Editor's Note

By Benjamin Wittes
Wednesday, January 3, 2018, 6:52 PM

Earlier today, Lawfare published an article that was significantly beneath its editorial standards. I take full responsibility for this decision and, on behalf of myself and Lawfare’s board of directors, wish to explain the circumstances of the decision to publish it and the steps we are taking to ensure that such a lapse does not happen again.

Lawfare began its life as a blog. One of the residues of that earlier life is that our senior contributors do not report to me. Until today, they were entitled to publish whatever they saw fit. We relied on their good judgment, and we never got in trouble.

Stewart Baker is one of the smartest, most insightful thinkers in the national security realm. I love running his terrific podcast, and I think the world of his writing. When he sent us this post yesterday, I was concerned about it and raised those concerns with him. He wanted to go ahead and publish it, and I considered that the end of the matter. I did not believe it was my role to tell one of Lawfare’s senior contributors what to say. I erred.

To be clear, we believe the topic of Stewart’s post is a proper one for analysis and debate. It is perfectly acceptable, in our view, to analyze how the U.S. government should best support the Iranian protest movement, including the possibility of covert action, and even the possible supply of weapons to revolutionaries or insurgents. The problem with the post is that it does not treat the issue with the soberness or seriousness it requires. It contains no legal analysis and very little, if any, policy analysis. Except for its recitation of prior Iran-sponsored violence against U.S. forces in Iraq, it does not enhance our readers’ understanding of the current situation in Iran, or of U.S. policy toward Iran. And it can plausibly be read to advocate violence with potentially indiscriminate weapons in an emotive, too-personal fashion, and without any argument other than revenge.

We are leaving the post in place because we don’t believe in making Lawfare content disappear. But as of today, our board has decided that even our senior contributors are ultimately subject to decisions to publish or not to publish or to require revisions by Lawfare’s editorial staff and ultimately by the board itself: me, Jack Goldsmith, Robert Chesney, David Kris, and Susan Hennessey.