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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 13:57 GMT
Ex-GCHQ officer 'preventing war'
Katharine Gun
Katharine Gun is a former translator at GCHQ in Cheltenham
A British intelligence officer charged with leaking a top secret e-mail says she was trying to prevent an "unlawful war" in Iraq.

Katharine Gun, who worked at the government communications headquarters (GCHQ), appeared in court on Thursday charged under the Official Secrets Act.

The former translator claims she leaked an e-mail from US spies asking British counterparts to tap telephones.

Outside court Mrs Gun she was acting to prevent the "illegal war" in Iraq.

Mrs Gun was sacked from GCHQ in June and charged on 13 November.

She appeared in the dock at Bow Street Magistrates Court, central London for only a few minutes to confirm her name and address.

My actions were necessary to prevent an illegal war
Katharine Gun
She was supported at the court by representatives from Liberty and David Shayler, the former MI5 officer jailed last November for revealing state secrets.

After the brief appearance, Mrs Gun made a statement read out by James Welch, a solicitor for Liberty.

She said: "I have today indicated to the court that I intend to plead not guilty to the charge that I face under the Official Secrets Act.

"I will defend the charge against me on the basis that my actions were necessary to prevent an illegal war in which thousands of Iraqi civilians and British soldiers would be killed or maimed."

'Dirty tricks'

The "leaked" 31 January memo reportedly said the National Security Agency had begun a "surge" in eavesdropping on UN Security Council countries about to vote on action in Iraq.

GCHQ
GCHQ is the home of Britain's intelligence-gathering operations
Officials from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria, Guinea and Pakistan all had their phones tapped in what the Observer newspaper described as a "dirty tricks" operation.

The author of the memo was supposedly Frank Koza, Defence Chief of Staff (Regional Targets) at the agency.

Under Section 1, of the 1989 Officials Secret Act it is an offence to disclose security and intelligence information without the correct authorisation.

She is alleged to have leaked it to the newspaper which ran an article in March claiming GCHQ had been asked to help spy on the six countries, which were all key to the passing of a second UN resolution on Iraq.

Ms Gun has justified the disclosures saying in a statement that she had "only ever followed her conscience".

"No-one has suggested (nor could they), that any payment was sought or given for any alleged disclosures," she said in the statement released through her lawyers.

"I have been heartened by the many messages of support and encouragement that I have received from Britain and around the world."

Senior district judge Timothy Workman granted unconditional bail to Mrs Gun until 19 January for a further appearance at Bow Street before the matter is transferred to Crown Court.




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