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Alexandra Bruce
February 20, 2014

Edward Snowden addresses the Oxford Union as part of the Sam Adams awards ceremony on 19th February 2014.

The Sam Adams Award is given annually by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, a group of retired CIA officers, to an intelligence professional who has taken a stand for integrity and ethics. It is named after Samuel A. Adams, a CIA whistle-blower during the Vietnam War, and takes the physical form of a “corner-brightener candlestick”.

This address was poorly-filmed and -lit by the Oxford Union, which usually hosts the Sam Adams Awards ceremonies. Unfortunately, Snowden was not even mic’ed, with only the distant camera’s “shotgun microphone” recording his statements.

In his address, Snowden is basically lauding Chelsea Manning for her statements about the growing trend of “over-classification” of information and documents. Indeed, many of the diplomatic cables released by Manning had “Secret” clearances (the lowest level of classification), which were largely unwarranted. Snowden points out that over-classification leads to a breakdown in the ability of the public to appropriately respond to suppressed war crimes, such as those also revealed by Manning and for engaged citizens to make their views known about what actions are being dine i their name and with their Tax Dollars, at the ballot box, etc.

Snowden also points out that this trend of over-classification in not simply endemic to the US – but that other governments, such as that of Australia – have absurdly classified things like the price of shrimp and other commodities from Indonesia, as a matter of “National Security.”

Snowden’s concluding statements here, in his comments about Chelsea Manning’s humanitarian contributions, meriting her receipt of the Sam Adams Award are:

“The distinguishing strength of a democracy is self-correction; that no matter bad things get, the public, in partnership with a free press, can detect and correct mistakes of policy…by well-intentioned but misguided officials. It is this self-correcting, self-determining part of an unapologetically American form of government, in which Chelsea Manning so valuably participated. And it is for this extraordinary act of public service, at an unbelievable personal cost, for which we grant this award and our moral sanction to Chelsea Manning. Thank you.”

Snowden, who received this same award last year is considered a fugitive by American authorities, who in June 2013 charged him with Espionage and Theft of Government Property. In early 2014, numerous media outlets and politicians issued calls for leniency in the form of clemency, amnesty or pardon, while others called for him to be imprisoned or killed.

He lives in an undisclosed location in Russia and, according to German politician, Hans-Christian Stroebele, continues to seek permanent asylum “in a ‘democratic’ country” such as Germany or France.

Many recipients of the Sam Adams Award have been whistleblowers. The following are past recipients:

2002: Coleen Rowley.

2003: Katharine Gun, former British intelligence (GCHQ) translator; leaked top-secret information showing illegal US activities during the push for war in Iraq.

2004: Sibel Edmonds, former FBI translator; fired after accusing FBI officials of ignoring intelligence pointing to al-Qaeda attacks against the US.

2005: Craig Murray.

2006: Samuel Provance, former US Army military intelligence sergeant; spoke out about abuses at the Abu Ghraib Prison

2007: Andrew Wilkie, retired Australian intelligence official; claimed intelligence was being exaggerated to justify Australian support for the US invasion of Iraq.

2008: Frank Grevil, Danish whistleblower; leaked classified information showing no clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

2009: Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell and Iraq War critic.

2010: Julian Assange, editor-in-chief and founder of WikiLeaks.

2011: Thomas Andrews Drake, former senior executive of the US NSA and his attorney, Jesselyn Radack, former ethics adviser to the US Department of Justice.

2012: Thomas Fingar, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council.

2013: Edward Snowden, leaked NSA material showing mass surveillance by the agency, sparking heated debate.

2014: Chelsea Manning.

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* Website: http://www.oxford-union.org/

ABOUT THE OXFORD UNION SOCIETY: The Union is the world’s most prestigious debating society, with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford. It has been established for 189 years, aiming to promote debate and discussion not just in Oxford University, but across the globe.

Alexandra Bruce

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Alexandra Bruce

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