The National Security Agency has a friend at the Harvard Law School. And at the Brookings Institution. And at The New Republic. And at The Washington Post.
Benjamin Wittes, who is not a lawyer, is a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, where he is “Research Director in Public Law, and Co-Director of the Harvard Law School-Brookings Project on Law and Security.” He also has a Web site, Lawfare, where he’s been blogging on the report on the abuses of the National Security Agency just out from the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communication Technologies, in terms highly favorable to the super-secretive and media-shy agency. He also enjoys extraordinary access to the NSA, for instance in this series of podcasts with its top officials. (“We Brought In a Recoding Device So You Don’t Have To,” the series is titled—cute!)
Why is Lawfare the NSA’s media portal of choice? Well, consider this. Lawfare, in turn, partners with The New Republic, where this post was republished in its entirety. The joint Lawfare/TNR project is titled “Security States,” and it is sponsored, Wittes proudly notes, by the Northrop Grumman Corporation. Grumman, in turn, is a major NSA contractor—see this $220 million deal it scored with the NSA “to develop an advanced information management and data storage system that will support efforts to modernize the nation’s electronic intelligence and broader signals intelligence capabilities,” a fact TNR does not disclose to its readers.
And the NSA is apparently well-pleased with the arrangement. “Check out Lawfare’s interview with NSA’s acting Deputy Director Fran Fleisch,” the agency enthused today, one of the NSA’s public affairs office’s six breathless tweets booming “Lawfare” over the past five days. Surely they also enjoy the laundering of the content of “the indispensable Lawfare blog” through The Washington Post, courtesy of its hack right-wing blogger Jennifer Rubin. (“The NSA will falter unless Obama does his job.”)
Meanwhile, Wittes’s Lawfare co-blogger Jack Goldsmith, late of George W. Bush’s Pentagon and Justice Department, is a professor at the Harvard Law School, but does not disclose any conflict of interest, as most Harvard Law professors do, for being part of such a project sponsored by a commercial entity.
Let’s hear from Professor Goldsmith as to whether he is paid by Northrop for his posts at Lawfare, and whether he thinks he has disclosed that to his Harvard employers, and whether he should make the arrangement public. Let’s hear from The New Republic. Why is it taking money from an NSA contractor to run defenses of the NSA? I’ll be sending this post straightaway to TNR editor Franklin Foer, an old friend. And I’ll e-mail it too Professor Goldsmith, too. I’ll let you know what they say.