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[casi] Another shock - spooks dog the UN ....

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>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
>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
>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).

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