Benjamin Wittes

Editor in Chief, Lawfare

Fast Facts

Ben Wittes

Legal scribe

Industry: Law
Key previous position: Washington Post writer
Education: Oberlin 
Notable fact: Martial-arts practitioner

NJ50 Profile

Web traffic to Lawfare has exploded since President Trump took office.

Unlike traditional news sites reporting on matters of national security, Lawfare provides deep and well-researched legal analysis. National security law has been challenged and stretched by the Trump administration, giving new urgency to the project.

Benjamin Wittes cofounded Lawfare in 2010 with Jack Goldsmith and Robert Chesney. The 501(c)(3) organization runs on a combination of grants from institutions, reader donations, and high-value contributions from private donors, and it has expanded over the past decade to include off-the-cuff podcast banter, law-review articles, and book-length projects.

“My feeling is, at whatever level of depth you want to engage the subject, we should be able to help you,” Wittes said. “From the most granular, kind of machine code—we’ll give you the raw documents, no commentary—to the most general-interest kind of summary, we should be there for you.

“My basic view is that people internalize information and experience information and analysis very differently,” he added. “Our job is to provide the best information and analysis that we can, intermodally.”

Traditional media, Wittes says, is good at covering day-to-day national security stories, providing the public with a basic understanding of what happened.

“What the [media] industry is not really good at is the next step, which is thinking through the legal implications in a fashion that practitioners would find useful,” he said.

Alongside his incisive legal analysis and Twitter-savvy antics, Wittes contributes longer work at the Brookings Institution, where he is a senior fellow. His upcoming book, coauthored with Lawfare Executive Editor Susan Hennessey, focuses on Trump’s “unmaking” of the presidency.

Like many other analysts and authors in the national security sphere, Wittes was kept busy by the Mueller report (the subject of a recent Lawfare podcast, The Report). Following the release, he accepted a teaching position at Harvard on general-interest legal writing.
Harrison Cramer