The initial shock and horror that followed 9/11 gave way to a sense of national unity and even defiance in the United States: we would not cower to terrorism. But below this resurgence of nationalism and the outer trappings of righteous anger, a spirit of fear festered and grew.
It is this spirit of fear that prompted Americans- even the most conservative and usually the most protective of their constitutional rights- to increasingly accept a loss of liberty in favor of the growing demands of national security. Author Karen Greenberg, in her new book “Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State”, argues that the Bush administration both reacted to this fear and exploited it, ultimately using it as the vehicle for extending the powers of the executive office farther than our Constitution ever provided, and trampling on the rights of citizens and the integrity of the justice system in the process.
“Rogue Justice” examines the erosion of our civil liberties at the hand of the executive office, starting in George W. Bush’s administration and continuing in Barack Obama’s. While the author clearly strives to be objective in her coverage of the legal maneuverings and policy decisions orchestrated by both administrations in response to the ongoing war on terror, a hint of partisan bias still manages to comes through. This was most apparent in Greenberg’s repeated censure of the Bush administration’s legalization of torture and abuse of executive powers in contrast to what felt like a downplaying of Obama’s “kill list”, his frequent use of assassination-by-drone, his failure to close Guantanamo as promised and his utter lack of transparency. To be sure, Greenberg did express dismay at Obama’s failure to reform the abuses within the national security apparatus and his continuation of most of the Bush administration’s policies in that respect; however, her criticism of Bush came through far more strongly.
That aside, “Rogue Justice” is very readable and completely enthralling. Although there’s a considerable amount of ‘legalese’, you certainly don’t have to be a politician, an academic or a lawyer to appreciate this book. For the typical American citizen who kept up on the news over the years, but doesn’t really have a deep understanding of the Patriot Act, the Freedom Act, our government’s approved use of torture, indefinite detainment of prisoners, drone-killing, Edward Snowden’s leak of classified information or the government’s blanket surveillance of American citizens’ communications- the behind-the-scenes look provided by “Rogue Justice” will leave you reeling. This book should also challenge simplistic views of right versus left/conservative versus liberal when it comes to the executive office and the path our government- whether under Republican or Democrat leadership- has chosen to in the interest of national security. I would recommend this book to anyone who desires to be a better informed citizen and I would certainly challenge anyone who believes that national security justifies tampering with our constitutional liberties, the rule of law and the values our nation was founded on, to read this book and re-examine their presuppositions.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.