Most of us lived through 9/11 and its aftermath, and will be familiar with the topics addressed in this book. Greenberg excels in describing the initial degradation in constitutional protection and the different forces that have resulted in continued incursions on our rights. Everyone has heard about Abu Ghraib and Edward Snowden, but unless you keep an eye on the courts, you may not have been aware of the continued tussles between the judiciary and the executive branch over jurisdiction and presidential power.
This is not an anti-Bush screed, though there is a moment of hope when Obama comes into office and appoints Eric Holder as Attorney General. Alas, confounded by battling with the judiciary, which mostly will not concede that it’s ok to torture anyone, including US citizens, the Obama administration resorts to drone kills.In one particularly horrific case, the father of a non-terrorist target of this program tries to take legal action to prevent his son’s murder. He is told that he has no standing to sue, and that “there are circumstances in which the Executive’s unilateral decision to kill a US citizen overseas is…judicially unreviewable.” A few months later the son, along with some unfortunate friends, is drone-killed. At least 1000 others have met a similar fate, many of them as collateral damage. Note that the guilty parties need not have committed a crime, but must only be deemed capable of committing a crime. The thought police are among us.
If you despise the ACLU and believe we have been engaged in a nonstop battle against the forces of evil since 2001, you will not enjoy this book. Don’t even bother. If, on the other hand, you want to cheer when a Supreme (in this case, Justice Anthony Kennedy) says: “The Nation’s basic charter cannot be contracted away like this….to hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this Court, say what the law is” you will find this book a riveting read. The writing is a little dry, more academic than journalistic, but once I got into it, it was hard to put down.
I have picked up Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals and also Guantánamo Diary for more background. I recommend reading Rogue Justice on a kindle or other e-reader so you can more easily follow up on references to people and places — Rogue Justice covers a lot of ground, and you could use up a batch of sticky notes on this book.