The Iraq War Spy Story


The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War; Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion.

Marcia Mitchell, co-authored with Thomas Mitchell


     Named one of the best books in the UK in 2008. A contemporary story that just won’t go away. The British Parliament has re-opened an investigation, and the ramifications of “dirty tricks” on the part of the U.S. continue to haunt. In this case, in a remarkable coincidence, a beautiful 27-year-old British secret servant agent was arrested for high crimes against her country. The authors worked closely with her in telling this incredible story of international deceit and deception.

What’s new about this story?

    British Parliament has launched a new and extensive investigation into questionable circumstances surrounding the February, 2003 decision to invade Iraq. Katharine Gun has been called to testify, and her story is once again gaining attention. Parliament is not through with the issue, and what happens in London will become newsworthy around the world. HERE IS A STORY THAT JUST WON’T GO AWAY! 

On trial for espionage

     America’s National Security Agency sent a secret email to its British counterpart, GCHQ, the Government Communications Headquarters, inviting the UK to join in a bizarre and highly illegal spy operation against the United Nations. One of the recipients of the message was a young British intelligence officer, who believed the shocking information she now possessed could halt the march to war. But she knew leaking the outrageous plot could mean her arrest and imprisonment.

    In the end, Katharine Gun decided to reveal what she had discovered – an illegal American spy plot to manipulate the UN’s authorization of a preemptive strike against Iraq. She did so five days before Colin Powell’s ill-fated and false claims made to the United Nations in his pitch for war.

    Katharine explains:

What I learned from the secret information i held in my hand was that George Bush and Tony Blair were willing to use patently illegal means to get what they wanted, the war they were telling the world they were trying to avoid.    

It seemed to me that if people knew how desperate Bush and Blair were to have a legitimate reason to go to war, people would learn that what they were saying was a lie, that that their intention was not to disarm Saddam, but in fact to go to war.


     Part cloak and dagger, part courtroom drama with Katharine Gun at the Old Bailey, The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War at last tells the whole sordid story of an egregious intelligence misadventure. It examines motives and morals of individuals and societies. It is truth-telling at its best.

Media around the world had a field day with the story called, “Dirty Tricks at the UN.” In Britain, it preceded the resignations of two cabinet officers. Everywhere but in the U.S., there was enormous outrage at the duplicity and breach of international law revealed by Katharine Gun. In the U.S., the media were strangely silent.

    Courageous London Observer editor Martin Bright, to whom the NSA message was leaked, also risked prison by publishing secret information. The day of publication, major American media called to arrange interviews with Bright. In short order, each called to cancel. They would not be covering the story.


What’s been said:


What Katharine did, prominent American actor and activist Sean Penn called:

   A decision of conscience in a world where nobody celebrates that. She will go down in history as a hero of the human spirit.

Whistleblower icon, Daniel Ellsberg, whose historic release of  the infamous Pentagon Papers so dramatically affected the course of the Vietnam War, has this to say about Katharine:

   No one has had this story to tell before, because no one else—including  myself—has ever done what Katharine Gun did: tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war. In time, possibly, to avert it. Hers was the most important—and courageous—task I’ve ever seen, more timely and potentially more effective than the Pentagon Papers.

Daniel Ellsberg

Sean Penn

Says Martin:

    More of a concern to us was that we would be joined in the prosecution. To publish is an offense under the Official Secrets Act. We were as culpable as Katharine. 

    As for the failure of the US media to cover the story, we were astounded. To this day, we are still scratching our heads.

About the book, Martin says: 

    One of the critical untold stories of the Iraq War is told with great passion and sensitivity by Marcia and Thomas Mitchell. It is a fitting tribute to the courage of Katharine Gun who blew the whistle on transatlantic dirty tricks at the highest level of government in London and in Washington. A morality tale for the 21st Century.

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern:

    Katharine Gun packs more guts per square inch than anyone I know. So far the US media had kept the wraps on her important story. Now you can find it all in this gripping narrative.



Video Interview with Katharine

Slide Show

Young Katharine with her parents growing up in Taiwan

The Harwood family

Katharine teaching in Japan

The Harwood family in recent years

Marcia with Paul Harwood, Katharine’s father, in England

Katharine reviews her headlines.

Yvonne Ridley - who connected Katharine to Martin Bright

Rt. Honorable Clare Short, MP House of Commons

The author discusses the case with Katharine, London 2006.

Katharine with defense attorney.

Katharine speaking at the American Univ. symposium.

Daniel Ellsburg at the symposium.

Ray McGovern at the symposium.

Normon Solomon at the symposium.

Martin Bright at the symposium.

Peter Earnest, dir. of the Int’l Spy Museum, Katharine’s critic

Symposium participants (Katharine 2nd from left).

Marcia and Katharine at the symposium

Conferring at the symposium

Select Coments

Rt. Honorable Clare Short, MP House of Commons:

    It is well worth reading this book, which strongly encourages everyone—on both sides of the Atlantic to think about what they would do facing the same critical question Katharine Gun faced.


Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America:

    A deeply researched account that seamlessly interweaves the intelligence scandals of the Iraq War with the touchingly human story of a young British spy who followed her conscience.


The Honorable Edward D. Bayda, former Chief Justice of Saskatchewan:

    A riveting story about the power of conscience fueled by intrepid courage—one that needs telling if only to lay bare the American news media contempt for the public’s right to know.


Dr. Peter Whitmer, When the Going Gets Weird: The Twisted Life and Times of Hunter Thompson:

    Every once in a while there comes a Katharine Gun, filled with conscience and conviction to remind us of the basic rule of life: Think for yourself and question authority.


Marcy Wheeler, Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy

    This book offers America readers a very human introduction to Katharine Gun and uses her story to explore what makes whistle-blowers risk everything in the service of truth.