Photo by Valentin Flauraud, ReutersShould the U.S. be “scared of one guy with a laptop”? WikiLeaks’s release of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables has frustrated governments around the world, including the U.S. The Justice Department is determining whether Australian citizen Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, along with whoever gave him the secret documents, can be charged under the Espionage Act.

The situation raises questions of press freedom in wartime and how technology has challenged the power of governments to keep information secret. Use these strategies to help your students understand the issues raised by the WikiLeaks case:

- Have students compare and contrast the facts of the Pentagon Papers case (New York Times v. U.S.) with the current WikiLeaks publication of secret documents.

- Play this conversation between Assange and a U.S. journalist, and have students vote in the accompanying poll about whether he violated the Espionage Act.

- Hold a mock trial presenting arguments on the question of whether Assange violated the Espionage Act.

If you are looking for additional materials, our Presidents and the Constitution, Volume I curriculum has a great lesson on President Wilson and the Espionage Act.

P.S. Thank you for your feedback! This week we created a separate Student Handout PDF (share it online with your students: and Teacher Answer Key for this lesson after hearing your comments from our web survey. Please let us know what else we can improve!

Posted in Constitution Courier eLesson

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