Briton accused in leak of NSA memo charged

Intelligence worker revealed stepped-up U.S. prewar spying on allies

November 18, 2003|By Ariel Sabar | Ariel Sabar,SUN STAFF

A former British intelligence worker has been charged in Great Britain with violating state secrecy laws, in connection with the alleged leak of a National Security Agency memo calling for intensified spying on United Nations envoys in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Katharine Teresa Gun, 29, a translator at the British code-breaking agency who was arrested days after a London newspaper published the memo in March, was charged Thursday with one count of breaching her country's Official Secrets Act, said Alan Crockford, a spokesman for Scotland Yard.

If convicted, Gun could face up to two years in prison. She said in a statement that her actions were intended to prevent what she viewed as an illegal war.

"Any disclosures that may have been made were justified on the following grounds: because they exposed serious illegality and wrongdoing on the part of the US Government who attempted to subvert our own security services and, to prevent wide-scale death and casualties among ordinary Iraqi people and UK forces in the course of an illegal war," she said in a statement issued by Liberty, a London-based civil liberties group that is defending her.

The Observer of London published the memo and an accompanying story under the headline "Revealed: US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war," as the United States was trying to line up support for the war among a divided U.N. Security Council.

Intelligence gathering at the United Nations is as old as the international body itself, but intelligence and diplomatic experts say that leaks are rare and can set back both diplomatic and intelligence-collection efforts.

"It means people will be sweeping their offices and upgrading the security of their communications, which, from the point of view of U.S. intelligence, is not helpful," said Steven Aftergood, an intelligence analyst at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington.

Gun, who had worked for two years at the Government Communications Headquarters, Britain's equivalent of the NSA, was fired in June after an internal investigation.

She is scheduled to appear in a magistrate's court in London on Nov. 27 to enter a plea to the criminal charges.

Spokeswomen for the Government Communications Headquarters and the Fort Meade-based NSA declined to comment on the case yesterday.

Liberty made clear its hopes of turning the Gun case into a forum for a broader dissection of Britain's grounds for entering the war. "This case is likely to put the legality of the Iraq war on trial," the group said in a statement.

The alleged NSA memo, dated Jan. 31, was sent by Frank Koza, described as the agency's chief of staff for "regional targets."

The memo said that the NSA is "mounting a surge" of eavesdropping on undecided members of the U.N. Security Council.

It asked for help gathering "insights" into the "whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to US goals or to head off surprises."

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