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 »

Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to Issue 702 Report on . . . 7/02

By
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 . . .
Read more »

Moderate Syrian Rebel Application Form

By
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 . . .
Read more »

The Lawfare Podcast, Episode #81: Suzanne Maloney on Iran

By
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 . . .
Read more »

Why Imminence? The Assassinations Ban and that OLC Al-Aulaqi Memo

By
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 . . .
Read more »

Whence Imminence in that Drone Memo? A Puzzle and a Theory

By
Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 11:19 AM

On May 27, a unanimous Supreme Court—to little notice from just about anyone—handed down a case called Plumhoff v. Rickard, which dealt with a police shooting and a claim of excessive force during a high-speed car chase. Donald Rickard had led police in Arkansas on a highway chase, at the end of which officers shot him and . . .
Read more »

The Al-Aulaqi OLC Memo: A Quick and Dirty Summary

By
Monday, June 23, 2014 at 4:07 PM

I have this feeling that a lot of people are going to mischaracterize the just-released OLC memo on the Anwar Al-Aulaqi strike. Just a guess. So before expressing any opinions on the subject or arguing with anyone about it, I thought I would start things out with a straight summary of the memo, which I am writing . . .
Read more »

Why the Hostility to Civilian Justice Anyway?

By
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 9:19 AM

I agree with Jack that military detention or trial by military commission are likely not available options for Ahmed Abu Khattala. But I’m hung up on a different point: Why are so many conservatives so married to the idea that detention or military justice is the right answer here? Every time we capture a terrorist suspect now, . . .
Read more »

A Few Additional Thoughts on Daoud

By
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 8:52 AM

I largely agree with Steve Vladeck’s excellent post on Judge Richard Posner’s decision yesterday in Daoud and Judge Ilana Rovner’s concurrence in that decision. In particular, I agree that Judge Posner’s language is too glib, his dismissal of the defense’s conundrum in cases—in which lack of access to the underlying FISA application frustrates a Franks motion—too cheerful, . . .
Read more »

President Obama to Issue a Statement on Iraq

By
Friday, June 13, 2014 at 11:38 AM

Here it is:

Carrie Cordero’s Contribution to Cato Unbound Snowden Discussion

By
Friday, June 13, 2014 at 11:36 AM

The other day, I linked to the first two contributions to Cato Unbound‘s forum, “The Snowden Files: One Year Later.” Now Carrie Cordero has added an essay, which opens: There is no doubt the Snowden disclosures have launched a debate that raises significant issues  regarding the extent of U.S. government national security surveillance authorities and activities. And Julian . . .
Read more »

Cato Unbound Exchange on “The Snowden Files: One Year Later”

By
Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 10:24 AM

The Cato Institute is hosting an online exchange entitled “The Snowden Files: One Year Later.” The lead essay, by Cato’s Julian Sanchez, opens as follows: America’s first real debate about the 21st century surveillance state began one year ago. There had, of course, been no previous shortage of hearings, op-eds, and panels mulling the appropriate “balance . . .
Read more »

You Can Help Us Redesign Lawfare

By
Monday, June 9, 2014 at 10:39 AM

We are thinking about a major redesign of the Lawfare web site, and we need reader help to get this going. As our content streams have increased and diversified, the blog form has become increasingly inapt and we have begun thinking about building a more flexible, magazine-like site. In pursuit of that, we are doing some . . .
Read more »

Why Does the Omniscient Panopticon Tolerate Glenn Greenwald?

By
Monday, June 9, 2014 at 7:11 AM

If you believe Glenn Greenwald’s new book (which I reviewed here), the NSA’s appetite for gobbling up communications is unlimited. Legal controls on its behavior are trivial. Its much-repeated claim that it does not spy on American citizens is a lie. And its goal in its collection activities is political control over citizens, whom surveillance renders . . .
Read more »

The CIA Joins Twitter

By
Friday, June 6, 2014 at 10:01 PM

And it’s first tweet is, well, pretty amusing: We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet. — CIA (@CIA) June 6, 2014

Video of Today’s SSCI Hearing

By
Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 8:23 PM

I haven’t watched it yet, as I was doing a different event at the time of the hearing. But thanks to the magic of CSPAN and it’s belated, but very welcome propensity for embed codes . . .

Russell Wheeler: The Changing Composition of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and What If Anything To Do About It (Lawfare Research Paper Series)

By
Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 4:11 PM

The question of the composition of the FISA Court—politically, demographically, and in terms of professional background—has arisen periodically throughout the last year. It has given rise to news coverage, recommendations by the president’s review group, legislative proposals, and defensiveness on the part of the judiciary. I asked my longtime Brookings colleague Russell Wheeler, an expert . . .
Read more »

Interesting Poll Data on Attitudes Toward Snowden

By
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 8:24 AM

From NBC News. It shows that Snowden has improved in the public’s eye–although less than I would have thought. How would you rate your feelings toward Edward Snowden very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative—or—very negative? If you don’t know the name, please just say so and we’ll move on. 7/13^     5/14 11%       13%      TOTAL POSITIVE 36%       27%      TOTAL NEGATIVE 4%        5%       Very positive 7%        8% . . .
Read more »

Two Great Essays on Glenn Greenwald’s New Book

By
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 8:06 AM

The first is by George Packer, writing in Prospect: Some of the instances are more subtle than others, but spread over the several hundred pages of this book, they reveal a mind that has liberated itself from the basic claims of fairness. Once the norms of journalism are dismissed, a number of constraints and assumptions . . .
Read more »

Another PRB, Another Detainee Cleared for Transfer

By
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 7:51 AM

This time it’s Ghaleb Nassar Al Bihani, about whom a Periodic Review Board found last week: The Periodic Review Board, by consensus, determined continued law of war detention of the detainee is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States. In making this determination, the Board considered . . .
Read more »

Thoughts on the Bergdahl-for-Taliban Trade

By
Monday, June 2, 2014 at 4:30 PM

What do you give up to get back one of your own? Talk about a hard national security choice. The decision to trade five senior Taliban detainees at Guantanamo for Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl has it all. I don’t envy the people who had to make this decision. The United States is not Israel—a fierce . . .
Read more »