Benjamin Wittes

Benjamin Wittes


Benjamin Wittes is a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and codirector of the Harvard Law School–Brookings Project on Law and Security. His most recent publication is Speaking the Law (Hoover Institution Press 2013), cowritten with Kenneth Anderson. He is the author of Detention and Denial: The Case for Candor after Guantanamo, published in November 2011 by the Brookings Institution Press, and coeditor of Constitution 3.0: Freedom and Technological Change (forthcoming). He is also the author of Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror, published in June 2008 by Penguin Press, and the editor of the 2009 Brookings book Legislating the War on Terror: An Agenda for Reform. He cofounded and cowrites the Lawfare blog (, which is devoted to nonideological discussions of hard national security choices, and is a member of the Hoover Institution's Task Force on National Security and Law.

His previous books include Starr: A Reassessment, published in 2002 by Yale University Press, and Confirmation Wars: Preserving Independent Courts in Angry Times, published in 2006 by Rowman & Littlefield and the Hoover Institution.

Between 1997 and 2006, he served as an editorial writer for the Washington Post specializing in legal affairs. Before joining the editorial-page staff of the Washington Post, Wittes covered the Justice Department and federal regulatory agencies as a reporter and news editor at Legal Times. His writing has also appeared in a wide range of journals and magazines, including the AtlanticSlate, the New Republic, the Wilson Quarterly, the Weekly StandardPolicy Review, and First Things.

Benjamin Wittes was born November 5, 1969, in Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated from Oberlin College in 1990. He has a black belt in tae kwon do.

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Recent Commentary

Privacy & Power: A Transatlantic Dialogue In The Shadow Of The NSA-Affair
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Security by the Book - Privacy & Power: A Transatlantic Dialogue In The Shadow Of The NSA-Affair

by Benjamin Wittes, Russell Miller, Ralf Poschervia Lawfare
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Hoover Institution's National Security, Technology and Law Working Group, along with Hoover's Washington, DC office discussed Privacy and Power:  A Transatlantic Dialogue in the Shadow of the NSA-Affair.  Benjamin Wittes (Hoover working group member and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution), Russell Miller (professor of law at Washington & Lee University School of Law) and Prof. Ralf Poscher (professor of law at  University of Freiberg) discussed fundamental differences in the way that Americans and Europeans approach the issues of privacy and intelligence-gathering.


The “Grand Bargain” At Risk: What’s At Stake When The President Alleges Politics In Intelligence

by Jack Goldsmith, Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The U.S. intelligence community is on the verge of a crisis of confidence and legitimacy it has not experienced since the 1970s. Back then, the crisis was one of the community’s own behavior. In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s the intelligence community used its secret powers of surveillance and other forms of government coercion—often but not always at the behest of its political superiors—to spy on and engage in operations against Americans for political ends. 

In the News

Event Video: "Cybersecurity In The Trump Administration: What Should We Expect?"

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Friday, March 3, 2017

The Hoover Institution has made available video of the event we did at Hoover's DC office with the folks at Intel Security. It was a terrific event, of which we'll be featuring excerpts on this week's Lawfare Podcast.

Cybersecurity In The Trump Administration: What Should We Expect?

by Benjamin Wittes
Monday, February 13, 2017

In partnership with Hoover Institution in Washington and Intel Security, Lawfare is holding on February 22 a conference on what we can expect in cybersecurity in the new administration. Here's the event announcement. RSVPs are required, so please sign up.

How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft by Edward Epstein
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How America Lost Its Secrets

by Benjamin Wittes, Edward Epsteinvia Lawfare
Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Hoover Institution hosts a discussion on "How America Lost its Secrets" with author Edward Epstein on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 from 5:00pm - 7:0pm EST. 


A Precedent For Democrats On The Classy Way To Handle Neil Gorsuch

by Jack Goldsmith, Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Thursday, February 2, 2017

Neil Gorsuch is an eminent jurist who is undoubtedly qualified to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. So too is Merrick Garland.

Analysis and Commentary

Rational Security: The "Centennial" Edition

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Thursday, January 26, 2017

President Trump has announced executive orders on border security and immigration policy—and maybe interrogation. Ex-military officers are taking senior posts in the National Security Council.

Hoover Book Soiree: Edward Jay Epstein On "How America Lost Its Secrets"

by Jack Goldsmith, Benjamin Wittes
Monday, January 23, 2017

The next in our series of book soirees at the Hoover Institution will take place from 5-7 pm on Monday, February 1, when Ben will interview Edward Jay Epstein on his new book, How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft.

Analysis and Commentary

Why Is The White House Characterizing The Political Opinions Of Career CIA Employees?

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Sunday, January 22, 2017

Focusing on what's truly important in the many challenges facing America, President Trump got right to work picking a fight with reality over the size of the crowd at his inauguration. And yesterday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer kicked up a firestorm by berating the media for its reporting on inauguration attendance.

Analysis and Commentary

Rational Security: The "Four Horsemen" Edition

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Thursday, January 19, 2017

President Obama issues a raft of pardons and commutations on his last days in office. The Trump transition team has barely interacted with its counterparts on the National Security Council. And John Brennan reflects on Donald Trump and his legacy at the CIA.