Ahead of a new film, Official Secrets, the GCHQ worker who tried to prevent the 2003 invasion of Iraq recalls those feverish days – and their consequences

• Keira Knightley on playing whistleblower Katharine Gun: ‘Iraq was the first time I’d been politically engaged’

It is not often that a person’s character is revealed in two sentences. But it is tempting to believe that is the case with Katharine Gun.

In 2003, Gun was working as a translator of Mandarin at the government intelligence agency, GCHQ, in Cheltenham. She was 27. The country, at the time, was being drummed into war by the Blair government, desperate to achieve the United Nations’ sanction for the imminent American-led invasion of Iraq. In February that year, Katharine Gun was copied into a classified memo sent to GCHQ by a senior figure in the NSA, its US equivalent. The memo was a top-secret request to monitor the private communication of UN delegates for scraps of information, personal or otherwise, that could be used to “give the US an edge” in leveraging support for the invasion. Katharine Gun leaked that memo to the Observer, in the belief that the revelation of the proposed bugging and blackmail tactics might be enough to stop the war.

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