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

Analysis and Commentary

E-Residency In Estonia, Part II: Wherein I Visit The Estonian Embassy, Collect My Digital Identity Card, And Interview Kristjan Kuurme

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Thursday, February 11, 2016

I know that many Lawfare readers have been waiting with baited breath—the suspense unbearable—to find out what happens next in my quest for Estonian digital residency. (See here, here, here, and here for prior episodes in this drama.) Well, your suffering is at an end. Today, at 2 pm, I rang the doorbell of the Estonian Embassy in Washington and met with Kristjan Kuurme, Third Secretary—Political Affairs, who issued me my card.

Analysis and Commentary

Does The ACLU Stand By Its Principal Technologist's Claim That I Am A "Horrible Person"?

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that the ACLU's principal technologist—as part of a lengthy and admittedly contentious Twitter exchange—just tweeted this: "@benjaminwittes @Susan_Hennessey I don't hate your project. I just think you're a horrible person who loves surveillance & defends torture."

Analysis and Commentary

New York Times Editorial: Sweden Should "Walk Away" From Rape Case

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Monday, February 8, 2016

There's a headline I never expected to write. Among my many criticisms of the New York Times editorial page, after all, I would never until today have accused it of being soft on sexual violence.

Analysis and Commentary

Rational Security: The "Deck Chairs On The Titanic" Edition

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Thursday, February 4, 2016

Tamara talks about the administration's revamping of its efforts to staunch ISIS recruitment. Shane discusses how the NSA is making the line between cyber attacks and defense even blurrier. And I have a proposal to solve the going dark problem. Plus, Tamara visits another podcast and the most.

In the News

Invitation To The Hoover Book Soiree: Orde Kittrie On "Lawfare: Law As A Weapon Of War"

by Benjamin Wittes, Jack Goldsmithvia Lawfare
Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The fifth in a series of book soirees at the Hoover Institution's Washington Offices will take place on February 17th, when Jack Goldsmith will interview Orde Kittrie on his new book, Lawfare: Law as a Weapon of War along with Major General Charles J. Dunlap, Jr., USAF (Ret.).

Analysis and Commentary

An Out Of The Box Approach To The Going Dark Problem

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I’ve been thinking about out-of-the-box ways to address the "Going Dark" problem. Specifically, I am looking for approaches that potentially thread the needle between an industry allergic to any technological mandates, civil libertarians and cryptographers deeply committed to strong encryption without back doors, and a government alarmed by the rise of encrypted communications it cannot capture.

Analysis and Commentary

Marco Rubio's Guantanamo Fantasy

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Monday, February 1, 2016

"And yes, when I am President of the United States, if there is some place in this country where radical jihadists are planning to attack the United States, we will go after them wherever they are, and if we capture them alive, they are going to Guantanamo."

Analysis and Commentary

Rational Security, Episode #53: The "Snow-ver It" Edition

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Friday, January 29, 2016

Tamara considers the Arab Spring five years later. What have we learned about the future of peace and stability in the region? Shane looks into who that mysterious fourth American hostage freed by Iran was.

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The Future of Violence

by Benjamin Wittes, Gabriella Blumvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Coming to grips with dizzying change and vanishing borders.

Analysis and Commentary

The Future Of Violence Is Now: "Hostile Use Of Drones"

by Benjamin Wittesvia Lawfare
Tuesday, January 26, 2016

This is interesting for folks interested in The Future of Violence—a new report on "Hostile Drones: The Hostile Use of Drones By Non-State Actors Against British Targets."