Episodes of TV’s “Law & Order” are often promoted as being “ripped from the headlines.” You could say the same thing about “Official Secrets,” the new political thriller playing this week at Tropic Cinema.
And today we’re reading in the newspaper about a whistleblower wanting to report a questionable phone call made by President Trump.
Well, this film tells about another real-life whistleblower, a British woman named Katherine Gun who spilled the beans in 2003 about an American-British plot to bug the phones and emails of key UN Security Council members.
During the lead-up to the Iraq War, Gun received a memo from the NSA with a shocking directive: Gather dirt to blackmail UN members into voting for the Iraq war. Officials from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria, Guinea and Pakistan all had their phones tapped in this “dirty tricks” operation.
Katherine Gun was a British Intelligence officer, a translator in the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), who leaked this top secret e-mail from US spies asking British counterparts to tap telephones. She wound up in court, accused of treason.
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.”
Within half an hour, the case was dropped because the prosecution declined to offer any evidence. According to one report, the case was dropped “when the prosecution realized that evidence would emerge … that even British government lawyers believed the invasion was unlawful.”
Even so, her valiant attempt to prevent a war in Iraq didn’t go so well, did it?
“Official Secrets” was set to star Gillian Anderson, Harrison Ford, and Anthony Hopkins. But by the time the film made it to the screen it stars Keira Knightley, Martin Goode, and Ralph Fiennes.
Knightley takes on the role of Katherine Gun, giving us a woman conflicted between duty and duty.
As the real-life Katherine Gun put it, she had “only ever followed her conscience.”
Gun added, “No-one has suggested (nor could they), that any payment was sought or given for any alleged disclosures. I have been heartened by the many messages of support and encouragement that I have received from Britain and around the world.”
As the movie’s promotion puts it, “She risked everything to stop an unjust war.” Her government called her a traitor. Edward Snowden might find it a familiar plot.
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