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Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice Hardcover – April 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


“Gripping. . . . An inspiring example of reporters doing what they do best. . . . All the President's Men for an age of terror.”
The New York Times

“A riveting account of the Bush administration's various steps and missteps in chasing down terrorists. . . . A must-read for those curious about the back story in the legal war on terror.”

“This highly detailed, well-documented account is an exhibit of investigative reporting at its finest.”
Rocky Mountain News

“Chilling. . . . Reminds us that our constitutional rights are fragile.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Even readers who have followed the Bush administration's legalistic contortions...may be unnerved by Lichtblau's recounting of the human dramas behind the stories of laws broken and ignored.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Gripping.... At a time when the press's role in American democracy is being hotly contested, this book provides an inspiring example of reporters doing what they do best.”
The New York Times

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Eric Lichtblau received the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, for his stories on the NSA's wiretapping program. He has worked in the Washington bureau of The New York Times, covering the Justice Department, since 2002. From 1999 to 2002 he covered the Justice Department for the Los Angeles Times. He is a graduate of Cornell University and lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037542492X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424922
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,771,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By David W. Straight on April 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a good solid work about law and justice in the Bush Administration. It's a story of good and evil, law and lawlessness, trust and distrust. You might want to consider first reading Robert Conquest's fine book The Great Terror, which is about the purges, the show trials, law and justice under Stalin. Much is different, of course, but there are some uncomfortable parallels. Perhaps the most striking thing in The Great Terror was that under Stalin, being suspected of anti-Soviet activities was a serious crime. This is not the same as actually being guilty of such activity, but rather just the fact that you had been suspected (even if totally innocent, as the vast majority were) earned you a trip to the cellars to be shot, or a death sentence in the labor camps. Bush's Law makes it clear that suspicion earns punishment in one form or another.

Bush's Law emphasizes the use and misuse of national security letters, the bypassing of the normal legal safeguards, the punishments for Justice Department and FBI people who "weren't on the team". Loyalty becomes the paramount virtue: "meine ehre heist treue" (my honor is loyalty). The book talks about the firings of the US Attorneys: being "loyal Bushies" was crucial to being kept on, and the dissembling explanations by Gonzales and the White House made a mockery of the traditional image of blind justice with a scales in one hand and a sword in the other. The book describes how Gonzales explored the possibilities of prosecuting journalists under the Espionage Act of 1917. You get the strong impression that a free press was considered a greater threat to America than al Qaeda.

For a book on a similar subject, try Clive Smith's Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Bob Herndon on April 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a very impressive and unusual book written by a reporter who has covered the Justice Dept for a long time. There have been any number of good books published about the War on Terror and the Bush Administration's response to it. What sets Licthblau's book apart from the rest is that large sections are written in the first person and not only recount the events and facts but describe the mindset and calculus employed by policymakers who in real time had to make the decisions necessary to protect the country from follow-up attacks after September 11. Perhaps the strongest chapter in the book details the pressure the White House put on the New York Times that led the paper--much to Licthblau's chagrin--to hold off on publishing the story about NSA's surveillance program for a year. For this reason, I agree with the reviewer in the NY Times book review who wrote that this book is the equivalent of Woodward and Bernstein's classic "All the President's Men" for the terror age.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Daniel E. Marthaler on May 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It took me a while to read this book. Not because it wasn't well written, on the contrary, it is an extremely well written book. No, I could only stomach around 20 or so pages at a time, before I was so angry I had to put it down. This is a must read for people who want to know what the Bush Administration has been up to for the last few years. Unfortunately, some of the details cannot be included, as they are either unknown or classified. In any case, a book that flows, that is easy to read and has (IMHO) one of the most pressing themes of today.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Everyone knows that there were big changes because of the 9/11 attacks. There had to be legal changes, too, and different ways of investigating crimes. No one disputes that the legal and investigative changes had to come, but the Constitution did not change. Those who were interested in torturing prisoners, or reading our e-mails, or snooping around our closets, had to do legalistic contortions to get their way. There are still those who say that such actions were fully justified, but undoubtedly the abuse of our Bill of Rights is part of the reason the current president has record-level unpopularity ratings. Eric Lichtblau has worked for the _New York Times_, and got a Pulitzer in 2006 for his stories on the Bush administration's wiretapping efforts. The centerpiece of his book, _Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice_ (Pantheon), is an insider's view on how he got that story and especially how the _Times_ only eventually, after much hesitation, printed it. That isn't the only story here, though, as Lichtblau has written a wider account of how the re-interpretation of the laws has made victims of citizens and of administrators who did not willingly accept that the re-interpretations were legal.

Lichtblau writes of the post-9/11 attitude, "This was a war planned in secret at the highest reaches of the Bush administration, with a go-it-alone muscularity that relied at its core on a broad, omnipotent reading of the president's wartime authority." There are a few heroes here who understood that the furious expansion of presidential powers was not just a given, like James Ziglar, the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who objected to ethnic-profile sweeps of Muslim neighborhoods.
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