From Publishers Weekly
Posner, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, inaugurates a new series on inalienable rights. The series is intended to stimulate debate, and Posner's work will do exactly that, drilling energetically into a set of issues raised by what he sees as an unprecedented emergency. In the fact of terrorism and the threat of WMDs, he argues, the scope of constitutional rights must be adjusted—i.e., narrowed—in a pragmatic but rational manner. Saying we must balance the harm new security measures inflict on personal liberty against the increased security those measures provide, Posner comes down, in most but not quite all respects, on the side of increased government power. He advocates that coercive and even brutal forms of interrogation should be allowed in proper circumstances, that all communications within the United States should be subject to interception, and that government should have authority to enjoin publication of classified information. Posner (An Affair of State) would impose limits and qualifications on these assertions of government power, but even so, his views will provoke Category 5 protest from civil libertarians. You may agree with or be appalled by Posner's cost-benefit analyses, but the author's premises are explicit, his writing is economical and precise, and he ably makes the case for his side in the national debate. (Sept. 18)
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Posner, a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals, addresses the intersection of personal liberties with public safety that has been strained since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Posner takes a pragmatic approach, recognizing a need for flexibility to prevent breaking our system of laws, national security, and individual liberties. Recognizing that terrorist acts are not easily classified as either "war" or "crime," Posner sees the need to contextualize our responses, adjusting civil liberties to accommodate the need for public safety. Underlying much of the contemporary debate is the issue of which branch of government should decide these issues in times of national crisis--the courts or the executive branch. Posner sees constitutional rights as a function of Supreme Court rulings that are primarily based on the practical consequences perceived by the majority of jurists, in contrast to some perceived legal logic. He argues that judges are not especially well equipped to deal with national-security issues. Civil libertarians may take issue, but readers on all sides will appreciate Posner's outspokenness. Vernon Ford
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