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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 »

Announcing: The Triple Entente Beer Summit!

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 4:25 PM

You have cried out for live programming from Lawfare. And we have heard your pleas. On the evening of Thursday, May 7, please join us for the first Triple Entente Beer Summit. The three podcasts associated with this site—the Lawfare Podcast, the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast, and Rational Security—will gather for a live taping extravaganza for . . .
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John Oliver Interview with Edward Snowden

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Monday, April 6, 2015 at 11:58 AM

Some of it is very funny. And there’s a very interesting discussion starting at 19:30 about how well he understood—and to what extent he read—the documents he disclosed.

An Apparently Real Paintball Drone

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Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 1:12 PM

Yesterday, I was up at Harvard Law School on a panel with Gabriella Blum talking about our new book: The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones——Confronting A New Age of Threat. We were asked—as we have been repeatedly when talking about the book—whether our assumptions about the individual’s ability to weaponize new technologies . . .
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“A Necessary, If Still Unpalatable, Potential Ally in Combating the Islamic State”

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Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 9:07 AM

Remember these words the next time the New York Times runs a pious editorial decrying—with a spurious combination of selective facts and distorted law—some morally complicated aspect of U.S. counterterrorism policy. Remember them the next time the New York Times runs an editorial invoking the great moral authority of the paper of record on, well, just about anything. Remember them because . . .
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The Zero Dark Thirtieth Birthday Cake

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 5:14 PM

From the baker of hard national security choices, who once brought you the “drone strike cake“—called “notorious” by Rolling Stone magazine—it’s the Zero Dark Thirtieth Birthday Cake:

Intelligence Squared US Debate: “The President Has Exceeded His Constitutional Authority By Waging War Without Congressional Authorization”

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 4:51 PM

This evening, at 6:45 pm, Intelligence Squared US is holding a debate on the resolution: “The president has exceeded his constitutional authority by waging war without congressional authorization.” Arguing for the motion will be Gene Healy of the Cato Institute and Deborah Pearlstein of Cardozo Law. Arguing against it will be Philip Bobbitt of Columbia . . .
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Judicialization of Warfare in the U.K.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 2:00 PM

A British think tank called Policy Exchange has released a very interesting report on judicialization of British warfare. Entitled “Clearing the Fog of Law: Saving Our Armed Forces from Defeat by Judicial Diktat,” the 50-page report by Richard Elkins, Jonathan Morgan, and Tom Tugendhat opens: “The judiciary is pioneering a revolution in military affairs. Empowered by . . .
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“The Future of Violence” on Diane Rehm

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Monday, March 30, 2015 at 5:02 PM

This morning, Gabriella Blum and I had the pleasure of appearing on the Diane Rehm Show to discuss The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones——Confronting A New Age of Threat. It was a good discussion for those who missed the book’s launch event at Brookings. Here’s the audio:

No Need to Prosecute Bowe Bergdahl?

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Friday, March 27, 2015 at 8:30 AM

I normally make a point of not arguing with New York Times editorials, contenting myself with my role as their unofficial fact-checker on national security legal matters. (Don’t thank me.) I find myself called, however, to say a substantive word about today’s editorial, “No Need to Prosecute Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.” There’s no specific factual error . . .
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For Your Listening Pleasure . . .

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Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 8:44 AM

Here is the latest episode of Rational Security: And here is the latest Chess Clock Debate, a discussion between Kori Schake of the Hoover Institution and Ryan Evans of the War on the Rocks site over whether or not the United States should arm the Ukrainians:

Private Defamation Action Dismissed on State Secrets Grounds

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Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 8:35 AM

This is a very interesting case. The other day, federal district judge Edgardo Ramos in New York threw out a defamation lawsuit between two private parties on the government’s intervening motion asserting the state secrets privilege. The case is Restis v. American Coalition Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI). The 18-page opinion is worth reading. Here are some highlights: According to . . .
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Thoughts on the Israeli Election

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Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 8:47 AM

Over at the increasingly excellent Markaz site, my Brookings colleagues Natan Sachs and William Galston—the latter writing with Lawfare‘s Yishai Schwartz—have terrific commentary on the Israeli elections this week. I will not try to repeat here their many good analytical points about the surprise results. I will, rather, refer readers to their posts and add one . . .
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The Washington Post Fingers the Person Behind the Snowden Disclosures!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 2:15 PM

In what is surely a typographical error, the Washington Post has named NSA General Counsel Raj De as the man behind the Snowden disclosures: De’s last day was Friday, and he plans to start at Mayer Brown in June as head of the firm’s privacy and security practice in Washington. He had been NSA’s general counsel . . .
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Did the New York Times Editorial Page Accuse General Petraeus of a Crime Spree?

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 11:44 AM

I’m not sure, but I think so. From today’s editorial, entitled, “Gen. Petraeus’s Light Punishment“: Mr. Petraeus, who charmed and provided extraordinary access to handpicked journalists and national security experts during his tours running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was all too familiar with the currency of classified information in the battleground of public . . .
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Rational Security, Episode #11: The “Where’s Vlado?” Edition

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 8:30 AM

Just in time for today’s Israeli elections, the latest episode of Rational Security is now out, complete with my analysis of the lay of the land for today’s voting, a discussion of interoperability and child porn, and special guest Merritt Baer.

Recidivism Among Espionage Act Convicts

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Monday, March 16, 2015 at 5:06 PM

Anyone remember Samuel Loring Morrison? Espionage Act nerds certainly do. Morrison was the first person prosecuted and convicted under the Espionage Act for leaking classified material? Morrison was convicted in the 1980s of leaking satellite photos to Jane’s Defense Weekly. He was later pardoned retrospectively by President Clinton as part of Clinton’s spree of pardons on his . . .
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This Week’s Episode of Rational Security

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Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 7:48 AM

We talk about the David Petraeus plea, ISIS propaganda, and John Brennan’s plans to reorganize the CIA. If you haven’t yet checked out Rational Security, please do.

C-SPAN Washington Journal AUMF Discussion

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 12:03 PM

C-SPAN’s Washington Journal had two lengthy segments on the AUMF controversy this morning. I was on the first: The second involved a discussion between the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress:

Radiolab Episode on Japanese Balloon Bombs

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 10:15 AM

This is an excellent bit of radio about one of the weirder forms of attack during World War II—the only one I know of that produced casualties in the continental United States: balloon bombing. I had heard about this initiative before, but this report is, true to Radiolab standards, a really informative and interesting piece. . . .
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The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones—Confronting a New Age of Threat

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 10:51 AM

We’re thrilled to announce the publication today of our new book, The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones——Confronting A New Age of Threat. The book takes on what we think is a pretty big question: How do you govern a world in which anyone can attack anyone from anywhere? Technologies of attack have . . .
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