News Release

New Developments in Case of U.S. Spying on U.N. Security Council: Former British Cabinet Minister Decries Prosecution of Whistleblower


Former British cabinet minister Tony Benn has criticized the prosecution of a woman charged with violating his country’s Official Secrets Act in connection with the leaking of a secret memorandum from the U.S. National Security Agency. The memo described wiretaps of home and office telephones along with surveillance of emails of six “swing vote” delegations from nations with votes on the U.N. Security Council early this year as the U.S. and British governments unsuccessfully sought a resolution authorizing war on Iraq.

Referring to Katharine Gun, who worked as a translator at Britain’s super-secret Government Communications Headquarters and now faces up to two years in prison, Benn said Tuesday in a live interview: “When somebody on the basis of moral principle puts their conscience before official secrets, they do society a — well, they perform an essential function. And I think it does raise the question as to whether if that woman is imprisoned it doesn’t throw doubt on the whole idea of the law being concerned with justice.”

Benn was appearing on a broadcast of the national U.S. radio and TV program “Democracy Now.” Also on the program was Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, whose piece in The Baltimore Sun on Sunday was the first substantive article about Katharine Gun to appear in the U.S. press.

The op-ed piece, distributed today by the LA Times – Washington Post wire service, includes these observations:

* “The case raises profound questions about democracy and the public’s right to know on both sides of the Atlantic.”

* “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.”

* “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.”

Letters of support for Katharine Gun can now be sent to:

Audio of the interview with Benn and Solomon is posted at:

The Baltimore Sun article is posted at:

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