Duncan Campbell’s Honorary Doctorate award at University of Sussex. PL as introducer.

Graduation - Duncan and Paul with Chancellor and Vice Chancellor


I am delighted to introduce Duncan Campbell.  Duncan has, for forty years, been one of Britain’s most outstanding investigative journalists. He specialises in privacy, civil liberties and surveillance issues and his best-known investigations have led to major legal clashes with successive British governments.

Duncan is a proud Scot. Born in Glasgow in 1952, he grew up and was educated in Dundee.  With a penchant for the sciences, he won an open scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, graduating with a First Class degree in physics. Duncan’s relationship with Brighton and the University of Sussex goes back to 1973, when he came to study Operations Research.   He is a long-time resident of Kemptown.

Duncan is a major figure among the UK generation of post-Watergate journalists. During the 1970s, the excesses of western intelligence agencies during the Cold War were being made public on a daily basis. Duncan will always been known as the first journalist to reveal the existence of the British electronic intelligence agency GCHQ in a 1976 article “The Eavesdroppers”. This, though, brought him to the attention of the authorities. He became known nationally as the ‘C’ in the ABC official secrets trial of 1978.

On the 20 February 1977, while living in Brighton, Duncan and fellow journalist Crispin Aubrey were arrested after interviewing a former signals corporal called John Berry – thus the ABC case (Aubrey, Berry, Campbell). Duncan’s flat in Brighton was searched by the police. All three were charged under the Official Secrets Act and faced very long prison sentences.   Their trial became a cause celebre for press freedom and while they were convicted, they received a discharge from a High Court Judge critical of the abuse of secrecy laws.

In another run in with government, during the 1987 Zircon affair, Duncan caused the BBC to be raided by Special Branch after his revelations that the government had concealed from Parliament expensive plans to launch spy satellites.

Duncan came out in 1987.  A year later he was one of the six founders of the human rights and equality group Stonewall, along with actors Sir Ian McKellen and Michael Cashman. This April, at the wedding of Duncan with his partner Matt in Edinburgh, the guest of honour Joanna Cherry, the ‘openly LGBT’  Scottish National Party MP, in a moving speech, made special reference to Duncan’s involvement in setting up Stonewall – which she said had been crucial in changing attitudes to being gay in Britain.

Duncan has a formidable intellect and has been at the forefront of enabling the new wave of data journalism leaks. He and his husband recently helped the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists innovate in how to take raw data from a leaked 200 GB computer drive of secret offshore tax haven registers to produce high quality evidence of how the rich and powerful hide their ill-gotten gains.

In 2013, when Edward Snowden leaked documents from the US National Security Agency, Duncan was on hand to interpret the material.   He has continuously provided the most insightful interpretation of the dangers of massive electronic surveillance, and is helping University of Sussex colleagues investigate these issues.  Duncan is also currently critiquing the Law Commission’s proposal for a tougher espionage act that, he warns, would see journalists and their sources jailed.

Duncan’s radicalism, intellect, courage and his advocacy of LGBT rights makes him a natural kindred spirit for The University of Sussex.

Chancellor, I present to you for the degree of Doctor of the University, honoris causa, Duncan Campbell. “