Katharine Gun

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Katharine Gun
Born
Katharine Teresa Harwood

1974 (age 45–46)
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Alma materSt Mary's College, University of Durham
OccupationLinguist
OrganizationGovernment Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)

Katharine Teresa Gun (née Harwood)[1] (born 1974) is a British translator who worked for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence agency.[2] In 2003, she leaked top-secret information to The Observer, concerning a request by the United States for compromising intelligence on diplomats from member states of the Security Council, who were due to vote on a second United Nations resolution on the prospective 2003 invasion of Iraq.[3]

Early life[edit]

Katharine Harwood moved to Taiwan in 1977 with her parents, Paul and Jan Harwood. Her father had studied Chinese at Durham University and now teaches at Tunghai University in the city of Taichung, central Taiwan. She has a younger brother who teaches in Taiwan.[4]

After spending her childhood in Taiwan, where she attended Morrison Academy until the age of 16, Katharine returned to Britain to study for her A-levels at Moira House, a girls' boarding school in Eastbourne. Her upbringing later led her to describe herself as a "third culture kid".[5] In 1993 she began studying Japanese and Chinese at Durham University.[5]

Gun graduated with an upper second-class degree, then took a job as an assistant English teacher with the Jet program in Hiroshima, Japan.[6] She left teaching in 1999, and after some temporary jobs, finding it difficult to find work as a linguist, Gun applied to GCHQ in 2001, after reading a newspaper advertisement for the organisation.[6] Gun had previously been unaware of GCHQ, later saying that "I didn't have much idea about what they did...I was going into it pretty much blind. Most people do."[5]

Leak[edit]

Gun's regular job at GCHQ in Cheltenham was to translate Mandarin Chinese into English.[5] While at work at GCHQ on 31 January 2003, Gun read an email from Frank Koza, the chief of staff at the "regional targets" division of the American signals intelligence agency, the National Security Agency.[7]

Koza's email requested aid in a secret operation to bug the United Nations offices of six nations: Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, and Pakistan. These were the six "swing nations" on the UN Security Council that could determine whether the UN approved the invasion of Iraq.[8] The plan might have contravened Articles 22 and 27 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which regulates global diplomacy.

Gun was outraged by the email, and took a printed copy of it home with her.[5] After contemplating the email over the weekend, Gun gave the email to a friend who was acquainted with journalists.[5] In February, she travelled to London to take part in a demonstration against war with Iraq.[5] Gun heard no more of the email, and had all but forgotten about it until Sunday 2 March, when she saw it reproduced on the front page of The Observer newspaper.[5] Less than a week after the Observer story, on Wednesday 5 March, Gun had confessed to her line manager at GCHQ that she had leaked the email, and was arrested. In a BBC interview with Jeremy Paxman, she said that she had not raised the matter with staff counsellors as she "honestly didn't think that would have had any practical effect."[9] Gun spent a night in police custody, and eight months later was charged with breaking the Official Secrets Act.[5] While waiting to hear whether she would be charged, Gun later embarked on a postgraduate degree course in global ethics at Birmingham University.[5]

Court case[edit]

On 13 November 2003, Gun was charged with an offence under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1989.[10] Her case became a cause célèbre among activists, and many people stepped forward to urge the government to drop the case.[11] Among them were Reverend Jesse Jackson, Daniel Ellsberg (the US government official who leaked the Pentagon Papers), and actor Sean Penn, who described her as "a hero of the human spirit". Gun planned to plead "not guilty", saying in her defence that she acted to prevent imminent loss of life in a war she considered illegal.

The case came to court on 24 February 2004. Within half an hour, the case was dropped because the prosecution declined to offer evidence.[12] At the time, the reasons for the Attorney-General to drop the case were murky. The day before the trial, Gun's defence team had asked the government for any records of legal advice about the lawfulness of the war that it had received during the run-up to the war. A full trial might have exposed any such documents to public scrutiny, as the defence was expected to argue that trying to stop an unlawful war of aggression outweighed Gun's obligations under the Official Secrets Act. Speculation was rife in the media that the prosecution service had bowed to political pressure to drop the case so that any such documents would remain secret.[12] However, a government spokesman said that the decision to drop the case had been made before the defence's demands had been submitted.[12] The Guardian newspaper had reported plans to drop the case the previous week.[13] On the day of the court hearing, Gun said, "I'm just baffled in the 21st century we as human beings are still dropping bombs on each other as a means to resolve issues."[12] In May 2019 The Guardian stated the case was dropped "when the prosecution realised that evidence would emerge ... that even British government lawyers believed the invasion was unlawful."[14]

In September 2019 Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, said the case against Gun was not dropped to stop the Attorney General's advice on the legality of the Iraq War from being revealed. He stated that Gun would not have received a fair trial without the disclosure of information that would have compromised national security. Gavin Hood, the director of Official Secrets, expressed scepticism about Macdonald's statement and called for the declassification of the official documents referred to by Macdonald.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Her husband (Suat Gün)[4] is a Turkish Kurd.[16] As of 2020 Gun lives in Turkey and Britain.[17] After she was acquitted in 2004, she found it difficult to find a new job. As of 2019 she has lived in Turkey with her husband and daughter for several years.[18]

Later life[edit]

Gun received the Sam Adams Award for 2003 and was supported in her case by the UK human rights pressure group Liberty and in the US by the Institute for Public Accuracy. Following the dropping of the case, Liberty commented, "One wonders whether disclosure in this criminal trial might have been a little too embarrassing."[12]

Two years after her trial, Katharine Gun wrote an article titled "Iran: Time to Leak",[19] which asked whistleblowers to make public information about plans for a potential war against Iran. She urged "those in a position to do so to disclose information which relates to this planned aggression; legal advice, meetings between the White House and other intelligence agencies, assessments of Iran's threat level (or better yet, evidence that assessments have been altered), troop deployments and army notifications. Don't let 'the intelligence and the facts be fixed around the policy' this time."[19]

In film[edit]

In January, 2019, the film Official Secrets, recounting Gun's actions in 2003, received its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, with Keira Knightley playing Gun.[20] Daniel Ellsberg praised the swiftness and importance of Gun taking action, saying it was in some ways more significant than his own whistleblowing on the Vietnam War.[21] In July 2019, in a lengthy interview on the US program Democracy Now!, Gun, Gavin Hood (the film's director), Martin Bright and Ed Vulliamy (the journalists who broke the story of the leaked memo) discussed the events that the film describes.[22][23] Together with British journalist Peter Beaumont, Gun advised and consulted over the years it took to make the film and are "very happy with the result.”[17]

Further reading[edit]

  • Marcia Mitchell; Thomas Mitchell (2008). The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion. Sausalito, CA: Polipoint Press. ISBN 978-0981576916. (additional ISBN 000835569X ISBN 9780008355692 ISBN 9780008348564 ISBN 0008348561)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gunkel, Christoph (28 October 2019). "Whistleblowerin Katharine Gun - "Ich fürchtete, sie könnten meine Gedanken lesen"". Spiegel Online (in German).
  2. ^ IPA's editor (25 February 2004). "The Katharine Gun Case". accuracy.org. Institute for Public Accuracy. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  3. ^ "Ex-GCHQ officer 'preventing war'". BBC. 27 November 2003. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  4. ^ a b "The US spymaster, the whistleblower, and the secret email she exposed". Daily Telegraph. 26 February 2004. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Burkeman, Oliver; Norton-Taylor, Richard (26 February 2004). "The spy who wouldn't keep a secret". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Profile: Katherine Gun, Iraq war wistleblower". The Times. 25 February 2004. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  7. ^ Bright, Martin (3 March 2013). "Katharine Gun: Ten years on what happened to the woman who revealed dirty tricks on the UN Iraq war vote?". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  8. ^ Koza, Frank. "US plan to bug Security Council: the text". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  9. ^ "Katharine Gun". BBC News. 26 February 2004.
  10. ^ "Ex-GCHQ woman charged over 'leak'". BBC News. 13 November 2003. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  11. ^ Patrick Radden Keefe (2006). Chatter : uncovering the echelon surveillance network and the secret world of global eavesdropping. Random House. p. 30. ISBN 9780812968279. OCLC 74968795. Retrieved 22 March 2020 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ a b c d e "GCHQ translator cleared over leak". BBC News. 26 February 2004. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  13. ^ Bright, Martin (22 February 2004). "GCHQ mother: My girl is not a traitor". the Guardian. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  14. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (4 May 2019). "Leaking or briefing? Inside the world of ministers' secrets". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  15. ^ Townsend, Mark (1 September 2019). "Iraq war whistleblower's trial 'was halted due to national security threat'". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  16. ^ "15 Years Later: How U.K. Whistleblower Katharine Gun Risked Everything to Leak a Damning Iraq War Memo". Democracy Now!. 19 July 2019. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  17. ^ a b Kazanci, Handan (2 January 2020). "Film on British whistleblower's life to hit Turkish theaters". Anadolu Agency. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  18. ^ Danny Marques Marcalo. "Whistleblowerin Katharine Gun - "Ich würde es wieder tun"". Deutschlandfunk.de. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  19. ^ a b Gun, Katharine (20 March 2006). "Iran: Time To Leak". TomPaine.com. Archived from the original on 24 April 2006.
  20. ^ Patten, Dominic (28 November 2018). "Sundance 2019: Premieres Include Harvey Weinstein Docu, Mindy Kaling, Dr. Ruth, UK Spies, Miles Davis & Ted Bundy". Deadline.com.
  21. ^ Norman Solomon, Huseyin Sari, Michael Oh, Michael Robertson (24 February 2018). "Daniel Ellsberg speaking about Katharine Gun". RootsAction.org and ExposeFacts. Retrieved 3 January 2020 – via Vimeo.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ In 2003, This U.K. Whistleblower Almost Stopped the Iraq Invasion. A New Film Tells Her Story 19 July 2019 www.democracynow.org, accessed 14 March 2020
  23. ^ 15 Years Later: How U.K. Whistleblower Katharine Gun Risked Everything to Leak a Damning Iraq War Memo 19 July 2019 www.democracynow.org, accessed 14 March 2020

External links[edit]