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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 »

Drones and Democracy: A Response to Firmin DeBrabander

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Monday, September 15, 2014 at 8:10 AM

The New York Times has an oped this morning by a philosophy professor named Firmin DeBrabander worrying that drone warfare heralds the end of democracy in America. No, I am not making that up or even exaggerating. Here’s its conclusion: Most American citizens are quick to let someone or something else bear the brunt of our . . .
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Lawfare Podcast, Episode #91: ISIS, ISIL, IS, AUMF

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Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 1:55 PM

This week’s episode: A roundtable discussion of the politics and law of congressional authorization and the military campaign against ISIS. Bobby, Wells, Foreign Policy magazine’s Shane Harris and I held an impromptu conference call yesterday afternoon to discuss the administration’s legal theory for the impending action, the prospects of a congressional vote on authorization, the War Powers . . .
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Not Asking the Girl to Dance

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 9:41 PM

Here’s President Obama coyly not asking Congress to dance—that is, as I put it in my post earlier today, “signal[ing] that [he] would like to dance with Congress—saying [he] will consult with her, that [he] invites her support—but [stopping] short of anything like a formal request, and he insist[ing] that he’s happy to dance alone.” In his speech tonight, Obama said: My Administration has also secured . . .
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President Obama Addresses the Nation on ISIS

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 8:50 PM

Watch it here live: Here’s the text of the speech:

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson Speaking at Council on Foreign Relations

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 12:50 PM

The event is scheduled begin at 1:00 PM Eastern time.

The War Powers High School Dance

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 12:47 PM

The boy and the girl are clearly smitten with one another. They both want to dance; he badly wants to ask her, and she wants to be asked. But neither is sure exactly what the other wants. He’s not sure she will say yes, if he asks, and she’s sure as heck not going to . . .
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World War II-Era Herbert Weschler Memo on Conspiracy as War Crime

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Monday, September 8, 2014 at 4:20 PM

This is a pretty interesting document: A 1944 memo from Herbert Weschler, then assistant attorney general, outlining the U.S. government’s developing view of conspiracy as a war crime. The interesting thing is how similar the internal discussion of the subject in 1944 is to the one going on now in the Bahlul case—and how similar . . .
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Get Yer Guantanamo Recidivism Report Here!

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Monday, September 8, 2014 at 12:03 PM

The latest DNI Guantanamo recidivism report is available here. The last such report is here. As you’ll see, not a a lot of change. Here are the numbers:                            

Cyborgs! Law and Policy Implications

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Friday, September 5, 2014 at 10:27 AM

And now for something completely different: Cyborgs. No, this is not a joke. For years, certain technology enthusiasts have floated variations on the question of whether we are becoming cyborgs—or already are cyborgs. In our newly released paper, titled “Our Cyborg Future: Law and Policy Implications,” we take a different, more legal angle. The law remains embryonic on . . .
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Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History” on World War I

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Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 11:08 AM

Wow, this is really impressive. On a podcast called “Hardcore History,” a fellow named Dan Carlin is doing a lengthy series on World War I. The episodes run between three and four hours each, and Carlin has done four of them so far, so listening to them is admittedly a time investment. I know little about Carlin, . . .
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NCTC Director Matthew Olsen’s Speech at Brookings on ISIS

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at 5:03 PM

Here’s the transcript. The speech opens: This past May, a man walked into a Jewish Museum in Belgium and opened fire, killing four. The suspect, a 29-year old French-national, had recently returned from Syria, where he fought alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The next day, a 22-year old American from Florida . . .
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NSA’s Anne Neuberger Speaks at Long Now Foundation

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 3:43 PM

The National Security Agency’s Anne Neuberger, the director of the NSA’s Commercial Solutions Center, gave this seminar recently at the Long Now Foundation. Full video is available at the web site. Here’s the audio:

Lawfare Podcast, Episode #89: Bone-Crushing Zombie Action

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Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 10:24 AM

Here at Lawfare, we try to spot critical legal issues impacting national security before they’re really upon us . . . and eating our brains. Too often, American policymakers have not taken emerging threats seriously, only to find themselves on the wrong side of finger-pointing national commissions after tragedy strikes. Underreaction to threats prospectively often . . .
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The Case for a Broader ISIS AUMF

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Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 3:33 PM

Like all red-blooded national security law nerds, I have been following Jack’s excellent posts over the past week on the politics and the advisability of a potential ISIS AUMF—the last of which post, which ran yesterday, offered strategies for narrowing a potential authorization to make it more politically doable. Jack writes: “One way to make an IS . . .
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U.S. News Gets it Wrong on Guantanamo and Foley’s Killer

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 11:27 AM

If terrorist capture comes, can a debate over Guantanamo vs. federal court be far behind? Apparently not. This time, the debate is coming even before the terrorist’s capture—or even his positive identification. And U.S. News and World Report, at least, is getting the answer wrong. The magazine reports that “Legal experts say it’s possible the jihadist who beheaded American . . .
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Note to Law Students: Buy Your Textbooks on Lawfare

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Monday, August 25, 2014 at 12:06 PM

It’s that time of year where law students buy textbooks. If you’re buying textbooks, please consider doing so using the Amazon search box on Lawfare. Every time you buy things using that box, Lawfare gets financial support from Amazon. When you buy big-ticket items like expensive text books, the money actually adds up. It’s a great way . . .
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Of Ice Buckets and Dollars: A Challenge

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Monday, August 25, 2014 at 12:02 PM

I return from Iceland to find that untold numbers of apparently-sane people are pouring ice water over their heads to raise money for a disease of which many of them had only the dimmest prior awareness. And I think to myself: Why is nobody pouring water over his head to raise money for Lawfare? We, after all, need to raise . . .
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Abdul Razak Ali Replies to His Own Cert Petition

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Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Here’s a novelty: Guantanamo detainee Abdul Razak Ali—whose case we have written about a fair bit—has filed a reply brief in response to his own cert petition. Here’s how it opens: Petitioner Abdul Razak Ali respectfully submits this reply brief in further support of his petition for certiorari with respect to the Decision and Order of the . . .
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Administration Response to GAO Report on Bergdahl

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Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Here’s the government’s response to the GAO report, to which Wells linked yesterday, concluding that the Bergdahl trade violated the law. A statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby reads: As Secretary Hagel has testified before Congress, the recovery of SGT Bergdahl was conducted lawfully. This decision was made after consultation with the Department . . .
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The New York Times Equivocates on Ransoms

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Friday, August 22, 2014 at 3:38 PM

“There is no simple answer on whether to submit to terrorist extortion,” editorializes the New York Times today. Actually, there is a right answer—and it’s a relatively simple one. As the editorial acknowledges in the next sentence, “The United States and Britain refuse to pay ransoms, and there is evidence that hostage takers target victims . . .
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