The Lawfare Podcast

In 2013, Patrick Radden Keefe, a staff writer for the New Yorker, came across the obituary of a woman named Dolours Price, a former member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Keefe's interest in Price led to sprawling research about an appalling crime that took place over the course of the three-decade Troubles in Northern Ireland: The disappearance of Jean McConville, a widowed young mother of ten children. His research led to his 2019 book, “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.”

Mikhaila Fogel sat down with Keefe to discuss his book, the shocking history of McConville’s disappearance, the broader context of the terrorism and counterterrorism campaigns in Northern Ireland over the course of the Troubles, and what happened to the perpetrators and the victims of this crime.

Direct download: Episode_508.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Lawfare founder Bobby Chesney and Lawfare contributing editor Steve Vladeck host the weekly National Security Law Podcast from the University of Texas Law School, a discussion of current national security law developments. In this episode, the third edition of a Lawfare edited National Security Law Podcast, Bobby and Steve discuss a range of topics that we thought would be of interest to listeners. So we are bringing you a distilled version of their conversation. Bobby and Steve talk about the legal side of accusations that President Trump pressured the Justice Department to amend a sentencing recommendation in the case of Roger Stone and his retaliation against Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. They give context about the federal quarantine law, as the coronavirus continues to spread globally. And, they go over recent war powers developments and a special listener request about the case of Omar Ameen.

 A quick logistical note: Bobby and Steve recorded this conversation on Wednesday, so news about the Flynn case and about the Senate passing War Powers legislation are not mentioned in their discussion.

Direct download: NSL202.1420intro_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:24pm EST

In this episode of Lawfare's Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Evelyn Douek and Kate Klonick spoke with Alex Stamos, the director of the Stanford Internet Observatory. Prior to joining Stanford, Alex served as the chief security officer at Facebook, and before that, as the chief information security officer at Yahoo. They talked about Alex's experience at Facebook handling 2016 election interference, as well as his work on cybersecurity, disinformation, and end-to-end encryption.

Direct download: Episode_507.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:59pm EST

Afshon Ostovar is the associate chair for research and an assistant professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School. He is also the author of "Vanguard of the Imam: Religion, Politics, and Iran's Revolutionary Guards." The IRGC has been in the news of late because of the killing of the head of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qassem Soleimani. Benjamin Wittes spoke with Ostovar about the fallout from the Soleimani killing, how it is all playing in Iran, and why things are so quiet. They talked about whether people made a mountain out of a molehill at the time the killing happened, or whether the blowback just hasn't happened yet.

Direct download: Episode_506.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:10pm EST

Russia continues to sporadically poke its head into American media headlines, whether it be for its role in Syria or for anxieties about fresh election interference in 2020. But these news stories seldom provide a window into life in Putin’s Russia. Jacob Schulz sat down with Joshua Yaffa, the Moscow correspondent for the New Yorker, to talk about his new book, "Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin’s Russia." The book gives a series of portraits of prominent figures within Putin’s Russia and details the compromises they make to maintain their status and goodwill with the Kremlin. They talked about this framework as a way to understand Russia, what Putin’s rule looks like on the peripheries of the country, and about a couple of the fascinating characters that animate the book.

Direct download: Episode_505.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am EST

The 2020 election cycle opened up with a dramatic failure, as the Iowa caucus was marred by a delayed announcement of the caucus results and an abundance of misinformation about its cause. It was a painful demonstration of the importance of election security and election infrastructure. We put together a special edition podcast to discuss what went wrong in Iowa and the factors that have increased mistrust in American elections. Benjamin Wittes interviewed Richard Hasen, an election-law expert and the author of “Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy.” The two talked about Hasen’s new book, about the flaws that can plague elections and about how to think about electoral legitimacy. 

Direct download: Rick_Hasen_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:35pm EST

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to acquit President Donald J. Trump of abuse of power, by a vote of 48-52, and obstruction of Congress, by a vote of 47-53. Over the course of the trial, Lawfare and Goat Rodeo have been compiling the most essential parts of each day’s proceeding into manageable podcast episodes. Here is the final episode of that series. It includes some remarks made by senators including Mitt Romney of Utah, who became the first person in history to vote to remove a president of his own party, followed by the vote. The episode ends with a conversation with Lawfare’s Quinta Jurecic, David Priess and Margaret Taylor, hosted by Benjamin Wittes.

Direct download: Lawfare_Podcast_Special_Edition_The_Impeachment_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:19am EST

Leon Neyfakh is the co-creator and former host of Slow Burn, which won the iHeartRadio podcast award for Podcast of the Year last year. Now, he's the co-creator and host of Fiasco, entering its second season on Luminary. This second season deals with the Iran–Contra scandal, including some of the stories and people that you know—like Iran and Nicaragua, Bud McFarlane, John Poindexter, and Oliver North—but also some things you might not remember that make the story a very rich scandal indeed.

David Priess spoke with Leon about Slow Burn, Fiasco, and especially about the Iran–Contra scandal.

Direct download: Episode_504.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:50pm EST

Lawfare founder Bobby Chesney and Lawfare contributing editor Steve Vladeck, both of the University of Texas Law School, host the National Security Law Podcast, a weekly deep dive on national security law topics. In this second edition of a Lawfare-edited National Security Law Podcast, Bobby and Steve had a particularly useful conversation about the legal issues surrounding John Bolton’s role in the impeachment trial and about important developments in the military commissions that have been overshadowed by events in Washington.

Two logistical points: We have edited this podcast down to the most substantive exchanges between Bobby and Steve. Also, this podcast was recorded on Wednesday, January 29, and thus the conversation occurred before the Senate's vote on Friday to block witnesses in the impeachment trial. 

Direct download: Episode_503.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am EST

For the past several months, Australia has been struck by massive bushfires like nothing seen before in recent memory. As the country has grappled with the spread of these unprecedented blazes, it’s also grappled with the spread of falsehoods about what caused them.


This week on our Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Elise Thomas, a journalist and researcher at the Australia Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Center. Elise has been tracking misinformation and disinformation around the blazes—from the suggestion by the right-wing Australian press that arson, not climate change, is to blame for the fires, to online conspiracy theories imported in from the United States. They talked not only about the fires, but also about the global nature of the fight against mis- and disinformation online and why we need to be cautious about focusing too much on bots in waging that fight.

Elise was calling in from Canberra, and unfortunately we had some audio glitches, but it's too great a conversation to miss.

Direct download: Episode_502.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:46pm EST

We have an impeachment trial going on. We've had hours and hours of presentation by the House managers, and hours of presentation by the president's defense team, and there are likely hours to go. To bring us up to speed with where we are, where we are after the big John Bolton bombshell over the weekend, and the coming fight over witnesses, Benjamin Wittes spoke with Margaret Taylor, Quinta Jurecic, and Jonathan David Shaub.

Direct download: Episode_501.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:09pm EST

The past few years have seen an uptick in Russian covert actions across Europe, including assassinations and attempted killings of people in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Just this week, Bulgaria charged three Russian agents with the poisoning of a prominent Bulgarian arms manufacturer. Michael Schwirtz has been an investigative reporter with the New York Times for almost 15 years, and he's been tracking this Russian skulduggery carefully in many of those countries for much of that time. Recently, he's reported on how quite a bit of that activity is linked to one particular unit within the Russian GRU. David Priess sat down with Michael to work through this increasingly aggressive Russian action and what it all means going forward.

Direct download: Episode_500.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:03am EST

For this episode of Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, Alina Polyakova and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Renee DiResta, the technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory. Renee has done fascinating work on how technology platforms and algorithms interact with false and misleading narratives, ranging from misleading information on health issues to propaganda pushed by the Islamic State and the Russian government.

Direct download: Episode_499.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:39pm EST

"Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump's War on the World's Most Powerful Office," by Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes, was published today. The Brookings Institution hosted a launch event, moderated by Fred Hiatt, in which Susan and Ben discussed the book. "Unmaking the Presidency" is an attempt to explore the Trump presidency through the lens of the norms of the traditional presidency that he has violated. It's a look at his vision of the presidency, a look at the range of presidential powers that vision affects, and a look at the history of how those norms developed.

Direct download: Episode_498.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:07pm EST

The Senate impeachment trial of President Trump starts Tuesday. The President now has a legal team. And over the weekend, both the House impeachment managers and the President's lawyers filed initial briefs. In this special edition of the podcast, Benjamin Wittes, Margaret Taylor, Susan Hennessey, David Priess, Scott Anderson, and Paul Rosenzweig talk it all through. What should we make of the president's legal team? What do the briefs say? And what should we expect from the trial to come?

Direct download: Special_Edition_1-20-20_Impeachment_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:52pm EST

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is set to begin on Jan. 21, and the question of what constitutes an impeachable offense is sure to feature in the trial itself and in the broader discussion of the president’s conduct. To answer that question, many commentators, lawmakers and experts may rely on what the Founders said at the time the Impeachment Clause was written into the Constitution. But there’s another way to think about an impeachable offense: by looking at the offenses for which Congress has actually impeached people. Hilary Hurd explored that sordid and unexpected history of impeachment in a recent article for Lawfare. In the latest edition of the Lawfare Podcast Shorts, you can listen to that article in-full, read by the author.

Direct download: Hilary20Hurd20Shorts_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:46am EST

Batya Ungar-Sargon is the opinion editor of The Forward, the Jewish newspaper published out of New York City. She has been among the chroniclers, both in print and on Twitter, of the recent spate of attacks against Orthodox communities in New York and New Jersey. She joined Benjamin Wittes by Skype to talk about the origins of these attacks, why it is so hard to respond to them, and why they don't fit in with any of our political preconceptions.

Direct download: Episode_497.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am EST

On this episode of the Arbiters of Truth series, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with law professors Bobby Chesney and Danielle Citron about deep fakes—that is, artificial audio and video that can be used to depict a person doing or saying something that they never did or said. They talked about the paper that Bobby and Danielle wrote in 2018 about how deep fakes pose a looming challenge for privacy, democracy, and national security. And with recently circulated, doctored video of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and presidential candidate Joe Biden, they talked about how the issue hasn't gone away, as well as the distinction between deep fakes and other less sophisticated forms of editing.

Direct download: Episode_496.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:47am EST

There's going to be a House vote tomorrow to send the impeachment articles over to the Senate. Then there's going to be a little parade where the appointed managers from the House take them over. And then, we're going to have a Senate trial. Benjamin Wittes gathered in the Jungle Studio with Margaret Taylor, Molly Reynolds, David Priess, and Jonathan Shaub (by phone) to imagine what that trial will look like. They talked about the ceremonial aspects of the impeachment trial; witnesses, who they can force to show up, and whether they can force them to answer questions; and how the president's defense might defend Donald Trump against these charges.

Direct download: Episode_495.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:56pm EST

As part of Lawfare's continuing coverage of the killing of Iranian Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani, we are bringing you an edited version of the latest episode of the National Security Law Podcast, in which Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck discuss the legality of the strike and what this means for the future of U.S.-Iranian relations. We edited the podcast down solely to focus solely on the discussion of Soleimani.

Direct download: Episode_494.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am EST

It’s 2020, and The Lawfare Podcast's Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation is back for the new year. Quinta Jurecic sat down with cohosts Evelyn Douek, Kate Klonick, and Alina Polyakova to discuss what they’ve learned over the last few months of putting together this podcast—and what they should expect for the year to come. What new regulation or oversight mechanisms will we see for social media companies? Should Twitter remove or hide the president’s tweets? How should we think about the unique challenges of addressing disinformation and misinformation in an election year in the United States? And just how bad are things going to get?

Direct download: Episode_493.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:27am EST

To kick off this year of The Lawfare Podcast, we wanted to hear from you. You tweeted your questions and you left us voicemails, and we did our best to answer you. Benjamin Wittes, Susan Hennessey, Bobby Chesney, David Priess, Quinta Jurecic, David Kris, Scott R. Anderson, Molly Reynolds, and Margaret Taylor came together to tackle your impeachment questions, your foreign policy questions, your FISA questions, your recommendation requests, and everything in-between.

Thank you for your questions. And as always, thank you for listening.

Direct download: Episode_492.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:43pm EST

On Friday, the Lawfare Podcast hosted a conversation on the wide-ranging policy implications of the U.S. strike that killed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leader Qassem Soleimani and militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, deputy commander of Iraq’s quasi-official Popular Mobilization Forces and leader of the Iraqi militia and PMF Keta’ib Hezbollah. 

Today’s special edition episode leaves the policy debate behind to zero-in on the law behind the strike. Law of war and international law experts Scott R. Anderson, Bobby Chesney, Jack Goldsmith, Ashley Deeks and Samuel Moyn join Benjamin Wittes to discuss the domestic and international law surrounding the strike, how the administration might legally justify it, what the president might do next and how Congress might respond. 

Direct download: Law_and_the_Souleimani_Strike_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:53pm EST

The American drone strike last night that killed Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Quds Force, is a seismic event in U.S.-Iranian relations—and for the broader Middle East. We put together an emergency podcast, drawing on the resources of both Lawfare and the Brookings Institution and reflecting the depth of the remarkable collaboration between the two. Iran scholar Suzanne Maloney, terrorism and Middle East scholar Daniel Byman, Middle East scholar and former State Department official Tamara Cofman Wittes and former State Department lawyer and Baghdad embassy official Scott Anderson—who is also a Lawfare senior editor—came together the morning after the strike for a diverse discussion of the reasons for the operation, the vast repercussions of it, the legality of the strike and the role Soleimani played in the Iranian regime.

Direct download: UPDATE_Solemani_Special_Edition_Podcast_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00pm EST

Iran is in turmoil. Protests erupted across the country last month, sparked by the government's decision to triple the price of gasoline. The Iranian government has responded with brute force, imposing a blackout of the internet and deploying security forces to crack down in the streets. The crackdown has left hundreds dead and thousands injured or detained. On December 18, the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution hosted a discussion on the unrest in Iran, what it means for the future of the country and the region, and how the United States and the international community should respond. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius led the conversation, which featured Brookings senior fellow Suzanne Maloney and film maker and journalist Maziar Bahari, who leads IranWire, a news site that conveys original information from Iran via citizen journalists.

Direct download: Episode_491.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:16pm EST

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