The Lawfare Podcast
Lawfare Archive: John Sipher on Spy Swaps: Past, Present, and Future
From January 8, 2019: The Russian government's recent arrest of American Paul Whelan and its charges against him have many politicians and pundits speculating about the possibility of an intended spy swap for Maria Butina. There's a lot going on here, but there's also a lot of misunderstanding about the history of spy swaps, what they are, and what they aren't.
Earlier this week, David Priess sat down with his former CIA colleague John Sipher to talk about it all. They discussed the history of spy swaps, the current case involving Paul Whelan, and prospects for some kind of a release.
How is Lula Doing?41:47On January 1, 2023, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sworn in as president of Brazil. A week later, insurrectionists in Brazil stormed government buildings, including the president’s palace, the Supreme Federal Court, and the National Congress building to violently disrupt the democratic transition of power and challenge the results of the election. Lula, however, remained undeterred and forged ahead. It’s been roughly 150 days since those events, and Lawfare Legal Fellow Saraphin Dhanani sat down with Brian Winter, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly and a journalist with over a decade of experience living and reporting across Latin America, to discuss how Lula has fared in his first 100 days in office, his vision for reviving Brazil’s place in the world, and the political forces he’s up against.
Catching up with Jack Smith's Mar-A-Lago Investigation01:02:24On May 31, CNN reported that federal prosecutors investigating the unlawful removal of classified documents from the White House to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence have obtained an audio recording in which the former president acknowledges that he knowingly kept a classified Department of Defense document that contained details about a potential attack on Iran. According to CNN, the tape indicates that Trump “understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House.”Trump’s alleged comments made on the recording have sparked a debate about whether he will be charged with violating 18 U.S.C. 793(e) of the Espionage Act.What exactly did Trump say on the tape? Did he violate the Espionage Act? How does this change Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigations? And what does all of this mean for Trump’s reelection campaign? To go over everything that happened, Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes sat down for a live recording of the podcast alongside Lawfare Senior Editors Scott R. Anderson, Quinta Jurecic, and Roger Parloff, who unpack all of these questions and more.
Gabe Rottman on the Justice Department's New Guidelines on Press Subpoenas39:53It's been about six months since the Attorney General issued new guidelines on compulsory process to members of the press in criminal and national security investigations, and two officials of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press—Bruce Brown and Gabe Rottman—wrote a detailed analysis of the document in two parts for Lawfare. Rottman joined Lawfare Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes to go through the document carefully: the long history that led to it, the shifting policies that have gotten more restrictive over the years since the Supreme Court ruled in Branzburg v. Hayes, the ramp-up of leak investigations and reporter subpoenas in the Obama and Trump administrations, and the new policy that creates a red line policy against them under most (but not all) circumstances. They talked about the document, about why the Justice Department has forsworn a historic and upheld authority, and about what it means for reporters and criminal investigations going forward.
Rational Security: The “Pun Moll” Edition01:16:31This week, Alan, Quinta, and Scott were joined by their Brookings and Lawfare colleague Molly Reynolds to talk all things Congress in the week’s national security news, including:Shattering the Must-Pass Ceiling.” Earlier this week, President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced a deal on raising the debt ceiling, and thereby avoiding a potential financial catastrophe. The question now is whether they can sell it to enough members of Congress, where right-wing members of McCarthy’s caucus are promising to sink it. Will the deal make it through? And if not, what might come next?“Recep Tayyip Erdo-won.” After a close fought contest, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has emerged victorious from run-offs in Türkiye’s national elections, positioning him for a third term in office and a third decade in power. Does the reelection of the increasingly autocratic figure mean the further decline of Turkish democracy? And Türkiye’s flagging relationship with the West?“I’m Sorry, Dave. I’m Afraid That’s Not Regulation.” The head of several leading AI developers are actively urging Congress to regulate the industry—even as they continue to roll out new products to the public with untested capabilities. How seriously should we take this plea? And is it aimed at the right risk?
Lawfare Archive: Rosa Brooks on ‘How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything’53:21From October 1, 2016: At this week's Hoover Book Soiree, Rosa Brooks joined Benjamin Wittes to talk about her new book, “How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon.” The book covers an extraordinary range of territory, from Brooks' personal experiences working as a civilian advisor at the Pentagon, to the history of the laws of war, to an analysis of the U.S. military's expanded role in a world in which the lines between war and peace are increasingly uncertain.How should we think about the military’s responsibilities outside the realm of traditional warfare? And is it desirable, or even possible, to rethink the way we approach the distinctions between wartime and peacetime?
Ukraine Is Not Dead Yet34:44It is often said that “Russia is a country with an unpredictable past.” Such distortions of history can lead to trouble, as the world witnessed last year when Vladimir Putin justified his invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to “denazify” the neighboring country—one with a Jewish president who lost relatives in the Holocaust. As Megan Buskey writes in her new memoir, “Ukraine Is Not Dead Yet: A Family Story of Exile and Return”: “How could a country know itself unless it knew all the things it had been?”Lawfare Managing Editor Tyler McBrien sat down with Megan, a nonfiction writer and former Fulbright Fellow to Ukraine, who has studied and written about the country for two decades. They discussed her book, the use and abuse of history in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and the role of family histories in countering those false narratives. They also talked about the best way to get a Polish archive to give you the documents you need. Please note that this episode contains content that some people may find disturbing, including descriptions of sexual and other forms of violence. Listener discretion is advised.
Chatter: Information Ecology with Alicia Wanless55:05Alicia Wanless is one of the pioneers of the idea of information ecology, the notion that we should think about information and disinformation as part of a complex ecosystem, the management of which she analogizes to environmental policy. Wanless has been complaining for several years that the war on “disinformation” skates over important question: What are the collateral effects of anti-disinformation policies? How do interventions against information pollution operate in the real world? In her conversation with Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare’s editor in chief and this week’s Chatter guest host, Wanless talks about how she became interested in information management, what’s wrong with the discussion of disinformation, what a more environmentalist approach to information spaces might look like, and what a useful research agenda for the nascent field would focus on. Among the works mentioned in this episode:Wanless’s latest essay on Lawfare: “There’s No Getting Ahead of Disinformation Without Moving Past It.”The book Network PropagandaChatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.
The Wagner Group, Bakhmut, and a New Phase in the Ukraine War52:06The war in Ukraine is approaching a pivotal moment. Russia remains in control of the hotly contested city of Bakhmut. But the ruthlessly effective mercenary forces of the Wagner Group—the same group whose leader, Yevgeny Prighozin, has openly bickered with the regular Russian military and reportedly offered to trade Russian troop positions to Ukrainian intelligence—are withdrawing. Ukrainian forces, meanwhile, are preparing for a reported counteroffensive, even as unclaimed attacks are taking place across the border in Russia—including, most recently, on a civilian target in Moscow. To discuss these developments, Lawfare Senior Editor Scott R. Anderson sat down with two reporters covering the conflict for the Washington Post: Intelligence and National Security Reporter Shane Harris and Ukraine Bureau Chief Isabelle Khurshudyan. They discussed the peculiar role played by the Wagner Group, recent revelations stemming from the Discord leaks, and what to expect from the conflict in the months to come.
Erdoğan Wins Reelection in Turkey47:10On Sunday, May 28, Turkey held a bitterly contested run-off election, with incumbent presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan winning reelection against opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Lawfare Legal Fellow Saraphin Dhanani sat down with Soli Özel, Senior Lecturer at Kadir Has University in Istanbul and a columnist at Habertürk daily newspaper, to discuss what was at stake in this election and the future of Turkey as Erdoğan’s next five-year term marks his 25th year in higher office.