Feeds

Ex-GCHQ chief compares Iraq whistleblower to Soviet spy

Gun gets Primed

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

The former director of GCHQ Sir David Pepper has for the first time spoken of his anger at a whistleblower in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, comparing her case to that of the traitor and paedophile Geoffrey Prime, who was jailed in the 1980s for passing secrets to the KGB.

Pepper said the actions of Katharine Gun - a GCHQ translator who in 2003 passed documents to The Observer showing that the UK and US planned to spy on fellow members of the UN Security Council - had been "profoundly shocking" to him.

The eavesdropping aimed to gather intelligence on how other Security Council nations might vote on a resolution mandating the invasion of Iraq.

Once exposed, the joint GCHQ-NSA operation was widely condemned as a breach of international law. Gun's subsequent prosecution under the Official Secrets Act was dramatically dropped without explanation on the first day of her trial.

She later said she had not raised her concerns internally because she "honestly didn't think that would have had any practical effect".

Asked about GCHQ security breaches yesterday at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Pepper directly said his reaction to Gun's whistleblowing was similar to his reaction to Geoffrey Prime's treachery, Thisisgloucestershire reports.

Prime worked for GCHQ during the 1970s. He was unmasked as a Soviet spy by an investigation into his paedophile activities and received a 38-year sentence for espionage and sex offences. This year it was revealed that Prime, released in 2001, had revealed to the KGB that GCHQ and the NSA had cracked their ciphers in 1976.

His spying reportedly led the Soviets to overhaul their cryptography methods, blinding Western intelligence right up until the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"To discover again that there was someone among us that could do that was an absolute shock," Pepper said of Prime yesterday.

"Did Prime damage us? He was in a position to do very serious damage."

Gun has maintained she has no regrets and was hailed by anti-war campaigners for her moral courage. Her motivation and the failure of her revelations to stop the invasion apparently made no difference to Pepper's reaction however.

"As for Katherine Gun – it was similarly horrible for similar reasons," he said yesterday.

"Everyone at GCHQ is focused on doing the job and the thought that someone out of our family – and I don't think the word family is too strong, when you have 5,500 people there it becomes like a family – would break that trust was truly shocking.

"One of the most distressing things was that we put in place quite substantial mechanisms for people that were having issues of conscience to air them, either through their line manager or a staff counsellor – not a civil servant. And she didn't make use of any of those mechanisms."

Pepper retired as GCHQ director in October 2008. Earlier this month he took up a lobbying job at the defence giant Thales UK, which is bidding for a major cryptography contract from the MoD. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
Oz biz regulator discovers shared servers in EPIC FACEPALM
'Not aware' that one IP can hold more than one Website
Apple tried to get a ban on Galaxy, judge said: NO, NO, NO
Judge Koh refuses Samsung ban for the third time
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.