Leaks, Laws, & Liberty:
Whistleblowing & The American Way

Experts Say Leaking Information is
as American as Apple Pie?!


In some cases, leaks have changed the course of American history while shaping the nation’s laws. There are a number of statutes that criminalize leaking information, yet not all leaks are necessarily criminal.

Leaks in modern history that are certain to remain historically notable include those of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Shadow Brokers’ NSA Hacking tools data dump, and the early days of The Trump Presidential Administration.  Despite taking up significantly more air time in media outlets, the majority of leaks from the offices of President Trump remain unsubstantiated.  The leaks of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and the Shadow Brokers have had an immediate and lasting impact on American history.

In the case of Edward Snowden, we encourage students to read our book ‘The Government, Privacy, and You’ (free copies of which can be requested using the ‘OUR PROJECT’ section of our website – which you’re already on).  As of the publication date of this post, Mr. Snowden remains in Russia with the possibility of being charged with treason, espionage, and criminal release of classified information hanging over his head.

Chelsea Manning – who was recently released from prison following a presidential order of clemency issued by President Barack Obama in his last days in office – released information to WikiLeaks that had significant impacts on American foreign policy.  Most notably, Manning released a video of an airstrike in Afghanistan in which over 80 civilians were killed by US forces after the details of the operation had been held back from public release, and the release of diplomatic communications which (upon their release) resulted in many of the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings of 2010-2012.

The Shadow Brokers was a hacker collective that released reports and files created by the NSA.  The information included a number of tools and exploits that could be used to monitor or control people’s personal electronic devices.  Following the Edward Snowden leaks (which revealed the US government had digitally programs that involved at least the possibility of domestic surveillance), the implication of the Shadow Brokers release was that the NSA had tools for spying not just on terror suspects but American citizens.

These are just a few examples of leaks that changed the history of America and the perception of the administrations in power at the time of their release.   Republican, Democrat, Independent, Liberal, Conservative, or Moderate – information leaks have impacted administrations and governments of all types throughout American history.


1)  What is a government leak you’re already familiar with? If you don’t know one, research one and summarize it in 1 – 6 sentences:

2) Regarding that whistleblowing incident – who do you believe was ‘right’ in the situation, and what about what you know about that whistleblowing incident leads you to that conclusion?  

3) Whistleblowing is a  challenging subject for the people coming forward:  They might have legal protections to their job and their freedom, but how can they be expected to stay at a place where they betrayed the trust of the organization (even if the organization was doing something bad)?

4) Whistleblowing can also be a  challenging subject for people being reported on: What if the whistleblower is wrong and what the company/person was doing is allowed? If they fire the ‘whistleblower’ they can face major punishments (financial penalties) for firing the person (it’s called retaliation).  What can be done to prevent situations of false / improper whistleblowing? An example would be people posting videos of how fast food is made on Tick Tock.  If a company isn’t pretending the food is ‘natural and organic’, why should (or shouldn’t) their employees really be allowed to post videos of that process?   

Be sure to provide full explanations for each of your answers. For more details, you can read the article this piece was sourced from here:


American Policy, Apple Pie, Can You Keep A Secret, Civics, Civics are Fun, Civics Education, Classified Policy, HR, Labor Laws, Law Related Education, Leaks, Learn the Law, Learning is Fun, LRE, Manning, National Security, Privacy, Privacy Policy, Project REAL, Project REAL NV, Project Real Org, Security, Snowden, Top Secret, Whistle Blower Protections, Whistleblowing,

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