Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1923

‘I just felt it was time the truth was known’

This article is over 17 years, 3 months old
KATHARINE GUN worked at the British government’s GCHQ spy station. She blew the whistle on attempts to bug the offices of Chile and Mexico at the UN in the run-up to the vote on the war on Iraq. She spoke to Nick Grant.
Issue 1923

When did you decide to act?

As soon as I read the incoming e-mail from the US National Security Agency.

I felt it was highly relevant, and decided over the course of a weekend that disclosure was necessary. I made a copy of the e-mail, printed it out and took it home. A lot was weighing on the decisions of the UN.

If the US and Britain were undermining the UN in order to secure war, I felt it was time the truth was known.

Was going public your only option?

Perhaps not, but I didn’t think there was another way that would be immediate and effective.

Taking it to a staff counsellor for instance would have been bureaucratic, and I doubted whether it would have been acted on.

I had one contact outside GCHQ who I trusted. Once I sent them the e-mail it was no longer in my hands, and everything was done anonymously.

I knew that I was breaking the Official Secrets Act and it was a difficult decision to make, but I didn’t dwell on the repercussions.

Do you feel you have paid a price for your actions, despite the government deciding not to prosecute you?

Yes. I lost a permanent and secure job, and am no longer an anonymous individual.

I suffered for eight months in limbo whilst awaiting the Crown Prosecution Service decision.

The whole process from start to finish lasted a year. Whistleblowing is exceedingly uncommon.

I will always remain interested in the issues surrounding this “war on terror” and the repercussions for civil liberties, but I have not made any permanent decisions as to what I want to do next.

What is your involvement with the Truth Telling Project?

The Truth Telling Coalition is a group of like-minded people who feel strongly about the issues facing us following the declaration of the “war on terror”.

We have all, like Daniel Ellsberg over the Vietnam War, either acted in the past to disclose the truth or are, in whatever way we can, supporting the efforts of the truth being made public.

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