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SYDNEY, Australia – The Pine Gap spy base in outback Australia is pivotal to the U.S. drone-strike program that has killed key al-Qaida and Taliban leaders, Australian media have revealed.
The joint Australian-American top secret signals intelligence base, located not far from Ayers Rock, has been tasked with the location and tracking of al-Qaida and Taliban chiefs. The base also monitors insurgent activity in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to former personnel, the facility has enjoyed “outstanding” success in meeting its objectives.
Australian media has reported a primary function of the satellite base is “to track the precise ‘geolocation’ of radio signals, including hand-held radios and mobile phones, from the Middle East across Asia to China, North Korea and the Russian far east.”
Pine Gap communicates the intelligence to the drone program and military operational units.
Australian Army intelligence sources confirmed that “finding targets is critically dependent on intelligence gathered and processed through the Pine Gap facility.”
A former Pine Gap employee was interviewed by Fairfax Media.
”The [Taliban] know we’re listening, but they still have to use radios and phones to conduct their operations, they can’t avoid that,” the former employee said. “We track them, we combine the signals intelligence with imagery, and once we’ve passed the geolocation intelligence on, our job is done. When drones do their job, we don’t need to track that target anymore.”
The news has been met with support.
Jack Johnson, a resident of Alice Springs said: “It is great that Pine Gap is playing a role in eradicating the extremist nuts that wish to blow us up. May they keep going, I say. I couldn’t care less what the bleeding heart lefties think. We need to be get rid of these people.”
It may surprise most Americans to learn of the existence of Pine Gap, established by an Australia-U.S. treaty in 1966.
Situated strategically about 10 miles out of Alice Springs in the deep outback, it controls America’s spy satellites as they pass over the one third of the globe that includes China, parts of Russia and Middle East oil fields. Central Australia was chosen because it was too remote for spy ships passing in international waters to intercept the signal.
Pine Gap controls a set of geostationary satellites positioned above the Indian Ocean and Indonesia. The satellites orbit the Earth at a fixed point above the equator and are able to locate the origin of radio signals to within as little as 10 meters. Pine Gap processes the data and can provide targeting information to U.S. and allied military units within minutes.
The drone program is said to have successfully eliminated several thousand al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
NSA leaker Edward Snowden revealed that Pine Gap was part of the NSA collection program “X-Keyscore” and PRISM surveillance.