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FAIRE SOCIETE: Libertés publiques et libertés individuelles, civil disobedience

Civil disobedience

Whistleblowers or hacktivists?

Hacking is an illegal criminal activity whereby criminals use a computer to gain unauthorized access to data in a system.

Whistleblowing is a legal activity that constitutes exposing any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical or constitutes a risk to individuals or the general public. However, if the whistleblowers are hacking in order to expose the illegal or unethical activity, does it make the act of hacking more acceptable to our society as it rides on the back of “the greater good”? As in true Robin Hood style, stealing from the rich in order to give to the poor is OK. But is it? Isn’t it a case of legal double standards?

The Very Fine Line between Hacking and Whistleblowing”, Elad Ben-Meir, 2016.

Whistleblowers: vocabulary


a whistleblower un(e) lanceur(euse) d’alerte

a backlash une réaction violente

a betrayal une trahison

a copycat un(e) imitateur(trice)

a firing un licenciement

an indictment une inculpation

a wrongdoing un méfait


legitimate légitime

likely vraisemblable

praiseworthy digne d’éloges


to advise [sb] not to do [sth] déconseiller à [qqn] de faire [qqch]

to betray [sb/sth] trahir [qqn/qqch]

to leak sensitive information faire fuiter des informations sensibles

to revere [sb] admirer [qqn]

to revile [sb] injurier [qqn]

to tamper with information trafiquer une information

to expose [sth] dénoncer [qqch]

to rat on / to denounce [sb]  dénoncer [qqn]

to resort to [sth] avoir recours à [qqch]

to strengthen [sth] renforcer [qqch]

to weaken [sth] fragiliser [qqch]

to weigh the pros and cons of [sth] peser le pour et le contre de [qqch]


The costs are worth bearing.” Ça vaut la peine de supporter les coûts.

Document 1: introduction

Lady Liberty as a whistleblower by Andy Marlette - September 20, 2019

Context of the cartoon :

A whistleblower claimed the president was illegally “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” Trump was said to have asked Ukraine to investigate the Biden family to try and find damaging elements about Joe Biden. So the President was impeached (= être mis en accusation pour faute ), the Senate (whose majority is republican) held a trial and cleared (= blanchir) Trump.

The cartoon :

A well-known figure is shown here : the statue of Liberty whose face is distorted since she is blowing in a whistle as hard as she can. This action is demanding much effort on her ; beads (= gouttes) of sweat can be seen all around her face. The cartoon is entitled the Whistleblower. This is an individual who decides to speak out and denounce things that he or she morally condemns. This is called civil disobedience (désobéissance civique), a concept invented by Henry Thoreau who refused to pay his taxes and picked up by MLK when he protested against racial segregation in the 1960s. More recently, Edward Snowden denounced NSA mass surveillance.

The cartoonist compares whistleblowers to the Statue of Liberty, which means that he considers that the values (the protection of individuals and their liberties) attached to the Statue also apply (= s’appliquer) to whistleblowers.

Yet from the look on her face, we can deduce that this task seems to be very difficult to accomplish.

Two possible interpretations :

– No matter how hard the statue of Liberty blows the whistle, no one will listen to her.

– there are so many wrongdoings (= méfaits) that the statue/the whistleblower is overwhelmed (= submergé) by the task.

As a conclusion, the cartoonist reminds (= rappeler) us that whistleblowers try to defend individual liberties when they decide to expose wrongdoings. He also shows that they are not always heard and/or no actions are taken by the authorities when these wrongdoings are exposed.


To avoid being misled by fake news and information, always check the reliability of a medium with :

Document 2

THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Document 3

Edward Joseph Snowden

(born June 21, 1983) he is an American whistleblower who copied and leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 when he was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and subcontractor.

Document 4

Chelsea Manning, born Bradley Manning

U.S. Army intelligence analyst who provided the Web site WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown ou[t] any logically based intentions, it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, « There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people. »

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

Bradley Manning, after he received a 35-year prison sentence.

Exercice de synthèse de document:

Prenez connaissance du dossier proposé, composé des documents 2, 3 et 4
non hiérarchisés, et traitez en anglais le sujet suivant (500 mots maximum) :
Say what the documents show about how whistleblowers are seen as threats to society and national security but also as protectors of civil liberties.


Public or civil liberties :

Depending on the countries, civil liberties may include the freedom of conscience, freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the right to security and liberty, freedom of speech, the right to privacy, the right to equal treatment under the law, the right to own property, the right to defend oneself ,…

Additional Documents

Coronavirus Whistleblowers Blast Trump Administration's COVID-19 Response in Totally Under Control Documentary Trailer

There are two things dominating the news cycle right now: COVID-19 and Donald Trump. The president revealed on Thursday night that he and his wife Melania Trump have been diagnosed with coronavirus, following the news that his top aide Hope Hicks tested positive on Wednesday. So Friday’s release of the trailer for Totally Under Control, a new documentary featuring scientists, medical professionals, and other government officials excoriating the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, could not be more timely.

Totally Under Control, co-directed by Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, and Suzanne Hillinger, was filmed in secret over the last few months. In the trailer, several officials can be seen unmasking themselves to speak out about their observations of the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response. 

« We the scientists knew what to do for the pandemic response. The plan was in front of us, but leadership would not do it. It is time to lay our careers on the line and push back, » says Dr. Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. « The scientists sounded the alarm every day. The U.S. government was doing nothing… I decided to break protocol. » 

Bright previously filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that he was demoted from a top position in the Department of Health and Human Services in April for speaking out against the administration’s response. He testified before Congress in May.

« The truth is that political leaders caused avoidable death and destruction, » another official says in the preview. 

Totally Under Control‘s title stems from Trump’s own claim about the disease in January, shortly before he reportedly privately told Bob Woodward that he knew the virus was « deadly stuff » while continuing to mislead the public about the dangers of the pandemic. 

To date, more than 7 million Americans, including the Trumps, have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The disease has killed more than 208,000 Americans

Totally Under Control will be released on-demand Tuesday, Oct. 13 and then on Hulu Tuesday, Oct. 20. 

Grammar time: Determiners

Complete the blanks with the correct determiners

1-……… whistleblowers should never be arrested.

2-………..whistleblower who was arrested was working in Iraq.

3-This organization helps …………… whistleblowers.

4-I have never been to ………. U.K.

5-…………. violence Chelsea Manning was subjected to in …………American newspapers is unacceptable.

6-………… free whistleblower is better than ……….. imprisoned one.

7- Was there …………. attorney / ……. laywer to defend ……….. Manning’s rights ?

8-I have never played ……. saxophone. As a hobby, I loved ………. tennis.

9-Manning has just finished writing ……….. statement he has asked ……… laywer to read.

10-What is at ………. work with whistleblowers is ……… respect of ……… freedom of expression.

Translate into English

1-Les gens se rendent compte qu’ils n’ont pas de libertés individuelles.

2-Les journaux qui acceptent de publier les documents qui ont fuité rendent un grand service à la société.

3-la liberté d’expression est un droit inaliénable.

4-la sécurité collective devrait être une priorité pour le gouvernement.

5-En 2016, le gouvernement français a mis en place le projet d’une base de données géante dont le but était de rassembler les données personnelles des citoyens français.

Essai argumentatif: Does individual liberty matter less than national security?

Additional document

A social network which turns out to be a weapon

Depuis sa création, TikTok est perçu comme un énième réseau social créé pour divertir les adolescents. Mais à l’heure où ces derniers se politisent, l’application devient également un lieu d’activisme en ligne – au point de se voir menacée d’interdiction par Donald Trump aux États-Unis. Comment TikTok est-il devenu une arme politique ? Pour la génération Z, l’activisme se situe sur les réseaux sociaux. Exemple avec la campagne de Trump et le mouvement Black Lives Matter. Découvrez le reportage vidéo en V.O. et testez votre compréhension


1. The TikTok call to action was an attempt to … an event.

a) organize b) launch c) diminish

2. The six teenagers used … to publicize their cause.

a) TikTok b) Twitter c) Instagram

3. What did Jessica Rosario and others try to do in New York?

a) organize street protests b) get people to register as voters c) hold a political rally

4. Who was targetted by her digital toolkit?

a) the general public b) teenagers c) members of the State Senate

5. Who would find Twitch most useful during protests?

a) someone recording the events b) the organizers c) the police

6. What does Jessica Rosario say about phone calls and texting?

a) Texting is way more efficient. b) There can be a lot more content in a phone call. c) Phoning is such old technology

Answers : 1. c – 2. c – 3. b – 4. c – 5. a – 6. b