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Posts by Benjamin Wittes

Benjamin Wittes is editor in chief of Lawfare and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several books and a member of the Hoover Institution's Task Force on National Security and Law. For speaking information and for a larger collection of his work, see his Full bio »

No Need to Prosecute Bowe Bergdahl?

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Friday, March 27, 2015 at 8:30 AM

I normally make a point of not arguing with New York Times editorials, contenting myself with my role as their unofficial fact-checker on national security legal matters. (Don’t thank me.) I find myself called, however, to say a substantive word about today’s editorial, “No Need to Prosecute Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.” There’s no specific factual error . . .
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For Your Listening Pleasure . . .

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Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 8:44 AM

Here is the latest episode of Rational Security: And here is the latest Chess Clock Debate, a discussion between Kori Schake of the Hoover Institution and Ryan Evans of the War on the Rocks site over whether or not the United States should arm the Ukrainians:

Private Defamation Action Dismissed on State Secrets Grounds

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Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 8:35 AM

This is a very interesting case. The other day, federal district judge Edgardo Ramos in New York threw out a defamation lawsuit between two private parties on the government’s intervening motion asserting the state secrets privilege. The case is Restis v. American Coalition Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI). The 18-page opinion is worth reading. Here are some highlights: According to . . .
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Thoughts on the Israeli Election

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Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 8:47 AM

Over at the increasingly excellent Markaz site, my Brookings colleagues Natan Sachs and William Galston—the latter writing with Lawfare‘s Yishai Schwartz—have terrific commentary on the Israeli elections this week. I will not try to repeat here their many good analytical points about the surprise results. I will, rather, refer readers to their posts and add one . . .
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The Washington Post Fingers the Person Behind the Snowden Disclosures!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 2:15 PM

In what is surely a typographical error, the Washington Post has named NSA General Counsel Raj De as the man behind the Snowden disclosures: De’s last day was Friday, and he plans to start at Mayer Brown in June as head of the firm’s privacy and security practice in Washington. He had been NSA’s general counsel . . .
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Did the New York Times Editorial Page Accuse General Petraeus of a Crime Spree?

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 11:44 AM

I’m not sure, but I think so. From today’s editorial, entitled, “Gen. Petraeus’s Light Punishment“: Mr. Petraeus, who charmed and provided extraordinary access to handpicked journalists and national security experts during his tours running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was all too familiar with the currency of classified information in the battleground of public . . .
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Rational Security, Episode #11: The “Where’s Vlado?” Edition

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 8:30 AM

Just in time for today’s Israeli elections, the latest episode of Rational Security is now out, complete with my analysis of the lay of the land for today’s voting, a discussion of interoperability and child porn, and special guest Merritt Baer.

Recidivism Among Espionage Act Convicts

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Monday, March 16, 2015 at 5:06 PM

Anyone remember Samuel Loring Morrison? Espionage Act nerds certainly do. Morrison was the first person prosecuted and convicted under the Espionage Act for leaking classified material? Morrison was convicted in the 1980s of leaking satellite photos to Jane’s Defense Weekly. He was later pardoned retrospectively by President Clinton as part of Clinton’s spree of pardons on his . . .
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This Week’s Episode of Rational Security

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Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 7:48 AM

We talk about the David Petraeus plea, ISIS propaganda, and John Brennan’s plans to reorganize the CIA. If you haven’t yet checked out Rational Security, please do.

C-SPAN Washington Journal AUMF Discussion

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 12:03 PM

C-SPAN’s Washington Journal had two lengthy segments on the AUMF controversy this morning. I was on the first: The second involved a discussion between the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress:

Radiolab Episode on Japanese Balloon Bombs

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 10:15 AM

This is an excellent bit of radio about one of the weirder forms of attack during World War II—the only one I know of that produced casualties in the continental United States: balloon bombing. I had heard about this initiative before, but this report is, true to Radiolab standards, a really informative and interesting piece. . . .
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The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones—Confronting a New Age of Threat

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 10:51 AM

We’re thrilled to announce the publication today of our new book, The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones——Confronting A New Age of Threat. The book takes on what we think is a pretty big question: How do you govern a world in which anyone can attack anyone from anywhere? Technologies of attack have . . .
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The Lawfare Podcast: Natan Sachs on Bibi’s Big Day in Washington

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Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 1:55 PM

This week, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a controversial address to a joint session of Congress in a move not coordinated with President Barack Obama. The speech, repeatedly interrupted by thunderous applause, focused on the nature of the developing nuclear accord between the P5+1 and Iran and insisted a better deal was possible. The speech . . .
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Chris Jenks on the Petraeus Plea

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Friday, March 6, 2015 at 8:28 AM

The estimable Chris Jenks writes in from Australia with the following thoughts on my piece yesterday on the David Petraeus plea: Appreciated your comments on Petraeus. One additional factor which resonates with me and I think most military folks is that Petraeus was a general court martial convening authority for a decade or more. He . . .
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For Your Listening Enjoyment

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Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 8:17 PM

Two new podcasts for your listening pleasure. Here’s this week’s episode of Rational Security, on which Shane Harris, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and I discuss Susan Rice’s speech to AIPAC, recent developments in Guantanamo litigation, and the Hillary Clinton email flap. As an added bonus, Shane brings in the business card of an actual Russian spy. . . .
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Thoughts on the Petraeus Plea

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Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Over at The Intercept, Peter Maass complains that the plea deal for David Petraeus is “yet another example of a senior official treated leniently for the sorts of violations that lower-level officials are punished severely for.” At Bloomberg View, by contrast, columnist Eli Lake argues that, while wrong, Petraeus’s sins are just not that big a deal. This . . .
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The Intellectual—But Not Political—AUMF Consensus

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Monday, March 2, 2015 at 9:00 AM

[Cross-posted at Just Security.]  A real consensus is developing on the contours of an appropriate AUMF—at least among academics and other commentators. It wasn’t always this way. For months, we, among many others, argued (quite vociferously at times) on what an AUMF to fight al Qaeda and other associated armed groups ought to look like. But . . .
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The Latest 215 Collection Renewal

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Monday, March 2, 2015 at 6:43 AM

It happened Friday. Here’s the White House Statement: In January 2014, President Obama directed an end to the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program as it then existed, and called for the establishment of a mechanism that would preserve the program’s essential capabilities without the government holding the bulk data. In March 2014, based on . . .
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New Additions to the Lawfare Team

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Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 2:00 PM

I’m excited to announce three new additions to Lawfare‘s roster of contributing editors—all of whom have written for the site before and will be familiar to our readers. Timothy H. Edgar is a visiting scholar at the Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies and has also taught at the Georgetown University Law Center and Boston . . .
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The U.S. Intelligence Community and Non-Neutral Principles

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Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 3:30 PM

Last week, Ben’s NSA Constitution Day speech emerged after a long “declassification” process.  One puzzle Ben grapples with in this speech is why reasonable, educated Americans have–and will continue to have–such a high level of discomfort with what the NSA and other intelligence agencies do. The types of activities NSA is asked to do and the secrecy . . .
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