Module 4: Free Speech, National Secrets, and the Information Age

Core Learnings: 
Like the rest of the world, Israel is grappling with the new realities of the open information era.
Israel's Supreme Court strives to balance the right to free speech with the state's security needs.
Viewing Israel's experiences alongside those of the U.S. can provide important context and understanding.


Edward Snowden in the international media.

I. Contemporary Leakers: Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Wikileaks (10-15 minutes)

Begin by asking the participants to name recent cases that involve leaked government secrets.

  • Interactive/technology options: Have participants look up information on Manning, Snowden, and Wikileaks using smartphones or computers.
  • Show the clip from CNN about Manning and Snowden, or find another video clip that provides an up-to-date summary about one or both of the cases.

Ask participants some questions to start a discussion:

  • Did Manning and Snowden have the right to publicize the information they accessed as part of their work?
  • Do you believe the public's right to know trumps the government's desire to keep certain information secret?
  • Should leakers pay a price for their actions? Even if they are motivated by a belief that they are helping to stop injustices?
  • Other than prosecuting people who leak information after the fact, how can government control the flow of sensitive information? Is it even possible in this day and age? Can keeping secrets be justified in our open information society?

II. Anat Kamm and Uri Blau (15 minutes)

Introduce the case of Anat Kamm and Uri Blau. Divide participants into pairs to read through the case materials together and think about the case in terms of Megillat Ha’Atzmaut (Handout 4a). Debrief in large group and make sure participants understand the key details of the case.

III. Debating the Kamm Case (30 minutes)

Divide the participants into two groups -- one will represent the state's view and one will represent Kamm's view. Each person receives a worksheet to guide their group work and prepare for the discussion that will follow (Handout 4b). (15 minutes)

Bring the group together for an airing of views. This discussion, moderated by you (the judge), will follow the sequence of questions detailed in the worksheet that guided the groups' preparations. (15 minutes)


After the debate, if time permits, engage the group in a wrap-up discussion in which you encourage them to shed the positions they represented and, instead, make the best case for what they actually believe. Questions to pose in this final discussion may include: 

  • Was Anat Kamm justified to copy documents and bring them home? Do you think her motivation justified her decision to pass the documents on to Uri Blau? Was her punishment a fair price to pay?
  • What do you think about the Israeli government's efforts to keep the story out of the limelight by imposing a gag order? Can gag orders be effective in the Internet era?
  • How do you think Israel and America can best protect sensitive information in an era of open communication?

You may choose to conduct this wrap-up in the form of a homework assignment. In that case, ask participants to write a 250-word reflection on the Kamm-Blau case. They should indicate which group they represented during the activity, but the reflective writing should make the best case for what they personally believe. Ask the participants to address as many of the questions above. 


Background Information: 

This module explores how 21st-century society is addressing information leaks in the age of open information. It addresses four main examples:

1. WikiLeaks - An international, online organization that disseminates secret information and news leaks from anonymous sources.

2. Bradley Manning, now known as Chelsea Manning - An American soldier who was convicted of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents. Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years in prison. 

3. Edward Snowden -  An American computer specialist and former CIA employee and NSA contractor who is accused of disclosing classified details of massive top-secret U.S. and British surveillence programs to the press.

4. Anat Kamm and Uri Blau - Former Israeli soldier Anat Kamm leaked thousands of classified Israel Defense Forces (IDF) documents to journalist Uri Blau, who in 2007 published an article in the Ha'aretz newspaper, based on those documents, criticizing IDF operations in the West Bank.

Supporting Video: 

Snowden and Manning: A tale of accused leakers