News Release

As the U.N. Meets: The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War


Katharine Gun, a former British government employee, faced two years imprisonment in England for leaking a U.S. intelligence memo before the invasion of Iraq. The memo indicated that the U.S. had mounted a spying “surge” against U.N. Security Council delegations in early 2003 in an effort to win approval for an Iraq war resolution. The leaked memo — published by the British newspaper The Observer on March 2, 2003 — was big news in parts of the world, but almost ignored in the United States. The U.S. government then failed to obtain a U.N. resolution approving war, but still proceeded with the invasion.

In the U.S. for a brief visit, Gun said today: “The U.S. and British governments were claiming that they were not wanting war. I had access to a secret document that showed that they were in effect attempting to blackmail other U.N. members into voting for a second resolution that would approve war. The public deserved to know the truth about what their governments were doing. I wanted to prevent the deaths that would — and sadly, did — result from an invasion of Iraq.”

Marcia Mitchell and Thomas Mitchell are co-authors of the new book The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion.

Marcia Mitchell said today: “Katharine’s case is a major missing piece that few in the U.S. know about that shows the extent of the deception for war. The U.S. National Security Agency — coordinating with other U.S. agencies and with the British — were using illegal spying to try to force the other U.N. members to approve war, while claiming they were trying to avoid war. This story should have caused anyone taking the administration’s word at the time to seriously reassess the situation.

“Gun’s trial in the U.K. was scheduled to begin on Feb. 25, 2004. But the day before, her defense asked for government documents about the legality of the war. Making such documents public was [then-U.K. Prime Minister] Tony Blair’s great fear. He didn’t want the public to know of government documents that existed that stated that an invasion of Iraq could be illegal and lead to war crimes charges. So the government dropped the case. (Blair even claimed such documents didn’t exist, but they were later leaked.)

“Doubtlessly, the British government was also afraid of how sincere Katharine was. She wanted to ensure that the weapons inspectors would continue doing their work and not be withdrawn from Iraq, as they were.”

Marcia Mitchell is a former senior executive at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and retired as associate director of the American Film Institute. Thomas Mitchell is a former FBI special agent whose 17 years with the Bureau included counterintelligence work.
More Information

On Wednesday evening, Sept. 24, there will be a symposium in Washington, D.C. at American University — “A Question of Conscience: The Katharine Gun Story” — at 8:10 p.m., in the Ward Circle Building. In addition to Katharine Gun and the Mitchells, other speakers include former U.S. intelligence specialists Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers) and Ray McGovern. The event will be web streamed live by The Real News.

Background: Gun and the Mitchells were guests on the Diane Rehm Show on Monday.

Further background on the Gun case is here.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167