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Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracyby Susan N Herman
Synopses & Reviews
In this eye-opening work, the president of the ACLU takes a hard look at the human and social costs of the War on Terror. Over a decade after 9/11, it is far from clear that the government's hastily adopted antiterrorist tactics--such as the Patriot Act--are keeping us safe, but it is increasingly clear that these emergency measures in fact have the potential to ravage our lives--and have already done just that to countless Americans.
From the Oregon lawyer falsely suspected of involvement with terrorism in Spain to the former University of Idaho football player arrested on the pretext that he was needed as a "material witness" (though he was never called to testify), this book is filled with unsettling stories of ordinary people caught in the government's dragnet. These are not just isolated mistakes in an otherwise sound program, but demonstrations of what can happen when our constitutional protections against government abuse are abandoned. Whether it's running a chat room, contributing to a charity, or even urging a terrorist group to forego its violent tactics, activities that should be protected by the First Amendment can now lead to prosecution. Blacklists and watchlists keep people grounded at airports and strand American citizens abroad, although these lists are rife with errors--errors that cannot be challenged. National Security Letters allow the FBI to demand records about innocent people from libraries, financial institutions, and internet service providers without ever going to court. Government databanks now brim with information about every aspect of our private lives, while efforts to mount legal challenges to these measures have been stymied.
Barack Obama, like George W. Bush, relies on secrecy and exaggerated claims of presidential prerogative to keep the courts and Congress from fully examining whether these laws and policies are constitutional, effective, or even counterproductive. Democracy itself is undermined. This book is a wake-up call for all Americans, who remain largely unaware of the post-9/11 surveillance regime's insidious and continuing growth.
"When citizens demand accountability in matters of national security, the government usually says: 'Just Trust Us.' That's not good enough for ACLU president Herman (The Right to a Speedy and Public Trial), who has written a sobering plea for official transparency in the age of terror. Weaving her analysis of constitutional law with humanizing portraits, she argues that ordinary Americans must involve themselves in preserving their own freedoms. Supporting evidence comes from those who have suffered most from the sweeping enforcement of PATRIOT Act provisions, including: an Idaho graduate student who spent 17 months in solitary confinement for serving as webmaster to a suspect site; a librarian in Washington who was asked by the FBI to hand over the name of every patron who had ever checked out a biography of Osama Bin Laden; and an Oregon lawyer whose fingerprints were incorrectly linked to the 2004 bombing of commuter trains in Madrid. Herman argues that these were not unfortunate mistakes, but rather, the inevitable result of a government operating with impunity. As critical of President Obama as she is of the Bush administration, Herman suggests: 'Tools as powerful as those in the post-9/11 arsenal are dangerous no matter who wields them.' "
Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Since 9/11, the U.S. government has acted in a variety of ways--some obvious, some nearly invisible--to increase its surveillance and detention power over American citizens and residents. While most of us have made our peace with the various new restrictions on our civil liberties after 9/11, we have done it without really understanding what those restrictions are or the extent of their reach. Moreover, we tend to think that if the national security state overreaches, we shouldn't worry--the courts will come to the rescue and rein it in. In Taking Liberties, Susan Herman explains how this came to be. Beginning in late 2001, the Bush Administration undertook a series of measures, some of which were understandable and valid given the context, to expand federal surveillance authority. Yet as she shows through a series of gripping episodes involving ordinary Americans, they overreached to the point eroding basic constitutional liberties. Herman spells out in vivid detail why all Americans should be worried about the governmental dragnet that has slowly and at times imperceptibly expanded its coverage over the American public. The erosion of civil liberties doesn't just impact immigrants, Americans of Middle Eastern descent, or Guantanamo detainees, but any American who appears to be engaging in provocative political activity. Taking Liberties is a wake-up call for all Americans, who remain largely unaware of the post-9/11 surveillance regime's insidious and continuing growth.
About the Author
Susan N. Herman became president of the American Civil Liberties Union in 2008 after serving on its national board for twenty years. A constitutional scholar and chaired professor at Brooklyn Law School, she is the co-editor (with Paul Finkelman) of Terrorism, Government, and Law and the author of The Right to a Speedy and Public Trial.
Table of Contents
PART I: DRAGNETS AND WATCHLISTS
Chapter 1 The Webmaster and the Football Player
The Material Support Dragnet
The Football Player
The Material Support and Material Witness Dragnets
Chapter 2. "Foreign Terrorist Organizations," Humanitarians,
and the First Amendment
The Iranian Democrat
Peacemakers and Humanitarians
Chapter 3. Charity at Home
The Campaign against Charities
Collateral Damage to Freedom of Religion and Association
Chapter 4 Traveling with Terror
Watching the Watchlists
The Rights of Others
Chapter 5 Banks and Databanks
Financial Institutions as TIPSters
Watchlists and the Private Sector
Does It Work?
Collecting the Dots
Why Should I Care? - Privacy and Democracy
PART II - SURVEILLANCE AND SECRECY
Chapter 6 Gutting the Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment and Terrorism
"Foreign" Intelligence Surveillance, Americans, and the Patriot Act
Mayfield v. United States Part II
The Secret Court and the One-Sided Litigation
A Job for Congress and the Courts
Chapter 7 The Patriot Act and Library/Business Records
Third Party Records and the Fourth Amendment
Reconsidering the "Library Provision"
Chapter 8 Gagging the Librarians
The Library Connection
Other Librarian Tales
Chapter 9 John Doe and the National Security Letter
Why National Security Letters?
John Doe and Victor Marrero
Loosening the Gag
Fourth Amendment Rights for NSL Recipients
First Amendment Rights for Internet Users
The Inspector General Exposés 2007-2010
National Security Letters, the Fourth Amendment, and Congress
Chapter 10 The President's Surveillance Program
In the Halls of the Department of Justice
The Rubber Stamp Congress
Closing the Courthouse Doors
The Secret Court Strikes Again
"What Else Is It That We Don't Know?"
PART III: RESTORING CHECKS AND BALANCES
Chapter 11 American Democracy - The President, the Congress, and the Courts
The View from the Oval Office - From Bush to Obama and Beyond
The Sleeping Watchdog
Secrecy and the Courts
The Eclipse of the Courts
What Our Readers Are Saying
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