Pine Gap – The inside story of the NSA in Australia by David Rosenberg – Book Review

Originally published in 2011 as Inside Pine Gap, the release of this work has coincided with the 2018 TV mini-series for which Rosenberg was the technical and creative consultant. Pine Gap has married autobiographical with academic writing. Rosenberg explains the difficulties (read ‘hurdles’) in delivering his story without it suffering major redactions.

Hardie Grant Books 2018
Paperback 288pp RRP: $29.99

He begins with his choice between working for the CIA and NSA and the steps involved in gaining entry to both. After working in the Maryland, USA from 1986 to 1990, he took up a two-year posting to Pine Gap that lasted eighteen years! Included is the history of the base from purchase of the land (1960s) to the initial construction of the facility (requiring conversion from American drawings in imperial units to metric units used by its Australian builders) and subsequent expansions.

The business of the satellite surveillance conducted at Pine Gap is examined in the three presidential eras spanning Rosenberg’s time at the facility(1990 – 2008). The critical issues on the world political stage and the necessary intelligence that was required to successfully manage them are fully covered: from Operation Desert Storm, the end of the Cold War, Somalia, Russia, Serbia, Kosovo, Al-Qaeda, China, Afghanistan, the War on Terror, Iraq and North Korea.

Rosenberg fully integrated himself into the Alice Springs community, and considers ‘The Alice’ being responsible for the total integration of effort and trust between American and Australian operatives at Pine Gap.

On leaving the NSA, becoming an Australian citizen and not being able to elaborate on his previous work provided a major hurdle for Rosenberg in gaining employment that would fully utilize his knowledge and skills. He now works in the media and as a professional speaker.

An Afterword that examines the ethics of eavesdropping is a major bonus. Not only does Rosenberg justify its need, he provides the framework for safeguarding the users and those who are the subject of the surveillance. Included are a number of appendices, a Glossary, Notes that are rich with online references, a Bibliography and an Index.

This is a most enlightening and readable work that breaks down the mystique of Pine Gap. It justifies its necessity for the collection of information critical to political and military decisions in a complex world where rouge elements are capable of wreaking havoc.

Reviewed for RUSIV by Neville Taylor, January 2019

Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.

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