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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 »

On the CIA Inspector General’s Findings

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Friday, August 1, 2014 at 7:12 AM

I have largely refrained, until now, from wading into the dispute between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA over the mutual hacking allegations, on the theory that the facts were all contested and I couldn’t make heads or tails of what had really happened. That changed yesterday with the release of a summary of . . .
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Is Putin Selling Out Edward Snowden?

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Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 5:24 PM

This is rank, arguably irresponsible, speculation. I have had no—that is to say zero—conversations with anyone who knows anything about Snowden’s status in Russia. I can thus offer no particularly good reason to believe that Vladimir Putin is getting ready to rid himself of Edward Snowden. But would you take four bad reasons? When you put them all . . .
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Snowden in Russia: Limbo Update

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Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 7:58 AM

From the ITAR/TASS news—if you can call it that—agency: MOSCOW, July 31. /ITAR-TASS/. US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden still waits for the Russian authorities’ decision either to extend his temporary asylum in Russia for another year or grant him a political asylum, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said on Thursday. “Edward still remains in Russia and . . .
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Yeah, But Is It a Good Bill? Thoughts on the Leahy FISA Reform Proposal

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 10:46 PM

Yesterday evening, Jodie Liu and I summarized Sen. Leahy’s new FISA reform bill—which represents a legislative compromise between many of the major stakeholders in the NSA debate. One question we did not treat is whether the bill is any good. Short answer: In my opinion, at least, it’s mix—a proposal that will do some good but . . .
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The Most Redacted Judicial Opinion I’ve Ever Seen

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 9:27 AM

The Guantanamo cases have nothing on this opinion from the 7th Circuit in the Daoud case. (hat tip: Josh Blackman)

Senator Leahy’s NSA Reform Bill: A Quick and Dirty Summary

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 7:21 PM

As Wells reported this morning, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy unveiled his version of the NSA reform bill today. Leahy’s bill is important because, well, it’s not just Leahy’s bill. It’s the bill. It represents a compromise between the intelligence community, the administration more generally, civil liberties groups, industry, and fairly wide range of . . .
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What Lisa Monaco Actually Said

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Monday, July 28, 2014 at 4:21 PM

Over at Just Security, Steve Vladeck objects to the piece Jack, Bobby, Matt and I wrote over the weekend on Lisa Monaco’s AUMF comments at the Aspen Security Forum. He argues that we are over-reading her comments. I’ll let readers judge that for themselves. Here’s a transcript (thanks to our intrepid intern, Tara Hofbauer) of . . .
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A New White House Signal on AUMF Reform?

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Sunday, July 27, 2014 at 1:51 PM

Josh Gerstein of Politico reports that “[a] top White House official suggested Saturday that Congress pass new legislation to support President Barack Obama’s authority to act against an array of terrorist groups not clearly linked to the September 11 attacks.”  Gerstein quotes White House counterterrorism czar Lisa Monaco as stating this weekend at the Aspen Security Forum: “The 2001 AUMF has provided us . . .
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What Exactly Was Edward Snowden’s Job?

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 8:29 PM

The New York Times the other day ran this story about an interview Edward Snowden gave to the Guardian in Moscow. The Guardian interview made a few waves because of Snowden’s claim that NSA analysts passed around racy photos they had intercepted. I was struck by a different aspect of it. The New York Times characterized it as follows: . . .
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Another Day, Another Former Guantanamo Detainee Can’t Get Back in Court

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 8:17 PM

This time it’s Mohammad Rimi, transferred to Libya back in 2006. The judge is Richard Leon. Here’s the opinion. Here’s the order.

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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