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Katharine Gun

From Academic Kids

Katharine Teresa Gun (born 1974) is a former employee of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence agency. In 2003, she became famous for leaking top-secret information to the press concerning alleged illegal activities by the United States and the United Kingdom in their push for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Contents

The leak

Gun worked as a Mandarin Chinese to English translator for Britain's Government Communications Headquarters. On January 31, 2003, she received an e-mail from a United States National Security Agency official named Frank Koza. This e-mail requested aid in a secret and illegal operation to bug the United Nations offices of six nations: Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Pakistan, Mexico and Chile. These were the six "swing nations" on the UN Security Council that could determine whether the UN approved of the invasion of Iraq or not. The plan clearly violated the Vienna Conventions, which regulate global diplomacy.

Gun admitted leaking the email to the Observer but said she did it "with a clear conscience", hoping to prevent the war. "I have no regrets and I would do it again," she said. After her revelation, she was fired from the GCHQ.

Fallout

On November 13, 2003, Gun was charged with an offence under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act. Her case became a cause célèbre among anti-war activists, and many people stepped forward to urge the government to drop the case. Among them were the Rev Jesse Jackson, Daniel Ellsberg (the leaker of 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 defense that she acted to prevent imminent loss of life in a war she considered illegal.

The case came to court on February 25, 2004. Within half an hour the case was dropped because the prosecution declined to offer evidence. The reasons for the prosecution dropping the case are unclear. The day before the trial Gun's defence team had asked the Government for any records of advice about the legality of the war that it had received during the run-up to the war. A full trial may have exposed any such documents to public scrutiny as the defence were expected to argue that trying to stop an illegal act (that of going to war) trumped 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. However a Government spokesman said that the decision to drop the case had been made before the defence's demands had been submitted. (The Guardian newspaper had reported plans to drop the case the previous week).

Gun was supported in her case by the UK human rights pressure group Liberty and the international pressure group MoveOn.org. Following the dropping of the case, Liberty commented "One wonders whether disclosure in this criminal trial might have been a little too embarrassing."

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