seen us.

After two vehicles had gone Adele and I made the last 100 meter dash through the open floodlit area to the outer security fence. As Adele hung our banner – WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? YOUR BROTHER’S BLOOD CRIES OUT TO ME FROM THE EARTH (Genesis 4:10) - on the fence, I placed Jessica’s beautiful barbed wire crucifix against the fence. Then I cut through the fence. We climbed through and I cut the second fence about ten meters away. Again we climbed through and realised all the power of the greatest empire in history could not stop two untrained, unfunded, unarmed Christian pacifists from entering one of their most important and secure bases - even after we had told them we were coming.

I looked around at the huge white domes and radar dishes around us. It was obviously not possible to climb onto one of the white domes as I had sometimes fantasized. Adele headed for a tower next to a building and climbed on to the roof. I followed.

Once on the roof we placed photos, leaflets, and other information on the roof and gave thanks to God. Shortly after we watched as a security guard on a bicycle road around. We still had not been seen. But the guard then rode around to the back of the building and must have noticed the banner on the fence. Meanwhile Adele and I took photos of one another with a huge white dome behind us. The security guard came back in sight and quickly climbed a tower holding a radar dish directly in front of us. Amazingly (although by this time nothing would surprise us), he must have looked around for a minute before seeing us. I waved, and he scrambled back down.

Within a minute there were a number of Federal security guards and police assembled below us. My response to the first one who asked us to come down was to inform him that we had come to inspect the base for terrorist activity and would come down when we had something in writing from the Commander saying we would not be stopped from doing so. A second guard angrily yelled at me that he was coming up to drag me off the roof. I responded that I would certainly not be surprised by violence as I was aware the base had been directly involved in the slaughter of thousands in terrorist attacks.

Of course it is easy to be brave when you are “king of the castle”. But shortly a number of guards and police were on the roof. The first one said, “Get on your knees”. “That’s a good idea”, I replied. I knelt down and prayed that he would withdraw his co-operation from the violence of Pine Gap.

Unfortunately, when praying it was impossible to hear the instructions that were being given to me. This made the original guard who threatened us rather annoyed. Amazingly he used a new compliance technique with which I am becoming familiar – the old “push the head into the ground and push your knee into the head” technique. Luckily unlike the concrete floor last time, the metal roof we were on had a little give and I only suffered a bruised cheek instead of a bloody face.

After being escorted from the roof and into a wagon we were driven to the front of the base, searched numerous times and driven to the watch house.

Meanwhile Bryan and Donna had just completed their amazing walk. Bryan has health conditions which made the walk extremely difficult and any chance of running impossible. So they slowly walked the last stretch to the security fence, Donna dressed in black and Brian in his bright white “Citizens Inspection Team” overalls. This walk was truly amazing. A security van drove towards them. They waved and the vehicle drove on. They reached the first security fence, unchallenged by the numerous police and guards now behind it, until Bryan started to cut the fence with bolt cutters. Then the security forces realised Bryan was the “enemy” and called out. Bryan kept cutting until a security guard put his hand on his gun, and perhaps not coincidentally Bryan decided he had done enough inspecting for the moment.

Bryan and Donna were “captured” by Ken who had talked to us two days before. Ken had totally lost his jovial sense of humour as Bryan was rolled roughly in the dirt.

Donna and Bryan did not think it was the time to remind Ken of how we had all laughed together about his advice that trying to break into the base in white overalls was probably not very helpful for us. Later in the watchouse we joked about how next time we should try it handcuffed and carrying tracking devices to give them a fairer chance of catching us!

The arrests were not over however. Sean and Jessica had driven to the front of the base and were holding a banner in what they thought was a  non-arrestable action (Jessica had a plane booked in 5 hours time to Melbourne, and Sean was due to catch one the next day). They were not expecting the anger of the Federal police. We had been to the front of the base twice to picket and pray. Each time they had happily assured us of our right to be there. Now they were intent on revenge and decided to confiscate our cameras and any interesting documents. As soon as Sean politely asked them what law allowed them to do this he was arrested and charged with hindering police. No receipt was given for anything taken and as yet nothing has been returned.

Later that day it was Jessica’s turn. She was followed by the federal police all morning. until she came to the watchouse to visit her friends. She was immediately arrested and told she would be charged with being an accessory. Happily after an hour or so and much distress, Jessica’s charges were dropped and she was released.

The Charges

The four who walked into Pine Gap were charged with Destroying or damaging Commonwealth property; Trespassing on Commonwealth land; unlawfully entering prohibited area; unlawfully damaging property.

Sean was charged with obstructing commonwealth police.

Alice Spring solicitor Russel Goldflam congratulated us on being the first ones to be charged under the 1952 legislation that Senator Hill had threatened us with. The penalty for trespass under this act can carry seven years jail.

A trial date will most probably be set for sometime in February.

An important message for the terrorists waging war against one another.

One of the most important messages from our entry into Pine Gap is that our security does not lie in bigger and better bombs, bigger and better targeting or surveillance systems. Our security lies in building better relationships. In the words on my Catholic Worker T-shirt, The Only Solution is Love.

CHRISTIANS AGAINST ALL TERRORISM is small group of people committed to moral and intellectual honesty on the issue of terrorism.

Those who made the trip to Pine Gap this time were:

Jim Dowling (50, from Dayboro), Bryan Law (51, from Cairns); Adele Goldie (29, from Brisbane); and Donna Mulhearn (37, from Sydney); Sean  O’Reilly (47 from Brisbane); Jessica Morrison (29 from Melbourne)

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attacks on bail laws; difficulty in contacting webdiary

This has nothing to do with anti-terrorism but because of the inept design of the website, I cannot contact the editors in the usual manner.

I am not going to waste my time repeating the message that was just rejected by the silly website; simply there is space for comment about the current attacks on the bail laws. But this does not fit any of the compulsory categories, and the website does not allow letters to the editor. So much for free speech.

ed Hamish:I'm not sure exactly what difficulties you were having Richard, but feel free to email me hamishalcorn@hotmail.com.

In court today

 From today's SMH

Christians charged over break-in

FIVE Christian peace activists charged with breaking into a top secret military base in central Australia have appeared in court...

Former "human shield" Donna Mulhearn, 37, of Sydney, who was abducted and briefly held by militants in the Iraqi flashpoint city of Fallujah last year, is among those charged. The others are Jim Dowling, 50, of Dayboro, Brian Law, 51, of Cairns, Adele Goldie, 29, of Brisbane and Sean O'Reilly, 47, of Brisbane...

Police allege the group cut holes in the external and internal fences at Pine Gap after they conducted a "citizens' inspection" in protest at the facility's involvement in the ongoing war in Iraq. They face a maximum penalty of seven years' jail

Good luck Jim, Bryan, Donna, Adele and Sean. Let us know what happens and how many gold coins are required to make up your fine. I'll pitch in. I hope for you and your families that the max penalty doesn't apply...

I appreciate their

I appreciate their dedication to a cause they believe in. I don't agree with their actions, as I have told Bryan before he went on this journey.

I just don't see what was to be gained by the whole exercise?

Apart from Webdiary, no one else knows about this. So they brought no attention to their cause.

I recall in other threads on non-violent protest, that the purpose is to raise the profile of your grievance. How did this achieve this?

All I can see this has done is get six people charged.

Michael, it's not seven years for cutting a fence. It's the trespass on that particular land that attracts the sentence. If it were a $200 fine we would have every bloody greenie in the world trying to encroach on the land.

re: The bush track to Pine Gap

I take it that Mr Curran's considered description of 'the Pine Gap Six' as "A bigger bunch of loonies you would not find anywhere" was made after conducting a professional psychiatric examination of each of them, or, if he has perused specialist medical assessments of each of them, then he stands potentially guilty of a serious breach of relevant privacy laws, and the specialists from which he obtained these assessments stand in serious breach of professional ethics and practice rules.

I'll risk the suggestion that Mr Curran speaks for a significant sector of Australian public opinion too.

I'll refrain from drawing any parallels between the alleged 'loonies' responsible for the incoate violence we've recently witnessed in Sydney and the reported acts of the 'loonies' at Pine Gap.

Mr Curran also asks, "I would like to know how many of you are on Welfare. How are you going to pay for the damage?"

No doubt, if it's politically advantageous, a helpful leak from somewhere deep in the Commonwealth bureaucracy could find its way into the columns of a suitable commentator as an aid to answering Mr Curran's question. Somebody certainly assisted Mr Bolt regarding Mr Wilkie's state of health at a rather important stage in the pre-Iraq War 'debate' in early 2003. And, of course, as long time Canberra Times editor in chief Jack Waterford opined 18 months ago, there are 'official leaks' and leaks, with the sources for the latter being mercilessly hunted down, along with the recipients, often journalists. (If you haven't read the 2005 MEAA report, Turning Up The Heat: The decline of press freedom in Australia 2001-2005, you should.)

As at least some of the 'Pine Gap Six' explicitly are informed by the Catholic Worker tradition, I'm pretty confident that they always seek to be self-sufficient, always funding themselves, always treading lightly upon the earth, and usually leaving good footprints behind.

As for Mr Curran's sensitive and informed comment, "It would be better if you protested outside the Cardinal’s house against priests sexually assaulting young boys", I and no doubt other Webdiarists would appreciate a carefully developed argument which explains the relevance of this position to a debate about Pine Gap.

I think Mr Curran would find that the Catholic Workers are at least as appalled as all other observers at the scandals enveloping the Catholic and other churches, as well as secular child care operations. I'd go so far as to suggest that some Catholic Worker houses have probably been at the forefront of providing support for victims of such appalling behaviour, but I have no evidence of this myself.

To be sure, Mr Curran deploys his considerable knowledge of the Catholic Worker movement, nonviolence generally, a detailed, deeply theologically informed, exegesis of the Christian scriptures informing the foregoing, plus a detailed knowledge of what Pine Gap is and does as, in part, a key node in the global Echelon system.

As for who might pay for the damage, while it is an important debate to have, some nonviolent peacemakers argue that there is some property which has no moral right to exist, and is thence fair game for righteous destruction. Land mines, nuclear weapons, and weapons enhanced with depleted uranium, as are widely used in Iraq and elsewhere, fall into this category of property, as does property, such as fences, used to protect such lethal, immoral property. Of course, such activists would never, ever seek to hurt guards or their masters, as evidenced by their forewarning the authorities of their presence and intentions (very Gandhian).

Given the purposes for which Pine Gap is currently used, I morally fail to understand why critics such as Mr Curran seem to go apoplectic when minor property gets damaged when there's not even the remotest possibility of the main facility being interrupted or damaged, whatever the symbolic or even actual intent of the activists. Even the SAS would think very carefully indeed about taking out Pine Gap, and they'd certainly not do so nonviolently.

Going hysterical about some minor property damage also serves to deflect attention from the overwhelmingly far more important discussion about what Pine Gap is and does, and what should be done with it.

With respect to Pine Gap, given its extensive capabilities, I have always argued it to be a prime candidate for peace conversion, stripped of its offensive activities and wholly deployed to disarmament treaty monitoring. The Nobel Peace Prize winning IAEA would probably welcome Pine Gap being added to its capabilities. Had Pine Gap been properly deployed, it seems highly likely that we'd have had no debates, or lies, about Iraq's alleged formidible WMD arsenal because data gathered via that better deployed facility could have unequivocally shown Iraq's WMDs simply did not exist, with no war needed to have this confirmed.

I can already hear the ripostes that Pine Gap does already significantly contribute to global peacekeeping. OK, folks, produce the evidence, with supporting documentation, to conclusively show how, to what extent, and for what percentage of its operational time and capacity the place is exclusively devoted to peaceful purposes such as disarmament treaty monitoring, or conflict prediction and resolution. One vague figure I recall from many years ago suggested that Pine Gap was used for about 25% of the time for 'peaceful' purposes, and the rest of time for military purposes, according to generally agreed definitions of 'peaceful' and offensive purposes. Nobody outside the self-selected elites really knows this information, they aren't talking, but they demand, insist, and require that we believe them, like we should believe them when they state that Scott Parkin was a threat to national security.

Converting Pine Gap to wholly serve peace rather than war would also considerably repair Australia's battered international reputation. Remember when Australia was widely regarded as being on the side of 'the forces of light' at the UN and elsewhere? Given Pine Gap is a Joint Defence Facility, it doesn't seem too difficult to me for Mr Downer and Senator Hill to pick up the phone, have a chat with Mr Rumsfeld and Ms Rice, indicate Australia's intentions, nut out a time frame, and sooner rather than later, have a globally telecast handover ceremony on BBC World or Asia Pacific Television in the new Global Peace Monitoring Facility's forecourt.

Over the years, I've had debates with peacemakers such as the 'Pine Gap Six' on this notion of peacefully converting Pine Gap for useful activities, and we've often politely agreed to disagree. Some peacemakers would like Pine Gap dismantled completely, leaving only the then muted satellites it serves as its only memorial.

I suspect, given their 'swords into ploughshares' position (see, Trident Ploughshares), the 'Pine Gap Six' might tend towards converting Pine Gap to more useful purposes, but they're perfectly capable of speaking for themselves.

On the basis of the foregoing, coupled with the same deep conscience wrestlings, long periods of meditation and prayer, and sufficient study for a PhD or two in several relevant fields - politics, theology, history, geo-strategy, philosophy, sociology, and so on - which I know for certain several of the 'Pine Gap Six' have undergone over many years, Mr Curran would have, no doubt, sought to at least understand the background and motivations of the 'Pine Gap Six' even though he dismisses them as "A bigger bunch of loonies you would not find anywhere".

What I have long since found extremely interesting is why the authorities always opt for 'social order' offences such as trespass, obstructing the police, and similar, rather than far more serious security, terrorism, or sedition offences. The charges with which the Pine Gap Six seem to be lumbered are the equivalent of recidivist parking fine or littering offences. "Take me away, you bastards! You've got me dead to rights, serial litter bug (or peace activist) that I am!"

The point of these comparatively trifling charges is, of course, to carefully avoid having to deal with their extremely well informed, conscience laiden, arguments which cut to the heart of why Pine Gap exists, and contributes to the global military system.

Because these sorts of arguments have been forced off the national and international agendas, for reasons Dr Burchill recently canvassed here, or if they haven't been so silenced they've certainly been muted, I'd like Mr Curran to present a detailed, reasoned, referenced case as to why Pine Gap is absolutely necessary, and I really do mean absolutely necessary in the strongest possible meanings of those words.

(Yes; I've read a lot of the official Australian Government, and academic, material on Australia's defence and related issues, right back to the Dibb Report and earlier, and kept an eye on current issues as well, and I've always failed to be convinced that Pine Gap is absolutely necessary.)

Meanwhile, we should support and salute genuinely courageous and thoughtful people like the Pine Gap Six who, particularly in the bizarre times in which we exist, make it their business, like Jesus, to speak Truth to power, using a force more powerful...

re: The bush track to Pine Gap

Seven years for cutting a fence? Now you know why we fight these monsters.

Never forget Bryan Law, they called us old Vietnam War protestors, a lonely activity when it began, a bunch of "loonies" as well. I'll never forget in one of many clashes, the ratbag Liberal NSW Premier Robin Askin snarling he'd lock the lot of us up and throw away the keys if he could for merely holding anti-war placards. It probably had more to do with the fact we were standing outside the illegal gaming club "31" in which he was gambling at the roulette wheel and we'd sprung him leaving.

But we were proved right and the war was ended because a handful took a stance early on and Askin was finally exposed for the corrupt old fool he was and consigned to the political dustbin.

re: The bush track to Pine Gap

Who's writing the song? It needs to be written!

re: The bush track to Pine Gap

"Jim Dowling (50, from Dayboro), Bryan Law (51, from Cairns); Adele Goldie (29, from Brisbane); and Donna Mulhearn (37, from Sydney); Sean O’Reilly (47 from Brisbane); Jessica Morrison (29 from Melbourne)":

A bigger bunch of loonies you would not find anywhere.

“In the words on my Catholic Worker T-shirt, The Only Solution is Love”. It would be better if you protested outside the Cardinal’s house against priests sexually assaulting young boys.

I would like to know how many of you are on Welfare. How are you going to pay for the damage?

I hope the lot of you get 7 years. What a bloody waste of time.

re: The bush track to Pine Gap

Congratulations Bryan Law on you and your group's bravery in showing up again the phony scare campaigns the government, aided by the Opposition has been running to frighten the Aussie population.

Just as we discovered not long ago the dreadful slack security at our airports and Lucas Heights, now we see Pine Gap is easily accessed. That's what it's all about - intimidate the local population and then allow places like this to wage war on an innocent people in Iraq.

I don't envy you taking on a bunch of thugs like the AFP. These guys are hyped up to believe the garbage they are fed and itching to take it out on anyone who exercises their rights. They must feel emboldened by the new legislation.

re: The bush track to Pine Gap

Hi Sylvia, treasonous potentially, but not seditious. Although as Donna writes, they have not been charged with any 'national security' related offences.

Sedition relates to speech that incites treason. Treason is the act itself.

(Except that with our new AT laws, the definitions of treason and sedition are quite different, which is completely absurd).

re: The bush track to Pine Gap

Obviously, the thing that is most upsetting to the authorities is the ease with which the group entered Pine Gap. I can imagine a few heads will roll for this and that explains the "sour grapes" from the captors when apprehending the "inspectors". I'd like to say well done. But would this be construed as seditious?

re: The bush track to Pine Gap

Susie, your second last paragraph is so true. The revolution to stop these warmongers and planet destroyers won't happen on the big stage. It will hapen when ordinary people wake up and realise that these people whose only creed is greed are their worst enemies, and that they can be defeated.

Not by taking part in phony elections that happen every three years and just give us the same tired old people who are puppets of the big corporations, but by us deciding to take our own fate in our own hands in our communities. We need to be talking to our friends and neighbours, working out what we can do to develop communities that support ordinary people. How can we develop economies that look after people first, that do not perpetrate the lie that we can have infinite growth on a finite planet.

Perhaps we need a thread where we can talk about how to build up locl communities, talk about how we can start to change what we have.

In the local community I live in, our local community association is going to host a number of "Big Issue" forums next year, to talk about these things, starting with the effect of Global warming on our coastal village.

re: The bush track to Pine Gap

Last night 20 people gathered in a small rural village in NSW to watch David Bradbury's film, Blowin' in the Wind. The film documents the use of radioactive uranium waste, from the nuclear power industry, and orginally from Australian uranium mines, which is turned into weapons and sprayed across American 'theatres of war'. It seems spreading radioactive waste on your enemies is cheaper than trying to work out ways to store it safely for the tens of thousands of years that it will remain dangerous to human health.

The film points out the crucial role that Pine Gap plays in the American war efforts and also informs about the treaties signed by Howard and Hill to host 35,000 American troops at Australian 'military facilities' for exercises, to test weapons and have war practice.

Among the most shocking images are the photos of the Iraqi babies, born horribly deformed, 8 or 9 every day. And yes, an increasing number of deformed babies are being born to the Gulf War I veterans.

It seems that Howard and his cronies (and most in the ALP who pursue the same cringing policies when in Government) don't yet understand the Gaia hypothesis- what goes around comes around. You spread radioactive particles into the atmosphere in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Australia and the weather will carry them as invisible emissaries into homes all around our planet. Money and power will be no protection.

Only lots of people taking action in thousands of diverse ways will stop the madness currently running rampant on our planet.

So hearty congratulations to the crew who took action and put Pine Gap in the news again.

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