GCHQ Whistleblower Katharine Gun on Why She Tried to Prevent the War on Iraq
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Katharine Gun was a 28-year-old linguist and analyst at GCHQ when Prime Minister Tony Blair was teaming up with President George W. Bush, eager to push a resolution through the UN Security Council for an invasion of Iraq. On the last day of January 2003, Gun recounts, she and other GCHQ employees “received an email from a senior official at the National Security Agency. It said the agency was ‘mounting a surge particularly directed at the UN Security Council members,’ and that it wanted ‘the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals or to head off surprises.’” In other words, the Bush and Blair governments wanted to eavesdrop on key UN delegations and then manipulate or even blackmail them into voting for war.
Gun took action: “I was furious when I read that email and leaked it. Soon afterwards, when the Observer ran a front-page story -- ‘US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war’ -- I confessed to the leak and was arrested on suspicion of the breach of section 1 of the Official Secrets Act.” Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has called what Katharine Gun did “the most important and courageous leak I have ever seen.... No one else -- including myself -- has ever done what Gun did: tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it.”