News Release

“Official Secrets” Highlights Lies of Iraq War


The film “Official Secrets” is premiering in Washington, D.C. and New York City this week. It is set for general release on August 30; see trailer.

The film stars Keira Knightley who plays Katharine Gun, a former analyst for GCHQ, the British equivalent of the secretive National Security Agency. She tried to stop the impending invasion of Iraq in early 2003 by exposing George W. Bush and Tony Blair governmental deceit in their claims about Iraq.

Gun was charged under the repressive Official Secrets Act for exposing — before the invasion of Iraq — a secret U.S. government memo showing it was mounting a spying “surge” against U.N. Security Council delegations in an effort to force approval for an Iraq war resolution. The leaked memo was big news in parts of the world. The U.S. government then failed to get the U.N. resolution, but launched the invasion anyway, withdrawing the weapons inspectors and issuing a unilateral demand that Saddam Hussein leave Iraq in 48 hours — and then saying the invasion would commence regardless.

Among the issues raised by the film:

* While the U.S. and British governments and their supporters were claiming they were trying to avoid war with Iraq, they were actually not only falsifying for war, but engaging in illegal activity to ensure war. Joe Biden, then chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, claimed at the time: “I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march to peace and security.”

* Dan Ellsberg: “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.”

* It was the official view of the British government that the invasion of Iraq was illegal without the U.N.’s approval, but it concocted a fringe legal case for war when pressured by the Bush administration. The British government — unlike the U.S. government — did ultimately produce a study ostensibly around the decision-making leading to the invasion of Iraq (the Chilcot Report in 2016) but that report incredibly made no mention of the Gun case. See IPA release from 2016: “Chilcot Report Avoids Smoking Gun.”

* The U.S. and British governments use surveillance powers largely not as advertised, to protect against terrorist attacks, but often for Machiavellian goals, including launching an illegal war.

* The film does not explicitly address, but gets at the complicity of governments, international institutions, major media, alleged political opposition figures and others in the launching of the Iraq invasion. In the U.S., that included media figures from Judith Miller to Tim Russert, political figures who included not just Bush administration officials, but also Democrats such as Joe BidenJohn Kerry and Nancy Pelosi.

The Institute for Public Accuracy covered the Gun revelations from the beginning (see overview page) and organized a statement signed by various notables calling for the British government to drop the charges against her. “Official Secrets” highlights that ultimately the charges were dropped against Gun — to spare the British government a trial that might further expose the lies leading to war.

Gun remarked at the D.C. premiere that she was influenced by having read the book Target Iraq, which was co-written by IPA Executive Director Norman Solomon and released just before she exposed the memo in early 2003.

See articles by staff of the Institute:

By Norman Solomon: “To Stop War, Do What Katharine Gun Did

By Sam Husseini: “Katharine Gun’s Risky Truth-telling

Also see past IPA news releases from before the invasion including: “White House Claims: A Pattern of Deceit,” “Bush’s War Case: Fiction vs. Facts,” “U.S. Credibility Problems” and “Tough Questions for Bush on Iraq Tonight.”