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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 »

The War in Afghanistan is Over, says the President. Not, Says the Justice Department

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015 at 7:16 AM

Yesterday, President Barack Obama delivered remarks before a Memorial Day service at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia, in which he celebrated the day as the first Memorial Day since the end of the war in Afghanistan. For many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful; it is the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an . . .
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An Approach to Ameliorating Press-IC Tensions Over Classified Information

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Friday, May 22, 2015 at 2:55 PM

I’ve been thinking about the exchange over the past couple of weeks—much of which took place on Lawfare—between the New York Times and the intelligence community over the naming of CIA undercover officers in a Times story. (A brief recap in links: here are Bob Litt’s original comments, the 20 former intelligence officers’ letter, Jack’s interview with Dean Baquet, my . . .
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The Privacy Paradox: The Privacy Benefits of Privacy Threats

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Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 11:03 AM

Here’s something a little outside the normal Lawfare fare but which Lawfare readers might find interesting: A new paper we have written about all the privacy benefits we receive from technologies we typically think of as privacy eroding. Entitled “The Privacy Paradox: The Privacy Benefits of Privacy Threats,” and published by Brookings, the paper sets . . .
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An Interview with FBI Director Jim Comey

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Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 6:41 AM

I haven’t watched this yet, but it took place yesterday at Georgetown Law’s Cybersecurity Law Institute. Ben Powell, former general counsel to the DNI, interviews Jim Comey:  

Down to the Wire on the Patriot Act

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 11:03 AM

Julian Hattem has a good piece in the Hill on the current state of play in the Senate with respect to expiration of the Patriot Act provisions in less than two weeks: Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said he would allow a vote on legislation overhauling the nation’s surveillance programs, which could give him more . . .
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Lindsey Graham’s Iowa Drone Strike Out

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Monday, May 18, 2015 at 6:22 PM

It’s a crowded field for Republican presidential candidates, but Lindsey Graham knows how to differentiate himself from the pack: he loves drone strikes more than his competitors. Speaking the other night at the Iowa Republican Lincoln Dinner, as the Washington Post reports, Graham made clear he is positioning himself as the most hawkish candidate in the . . .
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Russell Wheeler on the Changing Composition of the FISC

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Friday, May 15, 2015 at 9:15 AM

My Brookings colleague Russell Wheeler last month published this article on the changing composition of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on the Brookings FixGov blog. It updates his Lawfare Research Paper from last year on the subject. The post opens: Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. has designated two new members of the eleven-member Foreign Intelligence . . .
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Settle Syrian Refugees in Detroit

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Friday, May 15, 2015 at 6:41 AM

I love this idea, floated today in  New York Times oped by David D. Laitin and Marc Jahr. It’s smart, doable, and a constructive, out-of-the-box approach to two distinct disasters: Detroit, a once great city, has become an urban vacuum. Its population has fallen to around 700,000 from nearly 1.9 million in 1950. The city is estimated to . . .
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So What’s in the New USA Freedom Act, Anyway?

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Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 11:51 PM

The House has now passed the USA Freedom Act. If you feel the need to hear Mel Gibson shouting “Freeeedom!” in response, well, don’t thank us. We live to serve: The clock is now ticking on Senate action before the current Section 215 of the Patriot Act expires at the end of the month. Majority . . .
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Talk Shows this Week on FISA

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Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 10:10 AM

The talk shows have been busy this week discussing FISA issues, both because of the Second Circuit decision last week and because of the House consideration of the USA Freedom Act. The Diane Rehm Show had a good discussion on Monday, in which I participated. Radio Times had an unusually good hour with Josh Gerstein of Politico, . . .
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A Further Note on the Second Circuit, the DC Circuit, and Section 215

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Monday, May 11, 2015 at 8:53 AM

On Saturday, in writing about the Second Circuit’s 215 decision, I mentioned the DC Circuit’s pending Klayman case and its capacity to throw a wrench into the current debate: “Yes, it is possible—likely, even—that the D.C. Circuit will disagree with the Second Circuit, and that the meaning of 215 will thus be ultimately subject to the . . .
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Audio of the Triple Entente Beer Summit!

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Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 2:00 PM

The Triple Entente Beer Summit was a great success, with an audience that filled the Washington Firehouse loft and a cast that mashed up the Lawfare Podcast, Rational Security, and the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast. We attribute the podcast’s freewheeling interchange to the engaged audience, our profound respect for each other, and, mostly, the beer. You . . .
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A Few Thoughts on the Second Circuit’s 215 Decision and Its Importance

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Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 11:11 AM

From day one of the Snowden revelations, we all knew that the legal validity of the 215 program hinged ultimately on the capaciousness of a single word: “relevant.” Even those of us who generally support robust signals intelligence programs also knew immediately that the legal theory underlying this program lay right at the margins, perhaps beyond . . .
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Matthew Waxman to be the New NSA General Counsel

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Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 9:31 AM

Shane Harris breaks the fabulous news over at the Daily Beast: Matthew Waxman, a law professor and former senior national security official in the George W. Bush administration, has been tapped to be the next general counsel for the National Security Agency, sources familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast on Friday. As the chief legal . . .
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Second Circuit Strikes Down 215 Program

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Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 9:53 AM

Here’s the opinion. I haven’t read it yet, but will have comments when I do. Specifically, the court rules that the program is not authorized by the text of the statute. 2d Circuit Clapper Opinion

Last Chance: Get Your Tickets to the Triple Entente Beer Summit

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 11:03 AM

May 7, 6:00-9:00 pm Tickets for “The Triple Entente Beer Summit” are available here. Tomorrow, from 6:00-9:00 pm, please join us for the first Triple Entente Beer Summit. The three podcasts associated with this site—the Lawfare Podcast, the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast, and Rational Security—will gather for a live taping extravaganza for the first time. The Triple . . .
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The Full Glare of European Hypocrisy on Surveillance

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 9:57 PM

In case you needed a refresher course on European hypocrisy on surveillance and data privacy, the New York Times today obliges with two stories over which the connoisseur of human folly ought really to pause. The first involves the adoption by France’s lower parliamentary house of a new surveillance law so broad and so lacking in judicial review . . .
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Speaking the Law: The Obama Administration’s Addresses on National Security Law

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Monday, May 4, 2015 at 10:07 PM

For some time now, Lawfare and the Hoover Institution Press have been serializing our book on the Obama Administration’s speeches on legal policy and national security. Now, we are pleased to announce Hoover has released an edition in hard copy, complete with a handy compendium on what we call the canonical national security law speeches of the administration. . . .
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Rational Security is Back on Schedule

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Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 9:14 AM

Here’s this week’s episode:

Another Response to the New York Times Flap

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 7:03 PM

An intelligence community reader writes in with the following response to my post this morning on Dean Baquet’s interview with Jack: The issue is not [only] whether the true name and affiliation [of the covert officer] are known to the editors and reporters of the New York Times, and to the persons in their professional and social . . .
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