Katharine Gun

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Katherine Gun in 2003
Exposed • GCHQ/Illegal spying
• NSA/Illegal spying
A Chinese translator who exposed illegal efforts by the GCHQ to illegally bug the UN offices of 6 nations in an effort to start an illegal war. Considered a hero by many.

Katharine Gun is a former employee of GCHQ, a UK intelligence agency. In 2003 she leaked top-secret information to the press concerning illegal spying by the US and UK in their push for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The UK government prosecuted her but the case was dismissed as they decided not to offer evidence against her.


Gun's job at GCHQ in Cheltenham was to translate Mandarin Chinese into English.[1]

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 National Security Agency.[2]

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. The plan was illegal under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Gun was outraged by the email, and took a printed copy of it home with her.[1] After contemplating the email over the weekend, Gun gave the email to a friend who was acquainted with journalists.[1]

Legal action

On 13 November 2003, Gun was charged with an offence under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1989. Many people stepped forward to urge the UK government to drop the case, including, Daniel Ellsberg 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.

Case collapses

The case came to court on 25 February 2004. Within half an hour, the case was dropped because the prosecution declined to offer evidence.

"I have no regrets and I would do it again" she said.


A Document by Katharine Gun

TitleDocument typePublication dateSubject(s)Description
Document:Ex-Intelligence Officers, Others See Plusses in WikiLeaks Disclosuresstatement7 December 2010WikileaksA statement of support for Wikileaks. "The big question is not whether Americans can 'handle the truth.' We believe they can..."


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:The Woman who nearly Stopped the Wararticle19 March 2008Martin BrightIn January 2003 Katharine Gun, a translator at GCHQ, learned something so outrageous that she sacrificed her career to tell the truth. Martin Bright on a brave deed that should not be forgotten


  1. a b c Oliver Burkeman and Richard Norton-Taylor (26 February 2004). "The spy who wouldn't keep a secret". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2014.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").
  2. 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.Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css must have content model "Sanitized CSS" for TemplateStyles (current model is "CSS").