Pine Gap incursion, 9 December 2005

Pine Gap incursion, 9 December 2005

Donna Mulhearn, Sean Reilly, Jim Dowling, Bryan Law, Adel Goldie - Source: WebDiary

Donna Mulhearn, Sean Reilly, Jim Dowling, Bryan Law, Adel Goldie – Source: WebDiary



Early on the morning of 9 December 2005, four peace activists from the affinity group Christians Against ALL Terrorism entered the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, and were arrested soon after. Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie, Bryan Law and Donna Mulhearn approached the base from two different directions in darkness to carry out a protest against Australia’s involvement in the war in Iraq, in the belief that Pine Gap had a significant role in the conduct of that war. Two colleagues, Jessica Morrison and Sean O’Reilly, also members of Christians Against ALL Terrorism, also assisted the Citizens Inspection, but did not enter the facility. Reilly was arrested during a vigil with Morrison outside the facility later the same morning and charged with obstruction, a charge later dropped. Morrison was arrested by the Australian federal Police in Alice Springs later in the day and chaged in relation to the incursion, but the charges were dropped and she was released.

Domes at night - 2, Adele Goldie and Jim Dowling
Source: Pine Gap 6:

The activists’ account:

Bryan Law

Bryan Law’s debrief to Webdiary on the Pine Gap 4.

Jim Dowling

Liberating Pine Gap, Jim Dowling, Christians against All Terrorism 2007

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.

The first [guard] 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….

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.

The legal account

Dowling, Goldie, Law and Mulhearn were arrested inside the facility and charged with offences liable to a number of years imprisonment, including:

  • intentionally causing damage to property contrary to s 29(1) of the Crimes Act (maximum 10 years imprisonment)
  • entering a prohibited area contrary to s 9(1) of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act  (maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment)
  • using a camera within a prohibited area contrary to s 17(1) of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act (maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment).

This was the first and occasion on which any person had been charged under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act since its passage in 1952 prior to the British nuclear weapons tests in the Monte Bello Islands off West Australia.

The findings of fact by the trial judge at the sentencing hearing concisely summarise the court’s understanding  of the defendants’ actions:

“The four defendant [sic] planned they would enter the prohibited area at Pine Gap on 9 December 2005. They well knew the area was a prohibited area. Around the perimeter fence at Pine Gap and for some distance along Hatt Road, which is the only road to Pine Gap, there are signs warning of the consequences of entering a prohibited area.

Prior to 9 December 2005, the defendants had purchased maps and bolt cutters, held public meetings and publicly stated their intention to enter Pine Gap. In the early hours of the morning of 9 December 2005, the four arrived at the perimeter fences around Pine Gap. Mr Dowling and Ms Goldie had walked some distance and approached the northern fence. Mr Law and Ms Mulhearn had also walked a considerable distance and approached the eastern perimeter fence.

Mr Dowling used bolt cutters to cut through the outer man-proof fence and the inner man-proof fence. He and Ms Goldie entered the technical area, climbed on the roof and took photos of each other in the prohibited area. Mr Law used bolt cutters to cut through the outer fence situated on the eastern perimeter of the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap. He also cut through the outer man-proof fence situated on the eastern perimeter of the Joint Defence Facility. He and Ms Mulhearn entered the prohibited area. Ms Mulhearn took photographs within the prohibited area.

All four persons entered the prohibited area without a permit to do so. All four intentionally damaged property belonging to the Commonwealth, namely the fences around Pine Gap. They had no permission to do so. Mr Dowling, Ms Goldie and Ms Mulhearn each took photos in a prohibited area
without authority to do so. They were all arrested within minutes of their entry.

All four were found guilty in the jury trial of the Northern Territory Supreme Court before Justice Sally Thomas in Alice Springs. On 15 June 2007, Justice Thomas sentenced the defendants to fines of $500 to $1,250, and required each to pay a quarter of damages assessed at $10,075.89.

The Crown subsequently appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal on the grounds that that the sentences were “manifestly inadequate”. Defendants Goldie and Mulhearn cross-appealed, alleging errors in preliminary rulings by the trial judge, and that the judge’s refusal of applications for discovery of documents raised questions of procedural fairness. During the course of the appeal, defendants Dowling and Law sought leave to appeal on the ground that a ruling in law by the trial Judge had pre-empted a determination by the jury on a matter of fact in relation to the alleged offences.

On 22 February the Court of Appeal concluded a three-day hearing by allowing the defendants’ appeal, quashing their convictions citing a “miscarriage of justice”.

Christians Against ALL Terrorism sources

Pine Gap On Trial

Ed.: Ongoing blog by Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie, Bryan Law and Donna Mulhearn.

Pine Gap 6 – Live Journal

    Ed.: Ongoing blog by Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie, Bryan Law and Donna Mulhearn.

Biographies and background

Photographs taken by Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie and Donna Mulhearn inside the facility, 9 December 2005.

Ed.: As of March 2008, many of the thumbnail photographs listed were no longer linked to full versions.

CAAT Media releases

CAAT member accounts

Entering the ‘gap’ between what’s right and what’s legal

, Bryan Law, Webdiary, 17 October 2005.

Ed: Law’s explanation of his outlook and intentions prior to the action.

The bush track to Pine Gap, Bryan Law, Webdiary, 12 December 2005.

Ed.: Detailed account of the incursion by Jim Dowling.

If you’ve ever wanted to end a war…, Bryan Law, Webdiary, 30 July 2006,

Peace on Earth, Bryan Law, Webdiary, 2 January 2006.

If you’ve ever wanted to end a war…, Bryan Law, Webdiary, 30 July 2006.

Pine Gap – the Empire Strikes Back, Bryan Law, Webdiary, 3 February 2007.

Rise Up to End War, Bryan Law, Webdiary, 13 April 2007.

Bryan Law’s debrief to Webdiary on the Pine Gap 4
, Webdiary, 15 July 2007.

A little experiment with civil liberties in Australia, Bryan Law, Webdiary, 10 February 2008.

Ed.: Account of the trial and appeal process.

Government sources

Court documents

Links to various judicial decisions in this matter by the Northern Territory Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeal, in reverse chronological order:

The reasons for judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal quashing the convictions and entering acquittals:

The Queen v Law & Ors [2008] NTCCA 4 (19.3.08):

The reasons for judgment by the trial judge for refusing to leave any of the proposed defences to the jury (25.9.07):

The Queen v Bryan Joseph Law & Ors [2007] NTSC 45

The sentencing remarks of the trial judge (15.6.07):


The decision by the trial judge to refuse applications for discovery etc by the defendants (18.4.07):

The Queen v Bryan Joseph Law & Ors [2007] NTSC 26,

The decision by the trial judge that the Gazetted notice of the 1967 declaration was sufficient proof of a ‘prohibited area’ (12.10.06):

The Queen v Law & Ors [2006] NTSC 84

Analysis and commentary

The Pine Gap 4, The Law Report, Radio National, ABC, 1 April 2008.

    Ed.: Interviews with Bryan Law, Donna Mulhearn and Ron Merkel SC following the successful appeal. (Transcript and audio)

Protesters Cleared for Entering Spy Base, Phoebe Stewart, Northern Territory News, 23 February 2008.

Four anti-war protesters have been acquitted of national security charges for penetrating the Northern Territory’s Pine Gap spy base. It took Chief Justice Martin and Justices Trevor Riley and David Angel just minutes to agree that there had been a “miscarriage of justice”, as the four had not been allowed to argue before a jury that Pine Gap was not a “defence facility” for Australia.

Crown Appeal Sentence in Pine Gap Case, Bush Telegraph, 15 July 2007.

The Crown have filed the following claims for the appeal against the sentence of the Pine Gap four, including: (1) The judge failed to have regard to the maximum penalties; (2) The judge erred by placing inadequate weight on general deterrence; (8) Having regard to the objective facts and circumstances, the imposition of fines by the judge was manifestly inadequate.

Pine Gap: Crime and Punishment, Bush Telegraph, 11 June 2007.

Ed.: Extensive report of court proceedings in the jury trial, including excerpts from court transcripts. dealing with key issues and witness statements.

Pine Gap Trial Begins, Anonymous, sydney indymedia, 29 May 2007.

Ed.: Comments on this blog entry provide subsequent daily reports of the jury trial.

Christians charged over break-in, SMH, 15 December 2005

Five Christian peace activists charged with breaking into a top secret military base in central Australia have appeared in court. The Christians Against All Terrorism (CAAT) members appeared in Alice Springs Magistrates Court today, charged over a break-in at the joint United States/Australian facility at the Pine Gap, near Alice Springs, on December 9. 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.

Alarm system function

Pine Gap: Crime and Punishment, Bush Telegraph, 11 June 2007

Arrayed against the PG4 in December 2005 was the most sophisticated alarm system joint US and Australian ‘defence’ contractor, Raytheon, had to offer. Only one problem. There are kangaroos and snakes out there in the desert at Pine Gap. There are stray cows from nearby farms. These animals constantly set off the alarm signals that are fed back by the latest telecommunications technology to Florida USA. The security guards response? They turn off the alarms when it all gets too much. They ignore them when they feel like it. Yet at 4.07 am on 9 December 2005 an alarm went off that the officer David Derricks said he did not ignore. The guard immediately looked at the video camera that locked onto the point in the outer man-proof fence when the alarm was actuated. Nothing there. He rang for assistance. A car was sent to investigate. Still nothing there. It was not for another 12 minutes that Dowling and Goldie went through the bottom of the wire fences to climb a building called the CMAP building (pictured in foreground). Click to download the report showing the Faulty Alarms at Pine Gap that misled officer David Derricks.

Pine Gap - CMAP - incursion
Security photo including CMAP building triggered by PG4 incursion. Source<br /> Pine Gap: Crime and Punishment, Bush Telegraph, 11 June 2007.<br /><br /> Photo source: <br /><br />

Source: Pine Gap: Crime and Punishment, Bush Telegraph, 11 June 2007


The testimony the court disallowed

On the operational role of Pine Gap in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, see Richard Tanter, Pine Gap and the coalition wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

See also

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
27 August 2008