“Official secrets” (film)-Katherine Gun

I don’t judge her infact I suspect she is a tremendous individual.

If only there were more brave ‘people of conscience’ like her,then I’m sure it wouldn’t be half so bad(Ed)

Katharine Teresa Gun (née Harwood)[1] (born 1974) is a British linguist who worked as a translator for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).[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 2003 Security Council, who were due to vote on a second United Nations resolution on the prospective 2003 invasion of Iraq.[3]

Katharine Gun
BornKatharine Teresa Harwood
1974 (age 47–48)
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Alma materSt Mary’s College, University of Durham
OrganizationGovernment Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)

Early life

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]


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 the demonstration against the impending invasion of 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 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 embarked on a postgraduate degree course in global ethics at Birmingham University.[5]

Court case

Extract from film ‘official secrets’

See also: Shawcross principle

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. Among them were Reverend Jesse JacksonDaniel Ellsberg (the US government official who leaked the Pentagon Papers), and Congressman Dennis Kucinich.[11]

The case came to court on 25 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] 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 dropping of the case against Gun was not 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

Her husband, Yaşar Gün,[16][17] is a Turkish Kurd.[18] As of 2020 Gun lives in Turkey and Britain.[19] 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.[20]

Later life

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, Gun wrote an article titled “Iran: Time to Leak”,[21] 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.”[21]

Katharine Gun, photographed last month in Durham.
Katherine Gun (now lives in Turkey)


Iraq war whistleblower Katharine Gun: ‘Truth always matters’

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’

Katharine Gun, photographed last month in Durham.

‘Truth always matters’

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 January 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.

The Observer published the dirty tricks memo as a front-page splash just over two weeks before the invasion. Gun owned up to the leak a few days later to save her GCHQ colleagues from a witch-hunt. She was arrested and charged with breach of the Official Secrets Act. It was in a police cell that she uttered those two sentences that now seem to define the person she was and is. Gun was asked by Special Branch officers why she had chosen to act as she had. “You work for the British government,” her interrogator said, with a sneer.

“No,” Gun replied, steadily. “I work for the British people. I do not gather intelligence so the government can lie to the British people.”

The Observer’s front page story on 2 March 2003. Photograph: The Observer

Sixteen years have passed since Katharine Gun said those words, but they still ring in the air. Her whistleblowing was not enough to change the path of history, of course, and her last-gasp act of courage was all but forgotten in the brutal “shock and awe” of war. Truth has a habit of finding a voice, however. Gun’s words will, in the coming weeks finally receive the much wider audience they deserve. A film, Official Secrets, has been made of her story. She is played, with steely English resolve, by Keira Knightley. Her performance reminds you of the sentiment of Daniel Ellsberg, the man who famously leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, revealing the full truth of American involvement in Vietnam. Ellsberg has called Katharine Gun’s action “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.”

Katherine is played by Keira Knightley in the film
kat gun on right,actress to left

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