ANNOUNCER: [People’s shouts of `We want Gough, We want Gough’ in the background] The Governor-General of Australia who by this proclamation dissolves the Senate and the House of Representatives. Given under my hand on the great seal of Australia on the 11th of November 1975, by His Excellency’s command, Malcolm Fraser as Prime Minister … God save the Queen.
Jane Lanbrook: Welcome to the second part of Watching Brief this week. I’m Jane Lanbrook and now in the third part of our series examining the activities of the CIA in Australia we look at the role of the Pine Gap military communications base in connection with the fall of the Whitlam government.
GOUGH WHITLAM: The proclamation which you have just heard read by the Governor-General’s official secretary was countersigned Malcolm Fraser…[people’s shouts of BOO BOO BOO]…who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as “Kerr’s cur”.
Tony Douglas: So the first Labor government for a generation was gone. It had been in office for three years but hadn’t really been given the opportunity to govern. Twice in that time the conservative parties blocked supply and countless other pieces of legislation were also defeated in the Senate. As his government came under daily assault through the building up of the Loans Affairs, the Marosi Affair and other diversions, Whitlam struck back at his enemies blowing away some of the secrecy surrounding Pine Gap. Former Whitlam Cabinet Minister Clyde Cameron recalls.
Clyde Cameron: We were never told that Pine Gap was a CIA installation and it wasn’t until Gough Whitlam publicly declared that Richard Stallings was a CIA operative and that he had been in charge of the Pine Gap installation that we knew that Pine Gap was a CIA installation and I believe that at the very beginning Gough Withlam and the Minister for Defence were led to believe that it was a pretty harmless sort of operation. But you’ve got to remember that just about the time the dismissal took place, the Australian government had to make a decision as to whether it would renew the leases of these American installations on Australian soil and there is every reason to believe that the Americans were fearful that the leases wouldn’t be renewed. That would be a good enough reason, in their view, for moving in to destabilise the government and to bring about its overthrow to say nothing of any threat that our policies may have for their Australian investments in the multinational area.
Tony Douglas: Whitlam’s exposure of Stallings also revealed another interesting fact and that was that Stallings was staying at National Party Leader Dough Anthony’s flat in Canberra. From November 2 to November 6, 1975, Whitlam repeated these charges and demanded a list of all CIA agents in Australia. The CIA in turn demanded that ASIO report to them on what Whitlam was up to. A cable from a senior CIA official and Task Force 157 member, Ted Shackley, on November 10 accused Whitlam of being a security risk and asked ASIO to do something about it. The Head of the Defence Department, Arthur Thang, described him as “the greatest risk to our nation’s security that there has ever been.” Meanwhile Whitlam said he would detail the operations of Pine Gap in Parliament on the afternoon of November 11. It wasn’t until years later that details about the Pine Gap base and American fears that its top secret role would be disclosed were linked to the downfall of the Whitlam government. That link came to light when Chris Boyce, a cipher clerk at TRW — a California-based aerospace corporation, was charged with espionage in 1977. Boyce was working in the black vault where information from Australia was directed to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Kelly Johnson of the Christopher Boyce Alliance takes up the story.
Kelly Johnson: The information was mostly coming from Pine Gap, Nurrungar and Canberra, from the CIA stations there. It’s difficult to know actually what the content was, it’s obviously very secret what the content was, but it came into the communications relay room where Boyce worked. He then sent the information on to CIA headquarters in Langley and sent certain information back to Australia.
Tony Douglas: Now Australia and the United States had signed an Executive Agreement to share intelligence from Pine Gap. Did Boyce find that his practical experience was all that intelligence information shared?
Kelly Johnson: No, in fact he was told in the very beginning, during the briefing for the job, that although that Executive Agreement had been signed America was not honouring it and it was emphasised to Boyce that he must be very particular in what he sent back to Australia.
Tony Douglas: What was the result of him becoming incensed by what he saw his country’s duplicity with regard to one of his allies, what did he do as a result of that?
Kelly Johnson: It took several months for Boyce to actually do anything. From the first day Boyce was working in the vault an employee who was working with him used to tell Boyce stories about how easy it would be to pass certain information on to the Russians and how much money they would get for it. And this co-worker actually worked out the best and safest method for taking this information to the Russians. At first Boyce used to ignore this and then one day he discovered a telex message outlining the way the CIA had infiltrated the leadership of the Australian unions and were manipulating them to their own aims. And following that he then discovered information relating the way the CIA was planning to destabilise the Whitlam government and it was then that the scenario that this co-worker had planned in advance for this contact with the Russians that Boyce carried it out.
Tony Douglas: What allegations did Boyce make about CIA involvement in Australian politics and under what conditions has he made these statements?
Kelly Johnson: Well, he tried to make specific allegations under oath during his trial but he was blocked except on two occasions when he talked of the CIA infiltrating the leadership of the Australian unions and he also talked about the daily deception that America practices against Australia at Pine Gap. Since his conviction he’s been interviewed on two separate occasions. On the first occasion by Australia’s 60 Minutes and then by an Australian journalist named William Pimwill in which he made rather more specific allegations. But it has been very difficult to get hold of a transcript of the 60 Minutes interview in order to be more specific on what he said.
Tony Douglas: Now Boyce was charged with espionage along with his partner Dalton Lee. It was basically around then passing on information in the so-called Pyramide file. Now what was the Project Pyramide?
Kelly Johnson: Pyramide was a project involving a satellite that was used solely for espionage. It was a system of push-button communications whereby human spy agents on the ground could communicate with the satellite in space which would relay the message directly to CIA headquarters in Langley.
Tony Douglas: When was this research project into Pyramide or this file compiled?
Kelly Johnson: It was first proposed in the late 1960s to TRW, which was the company that Boyce was working for, and it was in 1973 that TRW actually put their plans forward to the CIA with an estimate that it would cost between 300 and 400 million dollars.
Tony Douglas: And then what subsequently happened to the plans for Pyramide?
Kelly Johnson: Well, they were temporarily shelved because the CIA were unable to get funding in that particular fiscal year and it’s then believed that another satellite with similar capabilities but with a few changes to it was actually launched and Pyramide was just kept as a plan, it was never implemented.
Tony Douglas: So what classification did that file have?
Kelly Johnson: Well, at that time it had an extremely secret classification. Mostly because it went against the tacit agreement that the USSR and America had drawn up together and it was subject to quite an extreme classification.
Tony Douglas: What’s this tacit agreement that the Americans and the Russians had about this kind of spy satellites?
Kelly Johnson: Apparently when the SALT Treaty was drawn up in 1972 satellites had not yet been officially announced as being in existence and in fact they were only referred to in the SALT Treaty as national means of verification. Because neither the American nor the Russian governments wanted the public to be aware of the existence of satellites they had agreed among themselves that satellites would only be used for verification purposes and, of course, the Pyramide went against that.
Tony Douglas: Well, how did Chris Boyce come into contact with this Pyramide file? Did it come over the telex machine as well?
Kelly Johnson: No, not at all. The Pyramide file had actually been kept in a safe in the vault, which is the department where Boyce worked, and after Boyce had tended his notice of resignation from the black vault this Pyramide file mysteriously appeared on top of an unlocked filing cabinet where Boyce worked. Boyce asked about it, what it was doing there, what it was about, and he was told that it was a dead project and was of no value. So, in keeping with his policy of only sending in sensitive material he copied it and sent it to the Russians. And in fact this supposedly top secret file sat on top of that filing cabinet for 36 days.
Tony Douglas: Why was Boyce only passing on non-sensitive material to the Russians at this stage?
Kelly Johnson: That was his method of negating the mistake he made of contacting the Russians in the first place. The original contact with the Russians was made in a sense of outrage and also the immaturity that goes with being 21 and in that position. Once he had actually made that contact he realised that it was the wrong thing to do and to negate the mistake he began sending the Russians what the Russians eventually viewed as garbage, that he knew that they would get exasperated with, and frustrated with, and that’s exactly what happened. It was the Russians who called a halt to the situation.
Tony Douglas: So he was tried simply on the Pyramide file and passing that on to the Russians, none of the other things that he did ever came to court.
Kelly Johnson: No, they didn’t and yet there were many many inferences throughout the court hearing about the thousands of sensitive documents that he passed on to the Russians.
Tony Douglas: And why was it necessary to use the Pyramide file in particular to sort of seek his conviction?
Kelly Johnson: Well, it would seem that there were two reasons for this. Nobody was ever allowed to see any of the other documents and even Boyce’s defence lawyers were not allowed to, even though they had appropriate security clearances.
Tony Douglas: Why do you think Boyce was given such a long sentence – originally forty years – for this?
Kelly Johnson: Well, Boyce was obviously keen to talk about what he’d seen in the vault and the CIA was keen to shut him up.
Tony Douglas: Has access to Boyce been easy enough to talk to him and find out what information he has got, especially on America’s involvement in Australian domestic politics?
Kelly Johnson: Absolutely not. Boyce is under … he is in solitary confinement. He’s been there for the last three years and will remain there for the duration of his term. He’s also not permitted to have any contact with anybody whom he didn’t know prior to his original conviction. He has been permitted to do three interviews: one with Australia’s 60 Minutes, one with America’s 60 Minutes, and one with an Australian journalist. And it was following the interview with Australia’s 60 Minutes that he was put into a locked room with half a dozen members of the Aryan Brotherhood who were a neo-nazi group within the prison and they established beatings and have actually got a contract on his life.
Tony Douglas: And he is therefore likely to remain in solitary confinement?
Kelly Johnson: Absolutely. Boyce is allowed out of his tiny cell one hour a day to exercise alone in a walled courtyard and when he does go out he’s tied by his wrist and ankles. So the conditions he’s being kept under are really intense amounts of torture.
Tony Douglas: Over the last couple of weeks we’ve surveyed the evidence of CIA involvement in overturning the Whitlam government. We’ve looked at the work of Task Force 157 through the cover of the Nugan-Hand merchant bank and the crucial role played by US ambassador Marshall Green. We’ve seen the mighty ??? in action pumping up the Loans Affairs while CIA operatives such as T. Khemlani are shuffled on and off the national political stage. We also delved into the past associations of Sir John Kerr from his wartime intelligence work through his inaugural presidency of the CIA-front organisation Law Asia to his phone calls to the American embassy in the days before the dismissal. And we’ve seen how badly the Australian and American defence and intelligence community took the disclosures about Pine Gap and the first CIA Station Chief there Richard Stallings. But the question remains how did the CIA get away with deceiving and destabilising the Whitlam government? Former CIA officer Victor Marchetti looks at it in this way:
Victor Marchetti: I would say that this would be done, to my experience, particularly in friendly host countries, is always done, with the knowledge of the host country. I mean, the CIA did not take these actions upon itself. It’s done in cooperation with the local intelligence services and they of course provided assistance and protection. The CIA has worked with other intelligence organisations in other friendly countries in England, Norway, Canada, Germany, in a whole variety of countries in a large range of joint projects. The only reason the CIA would get involved in supporting certain political parties or undercutting other parties would be because we had the money and the expertise and so forth to be able to do it and this would be viewed as a cooperative venture because the host country welcomes the US. What you in Australia must understand is that you are more to blame than the CIA is because you want this to happen, you want a certain administration in control and you don’t want another administration in control. The first question I tell all foreign journalists when they bring out this point is … I ask them, `look, you find out where the loyalties of your intelligence services lies. Do they lie with your country as a whole, for better or worse, or to the establishment in your country?’ and in most instances the answer you find is `to the establishment.’ So in essence this is like in the old days in Europe where the nobility of various countries had more in common with each other than they did with their own people. This is true of intelligence services. They tend to have more in common with each other and their establishments which they represent than they do with their own people.
Tony Douglas: Well, what are the connections between American and Australian security and intelligence organisations? Jerry Aaron, co-author of Rooted in Secrecy looks at the history of secret agreements that link Western intelligence together, especially the UKUSA Treaty which was signed in 1947 and not known about even by Australian Prime Ministers until 1973.
Jerry Aaron: The quadripartite agreement which operated before the UKUSA was actually a means initially of keeping the equipment of the armies of the participating countries standardised and then was extended to the Navy and the Air Force. In other words, they simply lock each other into a particular scenario which is always the scenario of fighting common wars rather than self-defence. The quadripartite pact in 1947 involved the US, Britain, Canada and Australia and it was so secret that nobody ever knew anything about it. In has in fact had a D-notice on it, that’s how secret it was, and as you know there are only very few D-notices in Australia which prevent the publication of material on particularly secret matters. The UKUSA Treaty was also signed in 1947 and when I say ‘sign’ it’s so secret that nobody knows who signed it and in fact it’s claimed that there is absolutely no written record. UKUSA, as the name implies, is the UK, USA and Australia but in fact other countries participate, and all the NATO countries are allied to it. UKUSA is about what in the jargon of the trade is called “sigint”, which is “signals intelligence”, which is all the lovely stuff we get from all the aerials and all the satellites in the sky spying on their enemies and on each other, and it’s main components are the British outfit which is called the GCHQ which is General Communication Headquarters, and in Australia the agency concerned is the DSD.
Tony Douglas: What is the DSD?
Jerry Aaron: Defence Signals Directorate. I think it’s now called Defence Signals Division, I can’t remember which came first, but it’s the same outfit anyway. Nor does it really matter because the whole thing is coordinated by the head office in the States, which is the National Security Agency which supplies most of the equipment and for whose benefit the whole thing is organised. This is really the means by which Australia is locked into the US war fighting capacity.
Tony Douglas: And we have been since at least 1947?
Jerry Aaron: Yes and it was so secret that in fact even successive Prime Ministers of Australia didn’t know about it and the whole thing blew up when the existence of the secret DSD activity in Malaysia became publicised, and it was then that they tried to hush it up but, of course, now it is generally understood and known and I don’t think nowadays people make such secrets about secret treaties anymore because everybody knows that most of what goes on in the foreign policy area of most of the countries concerned is in fact totally secret.
Tony Douglas: So when Ted Shackley sends a cable to ASIO asking them to do something about Whitlam can that be seen in terms of an order from the senior agency?
Jerry Aaron: Oh, most certainly. I think we should actually … I think of what happened when Harold Salisbury who was Police Commissioner in the Dunstan government in South Australia. They had an inquiry into the Special Branch there after Salisbury was sacked for misleading the government and what he actually said when he was asked why he hadn’t told the government the full truth he said, `I would have merely justified a very severe criticism from responsible and official quarters and from security organisations beyond Australia’ and he made it quite clear that his responsibilities were not to the government of the day but to other people and when he was pressed on the point as to who the other people were he said very weakly `The Crown’, but obviously the crown that he pays allegiance to sits in the U.S.
Tony Douglas: Jerry Aaron’s interpretation of the Shackley Cable is shared by former CIA agent Ralph McGehee. Was Shackley in a position to be ordering ASIO about, I mean, you worked under Shackley in Vietnam. Is he a senior CIA officer?
Ralph McGehee: Oh, yes, he was a top CIA officer. He was also one of Ed Wilson’s closest friends. Ed Wilson, of course, was head of Task Force 157. Prior to that, Wilson had been in the CIA. And there are all sorts of evidence that Task Force 157 was also orchestrating the efforts to overthrow the Whitlam government.
Clyde Cameron: Well, ASIO has always been a compliant service for the American CIA. They have always done that. They have been quite sympathetic towards the CIA and let’s not forget that the Australian intelligence organisations were the ones who were responsible for acting as a conduit for the CIA and Pinochet in 1973 when the CIA-backed Pinochet Junta moved in and overthrew the elected government of Chile. I know that members of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) were active in Santiago at that time and were acting in cooperation with the CIA because the CIA weren’t able to function in Chile under President Allende. They had to do their dirty work through somebody else and they chose the Australian intelligence organisations. When I became Minister for Immigration I was appalled to discover that we had an immigration officer in Santiago who was in fact an ASIO spy. He wasn’t a genuine immigration officer at all but was an ASIO spy who had been put on by my immigration establishment as a bona fide immigration officer and I sought to have him removed but the Prime Minister intervened and prevented the removal from taking place. I remember that when the Prime Minister discovered that ASIS had been active in Santiago he ordered that the ASIS operative in that area be withdrawn that they just ignored it, refused to do anything about it, and it wasn’t until Whitlam took firm action and threatened to put the knife through a lot of these people who were responsible for ignoring his direction that they were withdrawn. But by that time, of course, the coup had occurred, Allende had been assassinated and Pinochet had been installed.
Ian Wood: That was former Whitlam Cabinet Minister Clyde Cameron. Before that you also heard former CIA agents Victor Marchetti and Ralph McGehee, Jerry Aaron, the co-author of Rooted in Secrecy, and Kelly Johnson of the Christopher Boyce Alliance. Next week, Watching Brief looks at the CIA interference in Australian and New Zealand trade unions.
Jane Lanbrook: Well, that’s all on Watching Brief this week. If you’d like more information or cassette copies of the program, or if you have got information that may be of interest, contact us at Public Radio News Services, Post Office Box 103, Fitzroy, Victoria, 3065. Or call us in Melbourne at 417 7304. That’s Public Radio News Services. Watching Brief is produced by Ian Wood and Tony Douglas for the Public Broadcasting Network of Australia. I’m Jane Lanbrook and I hope you’ll tune in again next week at the same time for Watching Brief, Public Radio’s National Environment Program.
End of Part 3