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Welcome to the new Lawfare

Robert M. Chesney, Jack A. Goldstone, and Benjamin Wittes

This post originally appeared on Lawfare Sunday, June 7, 2015 at 10:00pm.

It is a great pleasure to welcome readers to Lawfare’s new web site

Nearly five years ago, we announced what was then an incipient blog by three friends:

For those readers familiar with our prior writings, our subject will come as no surprise: We mean to devote this blog to that nebulous zone in which actions taken or contemplated to protect the nation interact with the nation’s laws and legal institutions. We will, [we are] sure, construe this subject broadly to include subjects as far-flung as cybersecurity, Guantánamo habeas litigation, targeted killing, biosecurity, universal jurisdiction, the Alien Tort Statute, the state secrets privilege and countless other related and not-so-related matters. . .

We were surprised and pleased when the site received 200 visits on its first day of operation.

To say that Lawfare has grown beyond any of our wildest expectations really understates the matter. None of us imagined that it would attract a large and ever-growing readership. None of us imagined who that readership would be. None of us imagined the role the site would play for that readership. And none of us imagined the ambitiously diverse content streams we would aim to bring to to our readers.

So far this year, Lawfare has served 490,000 users, according to Google Analytics, a 90 percent increase over the same period in 2014. Our traffic is up 56 percent over the same time frame.

Who are those users? Well, the top information systems routing traffic to Lawfare include the Justice Department, the Pentagon, the Senate, the State Department, the CIA, and the White House. Many government lawyers use Lawfare to access their agencies’ own briefs and key government documents, instead of using their own internal servers. Our readers also include national security journalists, academics, students, and a surprising number of interested lay persons, some of whom have become among the site’s most energetic, thoughtful, and engaged readers.  


Lawfare’s
content streams have also grown and diversified. Little did we expect when we started the site that we would host three podcasts, a book review, a weekly foreign policy essay by leading scholars, original scholarship, and content streams from, to name just two, Afghanistan and Egypt. Little either did we expect that the government and the New York Times would use the site as the forum to duke out disputes over publication of classified material or that senior government officials would use it as their preferred venue for publishing their speeches.

To put the matter quite simply, Lawfare has outgrown the blog format of displaying all content in a single vertical column in reverse-chronological order. Whether you call the site a magazine, a news source, a multimedia resource, or something else, it is no longer a blog. It is something else.

And as readers know, it has some problems that blogs normally do not have. There are people in the world who don’t want you to be able to read it and have taken active steps to shut it down: there have been denial of service attacks and, perhaps, attempts at infiltrations. So not only do we have ambitions to grow the site, we have a duty to protect and secure what has developed into the world’s leading resource on a set of subjects that are not going away.

We designed this new site to serve several different functions simultaneously:

  • to organize our voluminous material by topics, allowing users easily to navigate to the content in which they are most interested;
  • to create a front page that allows us to prioritize different content at different times;
  • to be visually pleasing and to allow the greater integration of graphical material, while still maintaining Lawfare’s visual simplicity;
  • to be dramatically more secure and stable than our previous architecture; and
  • to facilitate the development of new content areas that are conceptually related to Lawfare’s core national security law mission.

Toward that latter end, the new site supports the development of pages subsidiary to the main site, content that will be fully integrated with the main site yet also operate as feeds of their own. We are unveiling the first of these–a Middle East page we’re calling Omphalos–today, along with the new site. But we have plans for additional pages as well. Stay tuned for a page devoted to privacy, for example.

So please take a look around and explore the new site. We hope you’ll find that it’s the same Lawfare you’ve come to know and value, only better in a great many ways. And if you have suggestions to make it better still, things that are not working well, that are confusing, or that could be done better, please let us know. We’re still working on the new Lawfare and are certainly not above making changes.

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