Skip to content

Email Benjamin

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 Ryan Goodman’s “Interrogation” of the “Parity Principle”

By
Monday, November 3, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Over at Just Security, Ryan Goodman analyzes UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson’s claim that states owe the same privacy protections to non-nationals abroad as to their own citizens at home in conducting broad surveillance programs. Emmerson had written, “The Special Rapporteur thus considers that States are legally obliged to afford the same privacy protection for nationals and . . .
Read more »

Please Remember to Contribute to Lawfare

By
Monday, November 3, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Editor’s Note: For those of you who have already contributed to Lawfare in response to my appeal the other day, many thanks from all of us. For those who have not yet done so, I am reposting the appeal, and will occasionally do so again between now and the end of the year.  The other day, I . . .
Read more »

The Lawfare Podcast, Episode #98: Chris Soghoian Responds to FBI Director James Comey

By
Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Two weeks ago, on the podcast, we ran a speech on encryption that FBI Director James Comey gave at the Brookings Institution and the resulting discussion with a very engaged audience. One person in that audience, the one who asked the first question, was ACLU technologist and cybersecurity expert Chris Soghoian. Chris has long been a . . .
Read more »

The First Rule of Brookings Fight Club

By
Friday, October 31, 2014 at 4:38 PM

The first rule of Brookings Fight Club is: Ask a guy in a bunny suit to serve as your referee. Ever wanted to kick your boss’s ass? Ever been so frustrated with an intern you just wanted to clock him? It’s been one of those weeks at Brookings, so we started Brookings Fight Club. Intern . . .
Read more »

A Follow Up on the Postal Service Metadata Program

By
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 9:40 AM

This morning, I posted some thoughts on a story in the New York Times about so-called “mail covers” by the Postal Service and their relationship to the NSA’s bulk metadata program. It turns out that I rather understated the matter. The reason is that mail covers are actually only one of the Postal Service’s programs that collect . . .
Read more »

Will Anyone Care About the Postal Service’s Metadata Program

By
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 8:38 AM

I’m very interested to watch how the political system responds to this New York Times story about the U.S. Postal’s Service very old, sort-of-bulk metadata program. The Times reports: In a rare public accounting of its mass surveillance program, the United States Postal Service reported that it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies . . .
Read more »

“Warm and Fuzzy with the North Koreans”

By
Monday, October 27, 2014 at 8:29 AM

The other day, I posted this video of the North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations giving a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations: The question of whether or not a think tank like CFR should host the worst people in the world—among whom the leaders of the North Korean state surely rank—is tricky one. As much . . .
Read more »

President Obama Is Right

By
Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 5:18 PM

President Obama is right. He was right when he said, as a presidential candidate in 2007, that “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” And he was right that “military action is most . . .
Read more »

North Korean Ambassador to the UN Talks at CFR

By
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 3:56 PM

In case you need a macabre laugh. Transcript is available here if you can’t stand watching Jang Il Hun compare human rights in his country favorably to those in South Korea.

Another Way to Support Lawfare

By
Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 9:43 PM

Yesterday, I posted an appeal for reader support—one that should make you feel all warm and fuzzy about donating to Lawfare:   Here’s another way to support Lawfare, one that won’t cost you a dime: AmazonSmile. AmazonSmile is a program under which Amazon.com donates to non-profits whenever Amazon designates them as recipients. If you designate us, a . . .
Read more »

The Lawfare Podcast, Episode #96: James Comey on “Going Dark”

By
Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 2:34 PM

I was delighted this morning to host FBI Director James Comey at a discussion at the Brookings Institution entitled, “Going Dark: Are Technology, Privacy, and Public Safety on a Collision Course?” The event was structured less as a speech—though Comey began by offering some brief remarks—than as a discussion with me and, particularly, the audience. The . . .
Read more »

Support Lawfare, Feel All Warm and Fuzzy, and Get Something Back!

By
Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 2:00 PM

The other day, I listened to a fascinating episode of Freakonomics Radio featuring a lengthy discussion with a noted economist about what actually works in non-profit fundraising. I listened to this with, I suspect, more-than-average attention, as we have been working hard recently to raise money to grow Lawfare. The secret, according to University of Chicago economist John List, . . .
Read more »

CDT Event this Evening on “Databuse”

By
Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 2:55 PM

This will be an interesting event this evening. The Center for Democracy and Technology is holding a discussion of a paper Wells and I recently published entitled, “Databuse and a Trusteeship Model of Consumer Protection in the Big Data Era.” CDT is describing the event as follows: Please join the Center for Democracy & Technology . . .
Read more »

Ask Wells

By
Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 2:18 PM

The name of this New York Times feature makes me think Lawfare should have a Q&A/Advice/Ombudsman/Ask-Me-Anything type column and that it really should be written by our managing editor, Wells Bennett. We’re going to call it: “Ask Wells.” Got a pressing national security law question? Ask Wells. Got a complaint about Lawfare? Ask Wells. Need relationship or professional . . .
Read more »

Why Glenn Greenwald’s Challenge is Asking the Wrong Question

By
Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Over at Vox an admiring article appears on a challenge that Glenn Greenwald is giving to people who think they have nothing to hide: The most common defense for the massive expansion of government surveillance programs since 2001 is that they only negatively affect people who have something to hide. In a recent TED Talk, Glenn Greenwald, the journalist . . .
Read more »

On the Latest Intercept Story

By
Monday, October 13, 2014 at 10:03 PM

You may not have read much about the latest big scoop in The Intercept, released Friday evening under the bylines of Peter Maass and Laura Poitras and headlined “Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs in China and Germany.” There have not been a lot of media organizations following the story. This might be due to the infelicitous timing of . . .
Read more »

New Yorker Profile of Laura Poitras

By
Monday, October 13, 2014 at 9:24 PM

I have just read George Packer’s profile of Laura Poitras in the New Yorker, which centers around her new, long-awaited film about Edward Snowden. The film, due for release October 24 and called Citizenfour, is the next scheduled act in the Snowden drama. I’ll reserve comment on the film until I’ve seen it. The Packer article, however, . . .
Read more »

Jane Mayer Interviews Edward Snowden

By
Monday, October 13, 2014 at 11:18 AM

From the New Yorker:  

Hawk v. Drone

By
Sunday, October 12, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Excellent!

FBI Director James Comey to Speak at Brookings Next Week on Encryption

By
Friday, October 10, 2014 at 5:56 PM

I’m excited to be hosting FBI Director James Comey this coming Thursday for a speech and conversation on encryption at the Brookings Institution. Here’s how Brookings is describing the event: Going Dark: Are Technology, Privacy, and Public Safety on a Collision Course? Issues of privacy and security are at the forefront of public debate, particularly . . .
Read more »