19 January 2004

New York Times, January 19, 2004

Op-Ed Columnist

A Single Conscience v. the State

Bob Herbert

Katharine Gun has a much better grasp of the true spirit of democracy than Tony Blair. So, naturally, it's Katharine Gun who's being punished.

Ms. Gun, 29, was working at Britain's top-secret Government Communications Headquarters last year when she learned of an American plan to spy on at least a half-dozen U.N. delegations as part of the U.S. effort to win Security Council support for an invasion of Iraq.

The plans, which included e-mail surveillance and taps on home and office telephones, was outlined in a highly classified National Security Agency memo. The agency, which was seeking British assistance in the project, was interested in "the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals."

Countries specifically targeted were Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria, Guinea and Pakistan. The primary goal was a Security Council resolution that would give the U.S. and Britain the go-ahead for the war.

Ms. Gun felt passionately that an invasion of Iraq was wrong — morally wrong and illegal. In a move that deeply embarrassed the American and British governments, the memo was leaked to The London Observer.

Which landed Ms. Gun in huge trouble. She has not denied that she was involved in the leak.

There is no equivalent in Britain to America's First Amendment protections. Individuals like Ms. Gun are at the mercy of the Official Secrets Act, which can result in severe — in some cases, draconian — penalties for the unauthorized disclosure of information by intelligence or security agency employees.

Ms. Gun was fired from her job as a translator and arrested for violating the act. If convicted, she will face up to two years in prison.

We are not talking about a big-time criminal here. We are not talking about someone who would undermine the democratic principles that <alt-code idsrc="nyt-per-pol" value="Bush, George W"/>George W. Bush and Tony Blair babble about so incessantly, and self-righteously, even as they are trampling on them. Ms. Gun is someone who believes deeply in those principles and was willing to take a courageous step in support of her beliefs.

She hoped that her actions would help save lives. She thought at the time that if the Security Council did not vote in favor of an invasion, the United States and Britain might not launch the war. In a statement last November she said she felt that leaking the memo was "necessary to prevent an illegal war in which thousands of Iraqi civilians and British soldiers would be killed or maimed."

"I have only ever followed my conscience," she said.

In 1971, in what the historian William Manchester described as "perhaps the most extraordinary leak of classified documents in the history of governments," Daniel Ellsberg turned over to The New York Times a huge study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. The Nixon administration tried to destroy Mr. Ellsberg. He was viciously harassed. His psychiatrist's office was burglarized. And he was charged with treason, theft and conspiracy.

The prosecution was not successful. The charges were thrown out due to government misconduct. In an interview last week, Mr. Ellsberg, who was with the Defense Department and the Rand Corporation in the 1960's and 70's, told me he wished he had blown the whistle much earlier on the deceptions and lies and other forms of official misconduct related to Vietnam.

He is lending his name to a campaign in support of Ms. Gun. She took a principled stand, he said, early enough to have a chance at altering events.

"What I've been saying since a year ago last October," said Mr. Ellsberg, "was that I hoped that people who knew that we were being lied into a wrongful war would do what I wish I had done in 1964 or 1965. And that was to go to Congress and the press with documents. Current documents. Don't do what I did. Don't wait years until the bombs are falling and then put out history."

Ms. Gun is being allowed by British courts to plead an unusual "defense of necessity." She has said that her disclosures were justified because they revealed "serious wrongdoing on the part of the U.S. government," and because she was sincerely trying to prevent the "wide-scale death and casualties" that would result from a war that was "illegal."

She's due in court today for a pretrial hearing.

January 18, 2004  Baltimore Sun

NSA relents on files' release

Secret agency allows EPA, MDE, Fort Meade to view pollution report; Cursory look shows no problems; Edited version planned because of security fears; Access later to full study

By Rona Kobell
Sun Staff

After months of denying regulators access to a key environmental study, the National Security Agency has opened its doors and its files - if only for a peek.

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Maryland Department of the Environment <http://www.mde.state.md.us> and Fort Meade's environmental office got their first look last week at the super-secret eavesdropping agency's building contamination study, which outlines potential pollution problems.

NSA is situated on a corner of the Fort Meade Army post in Odenton, which has been listed since 1998 on the EPA's Superfund list of the nation's most hazardous sites. Although NSA is not near the main areas of concern, regulators long have suspected that NSA has handled some hazardous waste over the years. But their cursory review of the NSA study didn't yield any red flags.

"Based on my brief review, I did not see any regional environmental impacts resulting from historical operations at the NSA campus," said Fort Meade environmental engineer Jeffrey Thornburg.

NSA expects to release an edited version of the report to regulators and the public next month. That version will include the environmental studies, but not maps, historical data and building function detail that the NSA has deemed sensitive.

"The study is currently under review to remove information relating to NSA's plans, operations, and potential security vulnerabilities," an NSA spokeswoman said last week.

Federal and state regulators will be able to return to NSA and view the full report if they need more information. Historical data, such as the location of a wood-treatment facility or computer chip-making operation, might explain why certain contaminants turn up in certain places. If the edited report does not answer all such questions, Thornburg said, he'll go back to see the full version.

For months, the lack of environmental information from the global code-breaking agency has frustrated regulators and citizens who have been working together to clean up the 86-year-old Army post.

Over the past five years, the Army's environmental office has identified close to 200 areas of potential contamination that could cause long-term ground-water and soil problems, most stemming from fuel, solvents and munitions dating to the post's years as a major training camp for soldiers. By last summer, only 30 sites still required further cleanup.

Board and Army

That swift action and exchange of information improved the once-contentious relations between the Army and the Restoration Advisory Board, the citizen-regulator group overseeing the Superfund cleanup.

Rather than participating in the Army's study, the NSA conducted its own in 2002. Last year, NSA officials gave the findings to an EPA representative, but abruptly took the report back, noting new post-Sept. 11, 2001, security concerns. NSA said the report revealed too much about its buildings and their functions.

NSA told The Sun last month that it launched the study at the advisory board's request and not in response to Superfund requirements. However, EPA officials considered the pollution study a key part of the regulatory process.

Advisory board Chairwoman Zoe Draughon said the NSA agreed to release the information only after the news reports circulated and public pressure increased.

"The NSA is releasing the report not because it's the right thing to do, but because it's being forced to do it," she said. "But at this point, I'll take anything."

Review by regulators

Draughon said she doesn't need to see the unedited report as long as the regulators can review it.

"NSA can't check themselves and say, 'Oh, we're OK,'" she said. "They have to let the people who are supposed to do the checking do their jobs."

Board members hope that the NSA's cooperation is a sign that the agency's door may be opening more than just a crack. In the past few months, NSA and Army officials have met more frequently.

"We're bridging any sort of gaps in our relationship," Thornburg said. "This is really setting the tone for future communication between NSA and Fort Meade."