Monday, 30 July 2012

The spy who came in from the desert

For 23 years our guest blogger DAVID ROSENBERG held a United States top security clearance for the super-secret intelligence agency, the National Security Agency (NSA). He  tells us about the writing of the book Inside Pine Gap: The Spy Who Came In From The Desert, and the rigours of getting published.

Pine Gap in the 1980s
I loved my job in the exciting world of electronic intelligence, but in 2008, after 18 years at Pine Gap, I resigned in order to move to Sydney and live with my family. Upon resigning, I was required to sign an agreement that obliged me to seek approval before being allowed to publish anything that may contain classified information - including my resume!  

At first it was hard to imagine writing my memoirs and sharing the stimulating and fascinating work that I was immersed in every day of my working life. Would it end up being a book of blank pages or consist of many heavy black redactions - how much would they let me share and how much would forever remain secret? If I went through the proper channels, would I one day be able to tell my story?

Writing the initial draft of the book came easily, but then the obstacles and challenges of getting published began. When my first draft was received by the NSA, the Agency quickly put me on a plane to Canberra for a secure video conference with senior US and Australian security and protocol officials. I then spent the next 18 months working to gain publishing approval with not one, but four intelligence agencies, including one in Australia.

On top of this, my wife and stepson could not see the manuscript before it was approved for release, and so I spent quite a lot of time over two years locked in a room that was off limits while I wrote. Patience was needed by one and all if the book was ever going to see the light of day. In the end, I was amazed at what the agencies allowed me to include!  It took tenacity, perseverance and a strong belief in myself, but I believe it was worth the effort.

My book sheds light on some of the myths and misinformation surrounding the NSA and the satellite ground site known as Pine Gap near Alice Springs. The book reveals what really goes on behind the locked gates in the middle of the Australian desert. My 23 year career involved working in the United States and Australia during four American presidencies and spanned a tumultuous period in history from the end of the Cold War to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.  
It was liberating to come out of the desert and a locked room of the house to finally share with my family and friends some of the intelligence projects I had been working on all those years. I look forward to sharing more with you at the Festival.

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