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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 »

Rational Security, Episode #4: “The Cold War is Hot”

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Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 8:18 AM

The fourth episode of Rational Security, the new podcast Shane Harris is doing with me and Tamara Cofman Wittes, is now out. In it, we discuss the Russian spy ring broken up this week, the drone crashes on the White House grounds and along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the link between autocracy and terrorism.

“Shane, You Ignorant Slut”: A Speech by General Hayden and Stand-Up Comedy from Shane Harris and Me

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 12:47 PM

We will be podcasting both of these events, which took place at a Washington and Lee School of Law symposium on “Cybersurveillance in the Post-Snowden Age” over the weekend. The first is a speech by General Michael Hayden about NSA and surveillance matters that took place Friday night. It’s a smart and thoughtful take on the late . . .
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Did the Secret Service Watch the Lawfare Drone Smackdown?

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 2:07 PM

Over at Defense One, Patrick Tucker has an interesting article headlined: “Did the White House Use Drone Killing Technology?” It opens: At about 3 a.m. on Monday morning, a small quadcopter drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, crashed on the White House lawn. White House officials said that the drone, by itself, was unarmed and didn’t . . .
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A Reply to Steve Vladeck and Raha Wala

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Monday, January 26, 2015 at 6:13 PM

Both Steve Vladeck and Raha Wala have penned responses to my post of last week complaining of the quality of the “Close Guantanamo” debate. I will react very briefly to each. I am, I confess, not sure how to respond to Steve’s post, since it seems to be responding to something I did not write. Says Steve, The fundamental problem with Ben’s . . .
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New Addition to Lawfare’s Roster: Herb Lin

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Saturday, January 24, 2015 at 2:52 PM

I’m delighted to announce that Herb Lin has joined Lawfare as a contributing editor. Herb has actually been writing for us for a while, so he needs little introduction to Lawfare readers. He is currently a senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and Research Fellow at the Hoover . . .
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Rational Security, Episode 3: The State of the Union is Boring

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Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 3:27 PM

The new episode of Rational Security is out, featuring a general agreement to ignore the State of the Union and talk about the state of the United Arab Emirates instead. Of particular interest to readers of this site, Shane Harris takes on FBI Director James Comey’s irritation at the New York Times for giving anonymity to AQAP . . .
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Breaking Bad Drones

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Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 12:32 PM

Just in time for Gabriella Blum and my forthcoming book, The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones: —Confronting A New Age of Threat, comes this story from the Associated Press: Police in a Mexican border city said Wednesday that a drone overloaded with illicit methamphetamine crashed into a supermarket parking lot. Tijuana police spokesman . . .
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Thoughts on the Al-Marri Release

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Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 10:28 AM

In October 2009, Ali Saleh Al-Marri was sentenced to more than eight years in prison under a plea deal the Al Qaeda sleeper agent had struck with federal prosecutors. Quietly, on January 16, Al-Marri was released—having served just over five years of his time. Reports the Washington Post: Ali Saleh Mohammad Kahlah al-Marri, 49, was released from a maximum . . .
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The Arguments About Guantanamo are Nearly All Wrong, Disingenuous, Irrelevant, or Just Plain Dumb

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 9:25 AM

Last night, President Obama restated his long-standing desire to close Guantanamo: “As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice—so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit.  Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of . . .
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Relevant Passages of President Obama’s State of the Union Address

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 9:32 PM

The following are the passages of tonight’s State of the Union address that seem to me most relevant to the Lawfare readership: Tonight, for the first time since 9/11, our combat mission in Afghanistan is over.  Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, fewer than 15,000 remain.  And we salute the courage . . .
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Moral Obtuseness, Guantanamo, Boko Haram, and the Media

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 6:18 PM

This morning’s BBC’s NewsHour show opened with a news judgment reflecting a genuinely odd moral calculus. At the end of the show’s headlines section, announcer James Menendez says: “coming up later in the program today, our West Africa correspondent . . . is on the shores of Lake Chad, where survivors—many of them missing family members—have . . .
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A Response to Bruce Schneier and a Cautious Defense of Energy in the Executive

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Friday, January 16, 2015 at 3:30 PM

Bruce Schneier has responded to my earlier exchange with Edward Snowden with a challenging question: Putting aside what the Constitution currently does or does permit, wouldn’t it be better if all surveillance decisions were subject to judicial review? Shouldn’t we prefer philosophically an executive bound to formal review mechanisms in all coercive activities—even, say, in overseas surveillance . . .
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Rational Security, Episode #2: The “I Have Marshall McLuhan Right Here” Episode

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Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 7:34 AM

Last week, I introduced a new podcast that Shane Harris, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and I are doing entitled, Rational Security. Episode #2 is now out, featuring a discussion with Brookings scholar Jeremy Shapiro about his new paper with Daniel Byman on returning foreign fighters, “Be Afraid. Be a Little Afraid,” which I posted a few . . .
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Notes on the Erosion of Norms of Armed Conflict

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 10:28 AM

I spent the last two days at a terrific conference in at Columbia Law School on asymmetric warfare and the laws of armed conflict, organized by Matthew Waxman and the great Stanford international relations scholar, Steve Krasner. The conference was interesting in bringing together top-flight international relations theorists and international law experts to discuss an issue . . .
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Byman and Shapiro on Returning Foreign Fighters

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 6:44 AM

My Brookings colleagues Daniel Byman, Lawfare‘s Foreign Policy Editor, and Jeremy Shapiro have a new paper out on a very timely subject: returning foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq. Entitled, “Be Afraid. Be A Little Afraid: The Threat of Terrorism from Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq,” it was the subject of an event yesterday . . .
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Now Will France Stop Paying Ransom for Hostages?

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Monday, January 12, 2015 at 6:30 AM

So now that France is “at war” with radical Islam, now that 1.6 million people and forty heads of state and prime ministers have turned out in the streets of Paris, now that the costs to a society of tolerating the most extreme, violent iterations of salafism have been so vividly displayed for the French people, is . . .
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The Intercept Finds an Anonymous Source It Can Trust

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Friday, January 9, 2015 at 4:34 PM

For years, Glenn Greenwald has been railing against against mainstream newspapers for, as he put it just the other day, “as usual—corruptly grant[ing] anonymity to ‘senior administration officials’ to disseminate their inflammatory claims with no accountability.” At last, however, Greenwald’s publication, the always-adversarial The Intercept, has found an organization worthy of trust, one to whose senior officials it can . . .
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Audio of FBI Director James Comey’s Remarks on North Korea and Sony

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Thursday, January 8, 2015 at 11:06 PM

Cody earlier posted the text of James Comey’s speech yesterday. Here’s the audio:

Who Else May Be Working with the French?

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Thursday, January 8, 2015 at 12:23 PM

Reuters reports: FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday said the U.S. agency is working with French law enforcement to bring those responsible for the attack on satirical publication Charlie Hebdo to justice. No surprise there, since President Obama promised “every bit of assistance that we can going forward.” Every bit of assistance the U.S. government can . . .
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FBI Director James Comey’s Remarks Today

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Thursday, January 8, 2015 at 12:23 AM

I have been unable to find video or audio of FBI Director James Comey’s remarks today adding to his prior attribution of the Sony hack to North Korea. Nor has the FBI itself released the text. That said, Fortune magazine has published the following, describing it as “Comey’s remarks in full”: As you know, we . . .
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