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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] >http://www.sunspot.net/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.gun14dec14,0,1102755.story?c >oll=bal-oped-headlines > >By Norman Solomon >Originally published December 14, 2003 > > > >FEW AMERICANS have heard of Katharine Gun, a former British intelligence >employee facing charges that she violated the Official Secrets Act. So far, >the American press has ignored her. But the case raises profound questions >about democracy and the public's right to know on both sides of the >Atlantic. > >Ms. Gun's legal peril began in Britain on March 2, when the Observer >newspaper exposed a highly secret memorandum by a top U.S. National Security >Agency official. Dated Jan. 31, the memo outlined surveillance of a >half-dozen delegations with swing votes on the U.N. Security Council, noting >a focus on "the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. >policy-makers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals" - >support for war on Iraq. > >The NSA memo said that the agency had started a "surge" of spying on >diplomats at the United Nations in New York, including wiretaps of home and >office telephones along with reading of e-mails. The targets were >delegations from six countries considered to be pivotal - Mexico, Chile, >Angola, Cameroon, Guinea and Pakistan - for the war resolution being >promoted by the United States and Britain. > >The scoop caused headlines in much of the world, and sparked a furor in the >"Middle Six" countries. The U.S. government and its British ally - revealed >to be colluding in the U.N. surveillance caper - were put on the defensive. > >A few days after the story broke, I contacted the man responsible for >leaking the huge trove of secret documents about the Vietnam War known as >the Pentagon Papers more than three decades ago. What was his assessment of >the U.N. spying memo? > >"This leak," Daniel Ellsberg replied, "is more timely and potentially more >important than the Pentagon Papers." The exposure of the memo, he said, had >the potential to block the invasion of Iraq before it began: "Truth-telling >like this can stop a war." > >Katharine Gun's truth-telling did not stop the war on Iraq, but it did make >a difference. Some analysts cite the uproar from the leaked memo as a key >factor in the U.S.-British failure to get Security Council approval of a >pro-war resolution before the invasion began in late March. > >The government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair quickly arrested Ms. >Gun. In June, she formally lost her job as a translator at the top-secret >Government Communications Headquarters in Gloucester. On Nov. 13, her name >surfaced in the British news media when the Labor Party government dropped >the other shoe, charging the 29-year-old woman with a breach of the Official >Secrets Act. > >She faces up to two years in prison if convicted. > >Ms. Gun, who is free on bail and is to appear in court Jan. 19, has >responded with measured eloquence. Disclosure of the NSA memo, she said Nov. >27, was "necessary to prevent an illegal war in which thousands of Iraqi >civilians and British soldiers would be killed or maimed." And Ms. Gun >reiterated something that she had said two weeks earlier: "I have only ever >followed my conscience." > >All the realpolitik in the world cannot preclude the exercise of the >internal quality that most distinguishes human beings. Of all the >differences between people and other animals, Charles Darwin observed, "the >moral sense of conscience is by far the most important." > >In this case, Ms. Gun's conscience fully intersected with the needs of >democracy and a free press. The British and American people had every right >to know that their governments were involved in a high-stakes dirty tricks >campaign at the United Nations. For democratic societies, a timely flow of >information is the lifeblood of the body politic. > >As it happened, the illegal bugging of diplomats from three continents in >Manhattan foreshadowed the illegality of the war that was to come. Shortly >before the invasion began, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointed out >that - in the absence of an authorizing resolution from the Security >Council - an attack on Iraq would violate the U.N. Charter. > >Ms. Gun's conspicuous bravery speaks louder than any rhetoric possibly >could. Her actions confront Britons and Americans alike with difficult >choices: > >To what extent is the "special relationship" between the two countries to be >based on democracy or duplicity? How much do we treasure the substance of >civil liberties that make authentic public discourse distinct from the >hollowness of secrecy and manipulation? How badly do we want to know what is >being done in our names with our tax money? And why is it so rare that >conscience takes precedence over expediency? > >Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy in >San Francisco. He is co-author of Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't >Tell You (Context Books, 2003). > > _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk