Friday, August 29, 2014

We Steal Secrets & The Fifth Estate: Wikileaks

We have been having a lot of news about Wikileaks on TV and it is hard to understand what they do, especially if you are not much into this kind of topic. However, it is an interesting and important issue, which can generate a great deal of conversation. It is a very current topic.  I recommend it for adults only.

I. Read the text about Wikileaks below. Then retell it to a friend, using your own words.

WikiLeaks is an international non-profit online organisation which publishes secret information and classified media from anonymous sourcesThe group has released a number of significant documents which have become front-page news items. According to the WikiLeaks website, its goal is to bring important news and information to the public.Another of the organisation's goals is to ensure that journalists are not jailed for emailing sensitive or classified documents. The online "drop box" is described by the WikiLeaks website as "an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to WikiLeaks journalists". Because of the sensitive nature of most of the information available on Wikileaks, authenticity is not just assumed. The Wikileaks community carefully vets all submissions, making absolutely sure that the innocent are protected and that the information is both secure and authentic.
Why is Wikileaks so important?
Wikileaks aims at being a safe place for airing documentation of corporate or governmental misdeeds. It is a safe haven for anyone, anywhere in the world, to submit sensitive information that can then be read by the public, with the ultimate aims being transparency and justice through public communication. 

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II. Divide the class into three groups. Group 1 reads THE GOOD, Group 2 reads THE BAD, and Group 3 reads THE UGLY.

THE GOOD: Complete transparency will not work in the industrial world but there is something to say for it in government. When government is dealing with its citizens, complete transparency ought to be the rule. Indeed, too much secrecy goes on in government regarding its dealings with citizens; otherwise, why would we need a Freedom of Information Act and be required to use it all the time in order to squeeze a little information out of the government? Unfortunately, this is not the secrecy that WikiLeaks exposed.

THE BAD: When you are dealing with opponents, it is certainly not in your interest to expose your strategies, your tactics or your private thoughts. Private industry understands this completely and its secrecy works to great advantage all the time. Take Apple as an example. Its product development secrecy makes for huge product launch successes. And if they didn’t do that? Their success would be diminished. In government, the same is true of opponents. Face it, the world is not made up of angels. There are evil people and even just plain people who want to protect their self-interest. To win against evil people or evil governments requires not sharing your strategies or tactics. When WikiLeaks shares all the inner thoughts, strategies and tactics with the world, the US negotiating position is severely weakened. The other parties have their secrets, but we have lost ours.

THE UGLY: If transparency were the rule in, say, State Department interactions, then people would have interacted differently. But State Department people felt that they could rely on secrecy to transmit their private thoughts and suggestions to their superiors and underlings. To have this trust broken is indeed ugly. With new technologies, people have to work around possible exposure. Emails are far from secure yet some people treated them as private conversations, much to their dismay when a court proceedings revealed everything. So people began using phone conversations hoping they were not tapped. Real security might only be found in one-on-one conversations in an open field. But most people using the “secure” system trusted that their conversations were private.

The State Department is one area, but the Defense Department is even more extreme. One cannot win wars without secrecy. The Chinese understood that 1000’s of years ago. And having WikiLeaks expose only one side’s secrets is only a way to assure defeat for that side. Because of the intention to do just that, the efforts of Assange and his organization are indeed treason. He must be prosecuted to the maximum extent and not just on rape charges.

Taken from worth-visiting site:

III. Group up one student from each of the groups and have them share what they understood in the passages.

IV. Watch the movie segment and discuss the questions (You may watch the scene twice):

1. What do they say about Julian Asssange, WikiLeaks's founder?

2. Is the Internet a good place for secrets? Why (not)?

3. How did he collect the data, secrets and information from the Internet?

4. How do you assess Assange's intentions? Does he mean well or is he just a traitor to the USA?

5. What are some of the journalists opinions about Assange?

6. What's YOUR opinion about him and WikiLeaks?

7. What were some of the examples he gave about the actions of WikiLeaks?

8. Why was 9/11 such a turning point for Wikileaks?

9) How do you see the future? Will it be  easier or harder to keep political secrets hidden?

IV. Watch the segment from the movie The Fifth Estate and answer the questions.

1. What are the historic moments that you managed to identify in the segment?

2. What means of communication was used in each of the periods? How effective were they?

3. What were the communication limitations imposed by technology during those historic moments?

4. What do they say about WikiLeaks and Edward Assange?




  1. I really enjoy your blogs, they really help me with my clases,You are really inspiring.

  2. Thanks for your words. Come back often.