Pine Gap

Close to God’s Ear: NSA Eavesdropping Memoirs

Non-Fiction - Memoir
294 Pages
Reviewed on 09/03/2020
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Author Biography

Pine Gap is the story about the NSA's most important satellite ground site, as well as my experience of working for the NSA for 23 years, 18 of which were spent at Pine Gap. Writing the initial draft of the book came easily, as I followed a common rule of authors - write about what you know. But with publication nearing, the NSA and three other intelligence organizations became alarmed at what I might reveal. Nothing concerned them more than a book that might disrupt the close working relationship between the United States and Australia at Pine Gap. The Base had been in Alice Springs for over four decades, and no one with a Top Secret security clearance and full access to the 'nerve center' of Operations had dared to write about what happens inside the facility's secure walls. It appeared to be just too difficult - signals intelligence veterans would think to themselves, 'They won't let me write anything!' As well, I was under a lifetime agreement with the Agency to have all written material screened prior to publication. Immediately upon receiving my first draft, I was quickly put on a plane to Canberra for a secure video conference with senior US and Australian officials. I then spent the next 18 months in discussions with four intelligence agencies as to what I could write. I hope you enjoy reading about the incredible partnership that exists between the Australians and Americans at Pine Gap.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

Pine Gap: Close to God’s Ear: NSA Eavesdropping Memoirs by David Rosenberg is the non-fiction memoir and compilation of experiences from his time as an insider within the titular organization. To emphasize the significance of Rosenberg's tell-all, the book begins with a disclaimer from the National Security Agency/NSA, which is probably one of the smoothest non-denial intros I've seen. Rosenberg holds nothing back as he fleshes out his work as an American spy after his first choice as an FBI Special Agent role was axed because of nominal herbal drug use, which the CIA also questioned. By a process of elimination, Rosenberg was situated with the NSA. Rosenberg details the process and placement, some absolutely key moments in world history which he was at first base with, his stance on some actions taken, his exit, personal life, and life after leaving.

Pine Gap is as engrossing as it is terrifying with David Rosenberg leading the way through things we suspected, things we didn't know, and a couple of things I now wish I didn't know. The last bit isn't entirely true but I admit the processing of Rosenberg's experience took some time. The technical aspects were cool to read up on but, for me, it was the impact his career had on his life and outlook that made the more mechanical aspects palatable. There's a distinct transition that happens with the panache of a fantastic fictional character arc, except that Rosenberg's evolution was from an American on American soil, to an American on Australian soil, to an American who felt let down and left with a for-or-against terrorism ultimatum—this evolution is true. So a book that is factual reads with the delicious insight of one that is not. It's rare to find a memoir that taps into the stranger-than-fiction mold, but Rosenberg does in this spectacular account.

Renee Guill

Pine Gap: Close to God’s Ear: NSA Eavesdropping Memoirs by David Rosenberg is a non-fiction book describing what really goes on in Pine Gap. It is a secret listening base, located in Alice Springs, Australia. The US government and the Australian government work side by side in this facility to track down signals from weapons. David Rosenberg shares how he got the job and what he does there. He also talks about his life in Alice Springs. He also shares the history of the facility. He explains how he was able to write the book and why he had to use Xs to cross off a lot of sections. He shares some photos and other reading material too.

Pine Gap by David Rosenberg is a fascinating book. You get to see behind the scenes of the government and the facility. I should say that there is a trigger warning: he talks in great detail about the 9/11 bombing. But, I loved how we got to read about behind the scenes of how the government worked. I thought David Rosenberg did a wonderful job in world-building. I was able to see it all so clearly, though I have never been there. I thought the photos were a nice touch too. I liked that he explained why there are a lot of redactions in the book, but they did not make it confusing. I liked that he went into great detail about how he got the job and what his life was like, in case anyone was interested in doing that job. The movies make it more fascinating than what it really is. If you like CIA spy type movies/books, or if you like history and anything dealing with the government, then this is a must-read.

K.C. Finn

Pine Gap: Close to God’s Ear – NSA Eavesdropping Memoirs is a work of non-fiction written in the autobiographical and memoir style by author David Rosenberg. As the title suggests, this collection of memories and experiences seeks to shed light on the fascinating world of military surveillance, particularly at the Pine Gap facility where the author worked in a high-level security position. The book recounts missions and intelligence collected during such times as the Iraq wars, the Balkans and the War on Terror (to name just a few), giving a fascinating insider’s perspective on what went on, but also asking highly important questions about the ethics of eavesdropping in the modern age.

Author David Rosenberg has crafted a fantastic and highly compelling work of non-fiction that will be sure to fascinate anyone who picks it up, whether they had a prior interest in surveillance and intelligence-gathering or not. Offering a unique voice and many, many years of experience in the field, Rosenberg’s narration is smooth and confident, delivering high levels of detail and access to little known facts that will certainly fascinate and enthrall his audience. One of the things most vital to the text, I feel, is the ethical and moral discussion around the nature of intelligence gathering, which is in-depth and intelligently penned, with accurate reference to recent events. Overall, this makes Pine Gap: Close to God’s Ear – NSA Eavesdropping Memoirs an engrossing and important read for anyone involved and/or interested in military intelligence of the present and past.

Rabia Tanveer

Pine Gap - Close to God's Ear: NSA Eavesdropping Memoirs by David Rosenberg provides a look into military surveillance and how it remained a major part of the author's life for 18 years. David Rosenberg worked at the Pine Gap facility himself, which is why he has a wealth of knowledge about military surveillance and gives a first-hand look into things unknown to the common public. From talking about “simple” eavesdropping missions to collecting information during the Iraq wars and the Afghanistan conflict, the author holds nothing back and shares it all. He details and recounts his career through three different USA presidencies until his career ended at Pine Gap. He also shares his stance on the ethics of eavesdropping and how it has become common in the grand scheme of things.

Pine Gap is an engrossing book. The author’s narrative style is very professional, yet there is an element of genuine interest in the topic that makes reading this book another experience. Reading about the ins and outs of modern eavesdropping and spy work should be boring but it isn’t. David Rosenberg's “voice” is very soothing yet very enthralling at the same time. There is a confidence in the way he tells his story so that the reader cannot help but become engrossed in the book. He very intelligently shares his heart and mind with the reader about intelligence work he did in the past, and how he considers the moral dilemma behind it. Reading about intelligence work and getting a first-hand account of it is fascinating. This book contains some very interesting information. I can imagine this book becoming the basis for a documentary series.

Vincent Dublado

Eavesdropping is curiously ill-defined under ethical standards, but David Rosenberg’s eighteen-year career as a spy for the United States National Security Agency (NSA) might change your perspective. In light of eavesdropping as a realistic approach to forging alliances and national security, Pine Gap: Close to God’s Ear –NSA Eavesdropping Memoirs discloses his experience within the tall gates of Pine Gap. Despite apprehension from the lingering thought of divulging classified information to the world, he doesn’t hold back in revealing an exclusive look at the intelligence operations jointly conducted by the US and Australia over the course of his eighteen years as a Pine Gap insider. He sheds light on the common misconceptions about Pine Gap, and on the ethics of eavesdropping as a legitimate function in ensuring safety for the citizenry.

Pine Gap has been on the frontline of gathering intelligence. Whenever the lives of American and Australian military personnel are under threat, Pine Gap satellites serve as the all-seeing eyes and all-hearing ears. This secretive base continues to monitor potential threats, and Mr. Rosenberg’s reflections hope to address concerns of anti-Pine Gap protest groups. “They will never let you write this book,” as his colleagues put it, on account of the classified information he intends to reveal. Yet he took the risk because his story is worth telling, and to help people realize the truth about what Pine Gap does. We could learn from reading this work how we benefit from the US and Australia’s security interests that Pine Gap nurtures.