Video: Edward Snowden tells Oxford students that Government secrets undermine democracy

 

So many facts, figures and activities are being kept secret by Western governments that they are undermining democracy, Edward Snowden has told students in Oxford.

The fugitive from US justice recorded a video message for Oxford University students attending an award ceremony for Chelsea Manning, the US soldier sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment for releasing secrets to WikiLeaks.

The Sam Adams award to Manning was made at a ceremony held at the Oxford Union for “integrity in intelligence”.

Snowden is in Russia where he has been granted sanctuary, at least temporarily, from US attempts to arrest him after he publicly released thousands of classified National Security Agency documents. He apologised wryly for his absence – “Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there tonight.” He will himself be the subject of a debate at the Oxford Union tonight [Thursday] when he will be proposed as “a hero”

In his four-minute video message Snowden addressed what he described as “over-classification”, the excessive number of secrets kept by the US and other Western states.

“Over-classification, where the government uses the state’s secrets privilege to withhold information from the public that’s not related to national security and is otherwise unjustified, has been a serious problem,” he said.

Over the last year, he said, the White House admitted 95 million records had been classified as secret in 2012.

This, he argued, shows that not just the US government but also other Western nations are “keeping more secrets than ever”. Such secrets, he observed, include absurdities such as Australia’s ruling that the price of shrimps and clove cigarettes in Indonesia are a “matter of national security”.

He paid tribute to Manning for releasing documents that revealed the type of information that the US government tried to prevent the public knowing.

“How can we vote without evidence of the true costs of the wars in which we are involved?” he asked “Instances of public corruption, official corruption, in nations that we support and ally ourselves with, or even national participation in torture programmes, rendition programmes and unambiguous war crimes. All of these were represented in the Manning brief.

“The foundation of democracy is the consent of the governed. After all, we cannot consent to programmes and policies about which we are never informed.

“The decline of democracy begins when the domain of government expands beyond the borders of its public’s knowledge.”

Read more:
Edward Snowden elected rector of Glasgow University
Surveillance revelations: Angela Merkel proposes European network to beat NSA and GCHQ spying
Why the Government must face up to Edward Snowden's growing indictment of state surveillance  
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Data Analyst - Essex - £25,000

£23500 - £25000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Data analyst/Sys...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Account Manager

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Account Manager is r...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Manager / Sales Executive

£18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Account Man...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore