(13 May 1989, Channel Four's 'After Dark' programme broadcasted live; discussion about the unaccountability of the security services; Benn was in argument with Miles Copeland Jr, former CIA Officer, who was closely involved in major foreign-policy operations from the 1950s to the 1980s; Benn answers Copeland's question about what is wrong with governments keeping secrets, in so far as the CIA having influence over the British Atomic Energy Authority during the 1970s, when Benn was Minister for Energy),
"What I'm saying is when people vote it's because a democracy is about people knowing enough to make a choice. Now, you say you hear things said at meetings - that they say things only because it is private?
Well, some things are secret. When you know there is going to be an attack, or a terrorist attack, you don't reveal it because you hope to catch the person concerned. But the test of political integrity is that wherever you are - in the cabinet, here, at home, at a meeting, you say the same thing, your philosophy and view doesn't alter. Once you start saying that security protects hypocrisy - to preserve democracy - you're saying what I said, which is that the way the intelligence service operates (and governments are the main offenders, I'm not denying it, after all they're supposed to control them, I don't know they do) they are really then destroying the democracy that the security service is supposed to be there to maintain.
Actually, the security service is there to maintain the status quo, which is quite a different thing from maintaining democracy. And that's the point. I'm not getting at you. I don't know what you've done in your life. Candidly, I don't want to make it about individuals. I think we ought to understand - we're talking about how we're governed, by whom, and whether the public have rights in the matter or not. That's my interest throughout this discussion."