Correcting Our Errors

Benjamin Wittes
Tuesday, November 1, 2022, 9:01 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Over the past several weeks, I have become aware of two serious quality control failures that have occurred at Lawfare, one recent and one several years old. I am writing this post both to publicly own our errors and to inform readers of the remedial steps we are taking to address them. 

The first incident involves a student contributor who co-authored a number of SinoTech columns on the site. The student contributor program at Lawfare is one of which I am deeply proud and, as a general matter, I have the highest confidence in our published student work. 

That said, these columns all, to one degree or another, involved significant plagiarism from the sources they were citing. The matter was discovered internally by one of our associate editors. Our editorial staff subsequently audited all prior work by the authors in question. In all, seventeen published columns were found to contain verbatim or near-verbatim appropriation of works linked to in the columns, and there were–in addition–instances of appropriation of material that had not been cited or linked to. We have removed all of the offending work from Lawfare

I have no reason to believe that this incident reflects anything broader than the conduct of one of the authors involved; this author has taken responsibility for the plagiarism incidents and has assured us that the other author is not responsible. That said, in consultation with Lawfare’s senior editorial leadership, I have taken two steps to make sure this does not happen again. First, we will be asking all contributors to sign a new contributor agreement that will, among other things, attest to the originality of material submitted. Second, while we have to rely on the honesty of our contributors, with the volume of copy we are dealing with now, it is important for us to do more due diligence prospectively on originality than we have in the past. As such, we will soon begin running articles submitted to Lawfare through an automated plagiarism checker. 

The second issue involves a piece we ran back on March 11, 2016, entitled, “Why the OPM Hack is Far Worse You Imagine.” In recent weeks, questions have arisen about the identity and credibility of the author. After learning about these questions, we have endeavored to answer them but have been unable to do so. Emails to the author have gone unreturned, and he appears to have vanished from social media. We have therefore lost confidence in the article and have removed it from the site. It is preserved for posterity on the Internet Wayback Machine for those interested in its text.  

On behalf of Lawfare and on my own behalf, I apologize for the errors.


Benjamin Wittes is editor in chief of Lawfare and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several books.

Subscribe to Lawfare