News Release

Iraq War Lies Exposed by “Official Secrets” Heroine Influenced by Author

The movie “Official Secrets” has just opened nationally.

The film is a remarkably accurate Hollywood account of how British spy Katharine Gun (played by Keira Knightley) attempted to stop the invasion of Iraq by exposing a top secret NSA document proving the U.S. and British governments were spying on other UN members to bully and blackmail their way to a UN authorization for war.

Gun recently revealed that she was inspired to expose the Jan. 31, 2003 NSA document in part by reading a book co-authored by Norman Solomon about the then-impending invasion.

After the British Observer published the NSA document on March 1, 2003, reporting of the disclosure was big news around the world — but not in the U.S.

The Intercept recently reported in “The Best Movie Ever Made About the Truth Behind the Iraq War is Official Secrets” that: “The little attention the story got [in the U.S.] was largely thanks to the journalist and activist Norman Solomon, and the organization he founded, the Institute for Public Accuracy, or IPA. Solomon had traveled to Baghdad just months before and co-written the book Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You, which came out in late January 2003.

“Today, Solomon remembers that ‘I felt instant kinship — and, actually, what I’d describe as love — for whoever had taken the enormous risk of revealing the NSA memo. Of course, at the time I was clueless about who’d done it.’ He soon penned a syndicated column titled ‘American Media Dodging U.N. Surveillance Story.’

“Why hadn’t the paper of record covered it, Solomon asked Alison Smale, then a deputy foreign editor at the New York Times. ‘It’s not that we haven’t been interested,’ Smale told him. The problem was that ‘we could get no confirmation or comment’ about the NSA email from U.S. officials. But ‘we are still definitely looking into it,’ said Smale. ‘It’s not that we’re not.’

“The Times never mentioned Gun until January 2004, 10 months later. Even then, it didn’t appear in the news section. Instead, thanks to urging from IPA, Times columnist Bob Herbert looked into the story, and, perplexed that the news editors had passed, took it on himself.”

While some have pointed to a spell check glitch by the Observer accounting for the non-coverage by major media in the U.S., the virtual blackout of the Katharine Gun story continued even after her arrest for violating the Official Secrets Act was confirmed by British police on March 7. The Institute for Public Accuracy held a news conference at the National Press Building with Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the Pentagon Papers, about the story on March 11, 2003.

Gun recently commented about her thinking shortly before exposing the NSA document: “I went to the local bookshop, and I went into the political section. I found two books, which had apparently been rushed into publication, one was by Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, and it was called Target Iraq. And the other one was by Milan Rai. It was called War Plan Iraq. And I bought both of them. And I read them cover to cover that weekend, and it basically convinced me that there was no real evidence for this war. So I think from that point onward, I was very critical and scrutinizing everything that was being said in the media.” See recent piece by IPA senior analyst Sam Husseini: “Film Official Secrets is the Tip of a Mammoth Iceberg” at Consortium News.

“I was stunned to hear Katharine say that the Target Iraq book had influenced her decision to reveal the NSA memo,” Solomon now says. “I didn’t know how to quite fathom it.”

Ellsberg would note: “No one else — including myself — has ever done what Katharine Gun did: Tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it. Hers was the most important — and courageous — leak I’ve ever seen, more timely and potentially more effective than the Pentagon Papers.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include Target Iraq and War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

See accuracy.org page on the Katharine Gun case.