The Week That Was

The Week That Was: All of Lawfare in One Post

By Cody M. Poplin
Saturday, December 20, 2014, 10:00 AM

Lawfare picked up where it left off last week, reviewing the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s study of the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. On Tuesday, Peter Margulies looked at both the Majority and Minority’s claims over the efficacy of torture, arguing that ultimately, ruling out EIT’s is a “normative judgement,” and that judgement must be made while understanding the risks of the decision if it is to endure.

Benjamin Wittes provided part 1 and part 2 of his thoughts on the SSCI report. The first includes an introduction to the report’s content, and outlines how Ben will approach his five part series on the report. In the second, Ben addresses the program’s brutality, finding that the SSCI account of the program is “particularly upsetting,” and that while it conflates various trends into a single narrative lens, it may also point to a hard truth: it may not be possible to have a secret coercion program that does not run amok. In a response to both Peter and Ben, Steve Vladeck writes on the perils of torture agnosticism, suggesting that by its own definition, the CIA fails to demonstrate that torture was effective.

Following the release of the Senate Study, Wells Bennett made note that this week’s scheduled two-day 9/11 hearing was cancelled without explanation.

In one of the more weird cybersecurity stories of the year, after a devastating cyberattack and a second round of threats, Sony Pictures cancelled its release of “The Interview.” Bruce Schneier shared his thoughts by providing two essays he recently published with the Wall Street Journal and Vice Motherboard. Later, Jack Goldsmith the attribution problems in the Sony attack and its connection to domestic surveillance.

Ben Wittes and Matt Waxman are in Israel, where they provided a report on the “heroism of effective logistics” on the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza. Ben later followed up with thoughts on sipping coffee at the border with al Qaeda.

On Monday, Charles Fried discussed “our collective privacy panic,” which is largely a reaction to the fact we live in a “complex, urbanized, regulated society.”

Cody Poplin also linked us to six newly released FISC documents on surveillance activities originally initiated by President George W. Bush following the attacks of September 11, 2001—including the so-called “StellarWind” program.

Mira Rapp Hooper, a fellow in the Asia Program at CSIS, shared Lawfare’s first feature from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. We expect that their excellent coverage of Asia maritime issues are of inherent interest to Lawfare readers.

Lawfare published two Foreign Policy Essay’s this week. The first, by Michael Becker, looked at lone wolf terrorists, suggesting that the threat is easily exaggerated and that most of the time, they pose a limited danger. On Wednesday, Frederic Wehrey explored the rise of the Islamic State in Libya, providing a comprehensive look at the challenge that the collapse of Libya presents to US counterterrorism policy.

Stewart Baker brought us this week’s Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast, which features an interview with Joanne McNabb, the Director of Privacy Education and Policy for the California Attorney General’s Office.

Bruce Schneier ran the numbers from a recent international survey, finding that over 700 million people are now taking steps to avoid NSA surveillance.

Last Friday, Ben Wittes participated in a panel discussion on FISA section 702 and EO 12333 at the inaugural Cato Institute Conference on Surveillance. Cody Poplin shared the video from Ben’s remarks, as well as coverage of all other panels throughout the day. In the last session of the day, Edward Snowden addressed some of arguments Ben made earlier in the day.

For more on FISA and the FAA, the 103rd iteration of the Lawfare Podcast featured Mieke Eoyang, who discussed her proposal to make the FAA the “exclusive means for conducting electronic surveillance when the information being collected is in the custody of an American company.”

Wells Bennett linked us to an interesting little order in United States v. Vargas wherein district Judge Edward F. Shea suppressed pole camera surveillance footage.

Finally, Wells also shared the news that Avril Haines will be the next Deputy National Security Adviser. She will be the first woman to hold the position.

And that was the week that was.