Edward Snowden, whose leaks of government secrets have sparked an ongoing public debate about state surveillance in the U.S., delivered an address to the Oxford Union Wednesday congratulating Chelsea Manning on winning the Sam Adams Award for Integrity and Intelligence.
Chelsea Manning is the former U.S. Army private currently serving a 35-year prison sentence in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth for turning nearly a million classified government records over to WikiLeaks in what may have been the largest disclosure of state secrets in American history.
“I’m going to comment general on an issue that she raised to public prominence, that’s very important but less well acknowledged,” said Snowden, himself a former recipient of the award. “That issue is over-classification.”
Snowden used the occasion to warn of what he described as a government growing so secretive as to imperil American democracy.
“In the last year the White House told us that 95 million records have been created classified and withheld from the public in the year 2012. That’s more than any other year on record and shows a trend where the government is withholding more secrets than ever,” he said. Snowden called for people to push governments around the world toward greater openness.
“It’s this self correcting, self determining form of unapologetically American government in which Chelsea Manning so valuably participated,” he said.
See his full comments below.