Being retired there is time to go and see films which are thought provoking. One of those is Official Secrets
In the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Centre on 9/11 September 2001 there was a War on Terror Campaign. A picture of some of the twisted metal of the World Trade centre appears above. As part of this War on Terror attacks were launched on Afghanistan and Iraq.
The film covers the build up to the attack on Iraq and Saddam Hussein. It is the true story of Katherine Gunn who when working at GCHQ chose to release a memo regarding the preparations for an attack on Iraq in 2003. At the time the justification was that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had Nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction which could be launched towards the west.
There was much public opposition to such action. The memo was about moves to bring pressure to bear on members of the UN who were to vote on the proposal to go to war. Failure to gain such a resolution could have lead to those who did to be charged with war crimes.
The Memo did reach the Observer Newspaper by a circular route. It was interesting to eavesdrop on the apparent conversation at the time. Apparently the Editor and others were supporting the UK Government line to go to war despite public opinion being against it.
The crux of the story is that news story about the Memo’s strongly suggests that the Government is trying to influence others Governments by covert means. The process by which the Observer journalist seek to validate the memo is also interesting.
There is a scene where the Observer Journalist is apparently talking to the head of the Government press security Committee. Interestingly whilst this person does not formally confirm the validity of the memo importantly he also does not deny its potential authenticity. Later when the question of publication is raised again he does not support publication however again by careful choice of words does not clearly ban it from being published either.
So it seems that, when you meet someone like that, it is just as important to note what was not said as much as what was said explicitly
The film then shows the inevitable enquiries amongst the staff at GCHQ. Mrs Gunn brought this to an abrupt close by confessing that she had released the memo on grounds of conscience.
The rest of the film covers the prosecution and the moves she had to take to organise her defence. Most notable the lawyers representing here were from Liberty and funded by charities. One sees at first hand what few means there are to protect the individual who is a Whistleblower.
I will not spoil the film for those who have not seen it by giving away how the matter was concluded.
I would suggest that if you meet friends or colleagues to have a discussion over coffee that you pose the questions raised by this film.
- 1 Did you approve of Ms Gunns action as a Whistle blower?
- 2 What line should the Observer and other newspapers have taken?
- 3 Would you have published or waited to see?
- 4 Was a war against Iraq justified?
- 5 What view do you now have after the events and more recent conflict in Iraq?
- 6 Is the West to blame for destabilising the country?
- 7 Who carries the blame for the casualties in both local and coalition forces?
I have a second blog planned on another aspect of this episode which should lead to further in-depth debates