Feeds

Ex-GCHQ chief compares Iraq whistleblower to Soviet spy

Gun gets Primed

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

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. ®

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK.gov's Open Source switch WON'T get rid of Microsoft, y'know
What do you mean, we've ditched Redmond in favour of IBM?!
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.