Lection Connection - Spirit Sightings

November 17, 2019: A Vision of Promise


From Ray McGinnis

In the film Official Secrets, Katharine Gun is a 27-year-old intelligence analyst working for the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). This is the nation’s intelligence and security organization responsible for providing signals intelligence and information to the government and the armed forces of the United Kingdom. On January 31, 2003, she reads an email containing a cable from Frank Koza, the chief of staff at the “regional targets” division of the National Security Agency in the United States. It details a request from the NSA asking the GCHQ to help intercept all communications of each member of the Security Council of the United Nations. The cable made clear an intention to bug the offices of six non-permanent member states on the United Nations Security Council: Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, and Pakistan. By blackmailing individual UN voting members, the government of President George W. Bush hoped they could pressure these states to support a UN vote authorizing a war against Iraq.


Katharine Gun has already seen news stories about British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President Bush’s allegations of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. She is certain these allegations, based on what she is aware of as a signals intelligence analyst, are false.

Gun copies the email and hands it to a friend with connections to the peace movement. She believes it is unethical for her government to blackmail other nations to launch an illegal war of aggression. She subsequently mails the email from the NSA to Martin Bright of the Observer newspaper in London. The paper finally decides to publish the whistleblowing story on March 2, 2003. The story causes a sensation and the United Nations Security Council fails to pass the resolution authorizing war against Iraq.


Meanwhile, Katharine Gun tells her superiors at GCHQ on March 5, 2003, that she was the person who leaked the NSA cable. She is arrested and charged with violating the official secrets act in November 2003.

Type: Drama
Director: Gavin Hood
Film company: IFC films
Release date­­: August 30, 2019
Starring: Keira Knightly, Ralph Fiennes, Matt Smith


On February 24, 2004, the trial began. But it ended in just 30 minutes when the case was dropped. The prosecution chose not to offer any evidence against her. Prior to going to trial, Katharine Gun’s defence team had met with key persons connected with the office of Attorney General Lord Goldsmith. They believed that the advice Goldsmith had given to Prime Minister Tony Blair at the time Gun had leaked the NSA/GCHQ cable, Goldsmith had written an opinion that going to war in Iraq was illegal. As a result, her defence team would argue that trying to stop an unlawful war of aggression trumped Gun’s obligation to abide by the Official Secrets Act.

Explore…Isaiah 65:17–25

  • What is the promise in this passage of scripture? What is being transformed?
  • What vision does Katharine Gun have? Why does she leak the cable from the NSA to the GCHQ to the Observer newspaper?
  • Who can you think of who has offered a vision of promise through their deeds? What kinds of things can ordinary people do to help transform the world, even if we aren’t necessary in a position to try to stop a war?


Prayer… God of unfolding creation, we yearn for the coming of your realm of peace and harmony. A world free of pain, violence, injustice and sorrow. Help us to be alert to the opportunities in front of us as we take the next step to walk into your transformed kingdom. In Christ we pray. Amen.

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