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Sunday, 3 November 2019

WATCH: Former GCHQ whistleblower Katharine Gun Leaks Damning Iraq War memo and almost stops Iraq war + new film trailers: "OFFICIAL SECRETS"

"We speak with a British whistleblower whose attempts to expose lies about the Iraq invasion was called "the most important and courageous leak" in history by acclaimed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. Her name is Katharine Gun."

This U.K. Whistleblower Almost Stopped the Iraq Invasion. A New Film Tells Her Story

15 Years Later: How U.K. Whistleblower Katharine Gun Risked Everything to Leak Damning Iraq War Memo

Democracy Now!  19 July 2019

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Film trailers:  "OFFICIAL SECRETS" film, 2019:


KinoCheck International
YouTube - 12 Jun 2019

Official Secrets Trailer #1 (2019) | Movieclips Trailers

Movieclips Trailers
YouTube - 26 Jun 2019

Official Secrets (film) - Wikipedia
One day in 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, British intelligence specialist Katharine Gun receives a memo from the NSA with a shocking directive: the United States is enlisting Britain's help in collecting compromising information on U.N. Security Council members to blackmail them into voting in favor of an invasion of Iraq. Unable to stand by and watch the world be rushed into war, Gun makes the gut-wrenching decision to defy her government and leak the memo to the press.

Release date10 October 2019 (United Kingdom)

Based onThe Spy Who Tried to Stop a War; by Marcia & Thomas Mitchell
Box office2 million USD
Official Secrets is a 2019 American-British docudrama film based on the life of whistleblower Katharine Gun who leaked a memo detailing that the United States had eavesdropped on diplomats from countries tasked with passing a second United Nations resolution on the invasion of Iraq. The film is directed by Gavin Hood, and Gun is portrayed by Keira Knightley. The film also stars Matt SmithMatthew GoodeAdam BakriIndira Varma, and Ralph Fiennes.
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 28 January 2019 and was released in the United States on 30 August 2019, by IFC Films, and in the United Kingdom on 18 October 2019, by Entertainment One.


The true story of GCHQ employee Katharine Gun, who leaked a secret memo exposing an illegal spying operation by the United States of America, looking for information with which to gauge sentiment of and potentially blackmail United Nations diplomats tasked to vote on a resolution regarding the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[3][4]



The project began development in January 2016, with Harrison FordAnthony HopkinsPaul BettanyNatalie Dormer and Martin Freeman cast in the film, and a filming start of May announced.[6] Tahar Rahim and Gillian Anderson were cast during the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival.[7][8] However by June 2017, filming had yet to begin, and cast member Anderson stated she hadn't heard anything about the project since being cast.[9]
By January 2018, the project was redeveloped, with Gavin Hood now set to direct in place of Justin Chadwick, and Keira Knightley and Matt Smith cast in February, with the actors initially cast no longer involved in the film. In March, Ralph Fiennes and Matthew Goode joined the cast, with filming beginning on 12 March 2018 in Yorkshire.[10][11][12][13] Filming took place in the village of Boston Spa on 14 March.[14] Indira VarmaConleth Hill and Tamsin Greig joined the cast the next day.[15] Filming had moved to Manchester by 19 March, serving as a stand-in for London.[16] Filming was undertaken in April 2018 in Liverpool's St George's Hall.[17]


The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 28 January 2019.[18] Shortly after, IFC Films acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film.[19] It was released in the United States on 30 August 2019.[20] It was previously scheduled to be released on 23 August 2019.[21] and in the United Kingdom on 18 October 2019.[22]


On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 82% based on 107 reviews, with an average rating of 6.81/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Official Secrets has a familiar structure and an obvious if worthy message, but rises on the strength of Keira Knightley's powerful performance."[23]
In an article about the film and Katherine Gun, Sam Husseini wrote that "having followed this story from the start, I find this film to be, by Hollywood standards, a remarkably accurate account of what has happened to date—"to date" because the wider story still isn’t really over".[24]


  1. ^ "Official Secrets"Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
  2. ^ "Official Secrets"The Numbers. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
  3. ^ Koza, Frank. "US plan to bug Security Council: the text"The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  4. ^ "Ex-GCHQ officer 'preventing war'"BBC. 27 November 2003. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  5. ^ Rooney, David (29 January 2019). "'Official Secrets': Film Review Sundance 2019"The Hollywood Reporter.
  6. ^ McNary, Dave (28 January 2016). "Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins to Star in Thriller 'Official Secrets'"Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  7. ^ McNary, Dave (12 February 2016). "Berlin: 'A Prophet' Star Tahar Rahim Joins Harrison Ford in 'Official Secrets' (EXCLUSIVE)"Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  8. ^ McNary, Dave (13 February 2016). "Berlin: Gillian Anderson Joining Harrison Ford in 'Official Secrets' (EXCLUSIVE)"Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  9. ^ Pape, Stefan (1 March 2017). ""Things haven't changed" – Gillian Anderson on the relevance of Viceroy's House". Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  10. ^ Cook, Laurence (16 January 2016). "U.K. Greenlit: "Official Secrets," "Mrs. Lowry and Son," BBC's "Les Miserables," + More Start Shooting by Next Month, Need Talent"Backstage. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  11. ^ Galuppo, Mia (2 February 2018). "Keira Knightley, Matt Smith to Star in Real-Life Spy Thriller 'Official Secrets'"The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  12. ^ Kay, Jeremy (12 February 2018). "Keira Knightley, Matt Smith to star in 'Official Secrets' (exclusive)"Screendaily. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  13. ^ Kroll, Justin (8 March 2018). "Ralph Fiennes and Matthew Goode Join Keira Knightley Thriller 'Official Secrets' (EXCLUSIVE)"Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  14. ^ Newton, Grace (14 March 2018). "Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes and Matt Smith film new movie in village near Leeds"The Yorkshire Post.
  15. ^ White, Peter (15 March 2018). "'Game Of Thrones' Indira Varma & Conleth Hill Join Gavin Hood's 'Official Secrets'"Deadline.com.
  16. ^ Bardsley, Andrew (19 March 2018). "Manchester transformed into London as Keira Knightley arrives in town for new film"Manchester Evening News.
  17. ^ Houghton, Alistair (28 April 2018). "Revealed: Why Keira Knightley was spotted in Liverpool"Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 28 April2018.
  18. ^ Patten, Dominic (28 November 2018). "Sundance 2019: Premieres Include Harvey Weinstein Docu, Mindy Kaling, Dr. Ruth, UK Spies, Miles Davis & Ted Bundy"Deadline.com.
  19. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (2 February 2019). "Sundance: Keira Knightly Whistleblower Drama 'Official Secrets' Acquired by IFC Films"The Hollywood Reporter.
  20. ^ "Official Secrets"IFC Films. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
  21. ^ Pederson, Erik (2 April 2019). "'Official Secrets': Keira Knightley-Ralph Fiennes Whistleblower Thriller Gets Release Date Via IFC Films"Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  22. ^ "Official Secrets: Keira Knightley stars in story of Iraq war whistleblower – trailer"TheGuardian.com. 12 June 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  23. ^ "Official Secrets (2019)"Rotten TomatoesFandango Media. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  24. ^ Husseini, Sam (30 August 2019). "Film Official Secrets Is Tip of Mammoth Iceberg". FAIR. Retrieved 31 August 2019.

External links[edit]

Katharine Teresa Gun (née Harwood and married Gün but in the press often simplified to Gun[1], born 1974) is a British translator who worked for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence agency.[2] In 2003, she leaked top-secret information to the press concerning illegal activities by the United States in its push for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Some of these activities include the US National Security Agency (NSA)'s eavesdropping operations on diplomats from countries tasked with passing a second United Nations resolution on the invasion of Iraq.[3]

Early life[edit]

Gun was born in Taiwan to British parents. Her upbringing later led her to describe herself as a "third culture kid".[4] After spending her childhood in Taiwan where she attended Morrison Academy, Gun studied Japanese and Chinese at Durham University in England.[4][5] Finding it difficult to find work as a linguist, Gun applied to GCHQ after reading a newspaper advertisement for the organisation. Gun had previously been unaware of GCHQ, later saying that "I didn't have much idea about what they did...I was going into it pretty much blind. Most people do."[4]

The leak[edit]

Gun's regular job at GCHQ in Cheltenham was to translate Mandarin Chinese into English.[4] While at work at GCHQ on 31 January 2003, Gun read an email from Frank Koza, the chief of staff at the "regional targets" division of the American intelligence agency, the National Security Agency.[6]
Koza's email requested aid in a secret and illegal operation to bug the United Nations offices of six nations: Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, and Pakistan. These were the six "swing nations" on the UN Security Council that could determine whether the UN approved the invasion of Iraq.[7] The plan allegedly violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which regulates global diplomacy.
Gun was outraged by the email, and took a printed copy of it home with her.[4] After contemplating the email over the weekend, Gun gave the email to a friend who was acquainted with journalists.[4] In February, she travelled to London to take part in a demonstration against war with Iraq.[4] Gun heard no more of the email until Sunday 2 March, when she saw it reproduced on the front page of The Observer newspaper.[4] Less than a week after the Observer story, on Wednesday 5 March, Gun had confessed to her line manager at GCHQ that she had leaked the email, and was arrested. In a BBC interview with Jeremy Paxman, she said that she had not raised the matter with staff counsellors as she "honestly didn't think that would have had any practical effect."[8] Gun spent a night in police custody, and eight months later was charged with breaking the Official Secrets Act.[4] While waiting to hear whether she would be charged, Gun later embarked on a postgraduate degree course in global ethics at Birmingham University.[4]

Court case[edit]

On 13 November 2003, Gun was charged with an offence under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1989.[9] Her case became a cause célèbre among activists, and many people stepped forward to urge the government to drop the case. Among them were Reverend Jesse JacksonDaniel Ellsberg (the US government official who leaked 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 defence that she acted to prevent imminent loss of life in a war she considered illegal.
The case came to court on 24 February 2004. Within half an hour, the case was dropped because the prosecution declined to offer evidence.[10] 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 legal advice about the lawfulness of the war that it had received during the run-up to the war. A full trial might have exposed any such documents to public scrutiny, as the defence was expected to argue that trying to stop an unlawful war of aggression overcame 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.[10] However, a Government spokesman said that the decision to drop the case had been made before the defence's demands had been submitted.[10] The Guardian newspaper had reported plans to drop the case the previous week.[11] On the day of the court hearing, Gun said "I'm just baffled in the 21st century we as human beings are still dropping bombs on each other as a means to resolve issues."[10] In May 2019 The Guardian stated the case was dropped "when the prosecution realised that evidence would emerge ... that even British government lawyers believed the invasion was unlawful."[12]
In September 2019 Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, said the case against Gun was not dropped to stop the Attorney General’s advice on the legality of the Iraq War from being revealed. He claimed that Gun would not have received a fair trial without the disclosure of information that would have compromised national security. Gavin Hood, the director of Official Secrets, expressed scepticism about Macdonald’s statement and called for the declassification of the official documents referred to by Macdonald.[13]

Later life[edit]

Gun received the Sam Adams Award for 2003 and was supported in her case by the UK human rights pressure group Liberty and in the US by the Institute for Public Accuracy. Following the dropping of the case, Liberty commented "One wonders whether disclosure in this criminal trial might have been a little too embarrassing."[10]
Two years after her trial, Katharine Gun wrote an article entitled "Iran: Time to Leak",[14] which asked whistleblowers to make public information about plans for a potential war against Iran. She urged "those in a position to do so to disclose information which relates to this planned aggression; legal advice, meetings between the White House and other intelligence agencies, assessments of Iran's threat level (or better yet, evidence that assessments have been altered), troop deployments and army notifications. Don't let 'the intelligence and the facts be fixed around the policy' this time."[14]
In 2019 the film Official Secrets, recounting Gun's actions in 2003, was released, with Keira Knightley playing Gun.[15] Also that month, Daniel Ellsberg praised the swiftness and importance of Gun taking action, saying it was in some ways more significant than his own whistleblowing on the Vietnam War.[16] Gun participated in a lengthy interview with filmmaker Gavin Hood and the journalists who broke the story of the leaked memo, Martin Bright and Ed Vulliamy, in July 2019 on the US program Democracy Now![17][18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Christoph Gunkel: Whistleblowerin Katharine Gun - "Ich fürchtete, sie könnten meine Gedanken lesen". Spiegel Omline, 28 October 2019 (Interview, German)
  2. ^ IPA's editor (25 February 2004). "The Katharine Gun Case"accuracy.org. Institute for Public Accuracy. Retrieved 9 July 2013.
  3. ^ "Ex-GCHQ officer 'preventing war'"BBC. 27 November 2003. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  4. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j Oliver Burkeman and Richard Norton-Taylor (26 February 2004). "The spy who wouldn't keep a secret"The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  5. ^ Mitchell, Marcia; Mitchell, Thomas (2008). The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion.
  6. ^ Martin Bright (3 March 2013). "Katharine Gun: Ten years on what happened to the woman who revealed dirty tricks on the UN Iraq war vote?"The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
  7. ^ Koza, Frank. "US plan to bug Security Council: the text"The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  8. ^ "Katharine Gun"BBC News. 26 February 2004.
  9. ^ "Ex-GCHQ woman charged over 'leak'". BBC News. 13 November 2003. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  10. Jump up to:a b c d e "GCHQ translator cleared over leak". BBC News. 26 February 2004. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  11. ^ Bright, Martin (22 February 2004). "GCHQ mother: My girl is not a traitor"the Guardian. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  12. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (4 May 2019). "Leaking or briefing? Inside the world of ministers' secrets"The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  13. ^ Townsend, Mark (1 September 2019). "Iraq war whistleblower's trial 'was halted due to national security threat'"The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  14. Jump up to:a b Gun, Katharine (20 March 2006). "Iran: Time To Leak"TomPaine.com. Archived from the original on 24 April 2006.
  15. ^ Patten, Dominic (28 November 2018). "Sundance 2019: Premieres Include Harvey Weinstein Docu, Mindy Kaling, Dr. Ruth, UK Spies, Miles Davis & Ted Bundy"Deadline.com.
  16. ^ Daniel Ellsberg speaking about Katharine Gun – 2018
  17. ^ In 2003, This U.K. Whistleblower Almost Stopped the Iraq Invasion. A New Film Tells Her Story
  18. ^ 15 Years Later: How U.K. Whistleblower Katharine Gun Risked Everything to Leak a Damning Iraq War Memo

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]