Official Secrets

I watched a film last week. I don’t watch many – perhaps two or three in a busy year – so the ones that I do see tend to linger in the memory, especially when they are as personal as this one.

Official Secrets is based on the true story of GCHQ translator Katharine Gun, who in 2003 was sent an NSA memo that requested GCHQ’s help in spying on members of the UN Security Council to find leverage so that Britain and the US could get the votes needed for a second UN resolution to approve the invasion of Iraq. Pretty corrupt.

Gun leaked the document to the Observer newspaper, caused an international incident, confessed her crime and was charged with a breach of the Official Secrets Act.

When her lawyer decided to use Gun’s time in court to put the legality of Tony Blair’s Iraq war on trial, the government withdrew the prosecution.

The invasion went ahead, despite the largest protest event in human history and still without the approval of the UN Security Council.

Hundreds of thousands of people died, millions of refugees fled their homes – and are still in exile – and, in all likelihood, Tony Blair will never be prosecuted for war crimes.

“I work for the British people. I do not gather intelligence so the government can lie to the British people.”
~Katharine Gun

For more, read this interview with Katharine Gun in the Observer.

Photos taken by me at the Stop the War march, 15 February 2003. That kid can probably vote at this election.


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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at

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