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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 »

A Fundraising Update, A Reminder, and Some Thanks

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 9:26 AM

Thanks to some heroic contributors over the weekend, we are nearly halfway to having raised the funds to redesign and rebuild Lawfare. If you are one of the people who has made this possible, many thanks. If you are a regular reader and have not yet contributed to the site, please consider that we are only halfway to . . .
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Jonah Force Hill: The Growth of Data Localization Post-Snowden (Lawfare Research Paper Series)

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Monday, July 21, 2014 at 9:14 PM

Ever since the Edward Snowden revelations began, countries outraged by U.S. intelligence practices have been batting around the idea of forcing countries to store data on their citizens within those countries’ borders. So-called data-localization laws have been discussed in Brazil and Germany and elsewhere, and they very much frighten U.S. technology companies, who worry that . . .
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This is Seriously Weird

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Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 7:10 PM

Russia slaps a travel ban on Rep. Jim Moran, Judge Gladys Kessler, and a bunch of people connected to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. That’ll show ‘em. From the Associated Press: MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has placed a U.S. lawmaker and 12 other people connected with the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq . . .
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The Lawfare Podcast, Episode #84: Bahlul, Bahlul, Bahlul

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Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 1:55 PM

It was a big week at the D.C. Circuit, which handed down the en banc decision in the Al Bahlul military commission case. It’s a complicated decision: a mess of a procedural history, lots of separate opinions, very little clarity, and strange areas of unanimity. It’s also got big implications for the future of military commissions.  So in . . .
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Please Support Lawfare as We Rebuild the Site

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Friday, July 18, 2014 at 3:46 PM

Yesterday, we received a notification from the IRS that our 501(c)(3) tax exempt status has now been approved—making donations to Lawfare tax deductible. Today, we met with representatives of a tech company who are helping us plan and execute a major redesign of the Lawfare site. We need your help in making this happen. Lawfare has outgrown its original blog format. . . .
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Barton Gellman on the Washington Post’s NSA Story

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Monday, July 14, 2014 at 5:19 PM

Over at the Washington Post, reporter Barton Gellman has a lengthy article on his (and his coauthors’) reporting methods and ethical choices in their recent story on the large cache of electronic conversations that Edward Snowden gave them. The article is excellent—interesting and illuminating in a number of respects—and I recommend reading it in its entirety. For present purposes, . . .
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New FOIA Bill

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Friday, July 11, 2014 at 3:13 PM

I’m hearing that the Senate Judiciary Committee is getting ready to consider S.2520, which contains a series of amendments to the Freedom of Information Act. I haven’t studied the bill yet, but it appears to limit existing FOIA exemptions in several new ways. We’ll report more when we figure out exactly what it would do.

Interesting New Habeas Argument in the D.C. Circuit

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Friday, July 11, 2014 at 7:18 AM

This case has been kicking around the district court for a while, but has now made it to the D.C. Circuit. Ahmed Adnan Ajam is basically arguing that the executive branch wants to release him and the transfer restrictions on its doing so represent an unconstitutional infringement of presidential power. He lost in the district court on . . .
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Snowden and Civil Liberties: A Brief Follow-Up

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Yesterday, I posted a short piece saying that we should think about Edward Snowden’s leak of large volumes of personal communications to the Washington Post as a significant civil liberties violation. In doing so, I noted the language of the Privacy Act. In response, a bunch of people have accused me of crying crocodile tears for civil . . .
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On Glenn Greenwald’s Latest

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 7:00 AM

After a huge amount of pre-publication hype, Glenn Greenwald’s new capstone NSA story is out, and I find myself with little to say about it. Greenwald has gotten his hands on a spreadsheet listing the email addresses of people supposedly subject to FISA surveillance, and he has identified five Muslim Americans whose addresses are on . . .
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Edward Snowden: Civil Liberties Violator

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Monday, July 7, 2014 at 11:56 PM

A government contractor steals tens of thousands of highly-sensitive communications intercepts. The communications have national security implications, yes, but put that aside for now. They also involve the most intimate details of the lives of thousands of people: their love letters, their pictures of their kids, their pictures of themselves in lingerie, records reflecting their . . .
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A Quick Read of the Post’s Latest NSA Story

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Sunday, July 6, 2014 at 11:14 AM

The Washington Post has a dramatic new NSA story today, one that is qualitatively different from any of the previous Edward Snowden revelations. Written by Barton Gellman, Julie Tate, and Ashkan Soltani, the story describes a large cache of intercepted communications (roughly 160,000 email and instant message exchanges) and the benefits and privacy costs of . . .
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The Atlantic Reports that the ACLU Reports that Glenn Greenwald Will Report Bad Surveillance Stuff

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Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 12:19 PM

Over at the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf is reporting that Anthony Romero of the ACLU in a speech in Aspen is reporting that Glenn Greenwald someday soon will report that really bad surveillance stuff is happening: Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told an Aspen Ideas Festival panel Wednesday that forthcoming revelations . . .
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A Lawfare Farewell: Ritika Singh

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Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 10:20 AM

Today is a sad day in the history of Lawfare; it marks the departure of Ritika Singh, our intrepid associate editor. Ritika has been a key part of Lawfare almost from its beginning. She started at the Brookings Institution as an intern, helping me fact-check a book I was writing, and she later returned to Brookings as . . .
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The New York Times Editorial Page Discovers Originalism—In Japan

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Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 8:10 AM

The New York Times this morning has an editorial objecting to the reinterpretation of Japan’s constitution to make it a bit less pacifist: Mr. Abe has long argued for changing the Constitution on the grounds that Japan should assert itself as a “normal” country, freed of postwar constraints imposed as a consequence of its wartime . . .
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The Government’s Abu Khatallah Detention Memo

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 10:01 PM

Get yer copy right here. Highlights: In the days before the Attack, the defendant voiced concern and opposition to the presence of an American facility in Benghazi. On September 11, 2012, at approximately 9:45 p.m., a group of twenty or more armed men assembled outside the United States Special Mission in Benghazi (“Mission”) and then aggressively . . .
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Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to Issue 702 Report on . . . 7/02

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at 4:29 PM

Get it? Actually, I don’t think they did either. It’s a cute coincidence. But at any rate, the PCLOB has announced that it will be releasing its report on FISA 702 collection this evening at 9:00 pm: The Board’s report will contain a detailed analysis of the Section 702 program, with a focus on increasing transparency . . .
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Moderate Syrian Rebel Application Form

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Monday, June 30, 2014 at 7:35 AM

From the Borowitz Report at the New Yorker. Pretty excellent. A taste: If I were given a highly lethal automatic weapon by the United States, I would: A) Only kill exactly the people that the United States wanted me to killB) Try to kill the right people, with the caveat that I have never used . . .
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The Lawfare Podcast, Episode #81: Suzanne Maloney on Iran

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Saturday, June 28, 2014 at 1:55 PM

All roads lead to Iran—at least in the news these days. There’s the nuclear talks, which are coming to a head. There’s common interests between the United States and the Islamic Republic in the conflict against ISIS and in the stabilization of Iraq. So I sat down yesterday with my Brookings colleague Suzanne Maloney to . . .
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Why Imminence? The Assassinations Ban and that OLC Al-Aulaqi Memo

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Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 1:44 PM

The other day, I tried to read the tea leaves and figure out where the notion of “imminent threat” comes from in the administration’s legal views of targeted killing. I speculated that the source of the “imminent” threat standard may well be language in the presidential covert action findings authorizing the CIA’s broad campaign against Al Qaeda . . .
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