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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 »

Thoughts on the SSCI Report, Part II: The Program’s Brutality

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Friday, December 19, 2014 at 8:48 AM

I want to begin my review of the SSCI interrogation report and the responses from the CIA and the SSCI minority by addressing the area in which, in my view, the majority report is strongest: the allegation that the treatment of detainees was far more abusive, far less controlled, and far more brutal than the CIA . . .
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A Coffee Shop on the Israeli-Al Qaeda Border

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 5:13 PM

The last time I was on the Israeli-Syrian border looking at the ruined Syrian city of Quneitra was thirty years ago. I was fifteen and taking a summer course in Israel. And an Israeli soldier manning a border position was explaining to my class the mechanics of this tense but oddly stable border, over which . . .
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The Heroism of Effective Logistics: A Dispatch from Kerem Shalom

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 5:15 PM

We witnessed a moving scene today—if the loading and unloading of trucks amid looming concrete security barriers can ever really be moving: A major joint Palestinian-Israeli operation to route goods into the Gaza Strip. We’re not talking here about politics. The politics of the Kerem Shalom crossing are endless and complicated, with Palestinians and many . . .
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Thoughts on the SSCI Report, Part I: Introduction and Overview

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Monday, December 15, 2014 at 4:00 PM

I have now spent enough quality time with the SSCI interrogation report—and with minority views and the CIA response—that I am ready to begin commenting upon it. This is not to say I have finished reading it all; far from it. A plane flight to Israel and a lot of other hours have only gotten . . .
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Lawfare Podcast, Episode #103: Mieke Eoyang on FAA Exclusivity

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Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 1:55 PM

A few weeks ago, Mieke Eoyang wrote and post on Lawfare entitled “A Modest Proposal: FAA Exclusivity for Collection Involving U.S. Technology Companies.” Mieke is a long-time congressional staffer on national security matters, who served a stint on the House Intelligence Committee during the drafting of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) and now runs national security . . .
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The Onion’s Minotaur Video

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Friday, December 12, 2014 at 12:17 PM

No news source in any medium captures the CIA interrogation debate more fully than this video from the Onion, which bears reposting this week:

Dianne Feinstein Responds to Director Brennan

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Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 9:45 PM

The text is here: Feinstein Response to CIA Director on Detention, Interrogation Program Washington—Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement after CIA Director John Brennan spoke about the CIA’s detention and interrogation program: “CIA Director Brennan’s comments were not what I expected. They showed that CIA leadership is prepared to . . .
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A Few Thoughts on Yesterday’s AUMF Hearing

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 11:39 PM

Jack aptly stated earlier today many of my thoughts on yesterday’s hearing on an Islamic State AUMF—at which Secretary of State John Kerry testified. In particular, he highlighted the broad authorization the administration is seeking—one with few of the sort of accountability mechanisms Jack, Matt, Bobby and I have suggested. And he highlighted as well the . . .
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Video of Secretary of State Kerry’s Testimony on ISIL AUMF

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 9:52 PM

Today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

Various Senators React to the SSCI Report

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 9:23 PM

Kerry Outlines Administration Vision of an AUMF

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 4:20 PM

From Secretary of State John Kerry’s prepared testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today: Toward that end, we ask you now to work closely with us on a bipartisan basis to develop language that provides a clear signal of support for our ongoing military operations against ISIL. Our position on the text is pretty straightforward . . .
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The Forthcoming SSCI Report: Preemptive Commentary and What to Expect on Lawfare

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 8:26 AM

The Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s interrogation program is expected out today, but unsurprisingly, many people aren’t bothering to wait for it, the minority views, or the CIA’s response before commenting breathlessly on it. After all, actually reading it will be time consuming. Between all three documents, it’s many hundreds of pages. And since most . . .
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Senator Menendez’s Draft ISIL AUMF

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Sunday, December 7, 2014 at 9:25 PM

Last Thursday, Bloomberg View’s Josh Rogin had a piece on a draft ISIL authorization put forth by Senator Bob Menendez, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Based on Rogin’s report, it seems Menendez’s legislation was offered as an alternative to a bill authored by Senator Rand Paul. But as Rogin notes, of the pair, . . .
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Six More Guantanamo Transfers—to Uruguay

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Sunday, December 7, 2014 at 9:09 AM

Here’s the news from the New York Times this morning: WASHINGTON– The United States transferred six detainees from the Guantánamo Bay prison to Uruguay this weekend, the Defense Department announced early Sunday. It was the largest single group of inmates to depart the wartime prison in Cuba since 2009, and the first detainees to be resettled in South America. The . . .
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Lawfare Podcast, Episode #102: Israeli Politics, Oy Vey!

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Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 2:00 PM

The Israeli government fell this week, and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu called new elections. Israeli politics are an endlessly fascinating Byzantine mess with significant security implications for the United States. The shape of Israeli politics, after all, conditions a lot of other U.S. interests in the region—everything from the degree of friction with key Arab . . .
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A Further Thought on the Demise of the New Republic

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Friday, December 5, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Jack summed up well my feelings on yesterday’s news about the New Republic, and I have only two things to add—one of them institutional and one of them personal. On the institutional side, as readers know, Lawfare has had a productive relationship with TNR for a while now, one in which TNR promoted Lawfare‘s content and in which we developed . . .
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On Civil Liberties Groups, Threats and Free Speech (A Further Thought on Elonis)

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 6:56 PM

I might react to the Elonis case a bit less stridently than I did last night had I not recently been involved in a horrid case of online threats directed at someone I know over material she wrote for a website. I’m not going to detail the incident here, since that would risk reigniting the firestorm directed at this . . .
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Threats, Terrorism, and Domestic Violence

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Monday, December 1, 2014 at 11:59 PM

I confess that I don’t have a lot of patience for all of the very serious discussion people seem to be having about the case of Elonis v. U.S., which was argued today in the Supreme Court. The question before the court was whether conviction under a federal law banning interstate communication of threats requires that . . .
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How to Deep Fry a Turkey Safely

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Saturday, November 29, 2014 at 2:00 PM

My favorite ever Washington Post editorial was this one, entitled “A Deep-Fried Thanksgiving Tradition,” which was a sort of comic meditation on the dangers and attractions of the deep-fried turkey. It concluded: To be fair, turkey-frying (which seems to be done mostly by men) reflects features of the national character for which we can, as a . . .
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What Does the Swiss Coat of Arms Have to do with the Immigration Imbroglio?

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 2:36 PM

If you peruse the darker corners of the U.S. criminal code—as I used to do in my youthful efforts to educate myself in law without going to law school—you’ll eventually stumble across 18 U.S.C. § 708, which bizarrely makes it a federal crime to “willfully use[] . . . for any trade or commercial purpose, the coat of . . .
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