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Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America [Kindle Edition]

David K. Shipler
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

An enlightening, intensely researched examination of violations of the constitutional principles that preserve individual rights and civil liberties from courtrooms to classrooms.
With telling anecdote and detail, Pulitzer Prize–winner David K. Shipler explores the territory where the Constitution meets everyday America, where legal compromises—before and since 9/11—have undermined the criminal justice system’s fairness, enhanced the executive branch’s power over citizens and immigrants, and impaired some of the freewheeling debate and protest essential in a constitutional democracy.
Shipler demonstrates how the violations tamper with America’s safety in unexpected ways. While a free society takes risks to observe rights, denying rights creates other risks. A suspect’s right to silence may deprive police of a confession, but a forced confession is often false. Honoring the right to a jury trial may be cumbersome, but empowering prosecutors to coerce a guilty plea means evidence goes untested, the charge unproved. An investigation undisciplined by the Bill of Rights may jail the innocent and leave the guilty at large and dangerous. Weakened constitutional rules allow the police to waste precious resources on useless intelligence gathering and frivolous arrests. The criminal courts act less as impartial adjudicators than as conveyor belts from street to prison in a system that some disillusioned participants have nicknamed “McJustice.”
There is, always, a human cost. Shipler shows us victims of torture and abuse—not only suspected terrorists at the hands of the CIA but also murder suspects interrogated by the Chicago police. We see a poverty-stricken woman forced to share an attorney with her drug dealer boyfriend and sentenced to six years in prison when the conflict of interest turns her lawyer against her. We meet high school students suspended for expressing unwelcome political opinions. And we see a pregnant immigrant deported, after years of living legally in the country, for allegedly stealing a lottery ticket.
Often shocking, yet ultimately idealistic, Rights at Risk shows us the shadows of America where the civil liberties we rightly take for granted have been eroded—and summons us to reclaim them.

Editorial Reviews


“Fascinating . . . Monumental . . . Shipler is particularly good at weaving together legal history and personal storytelling.”
            -Richard McGill Murphy, Fortune
“Shipler doesn’t mince words or shy away from the hard issues . . . The writing is precise, interesting, and frequently moving . . . His coverage, concreteness, and willingness to candidly take on the range of issues make this a terrific book for anyone interested in our rights and liberties.”
            -David Kairys, Philadelphia Inquirer
“There are many books about the stories behind Supreme Court cases. Shipler’s distinctive contribution is the thoroughness and originality of his reporting.”
            -Jeffrey Rosen, The Washington Post
“Fascinating and provocative . . . This book is a must for readers who want to stay informed of their rights in the shadowy territory where the government’s need for order and security overstep constitutional protections.”
            -Starred review, Publishers Weekly
“Well-reported . . . No matter the issue, Shipler humanizes the discussion throughout, linking each topic to stories of real people silenced, marginalized, neglected, bullied, even brutalized by a government that should know better.”
“An eye-opening and troubling look at failures in the criminal justice system that put at risk the rights of all citizens.”
“David Shipler's important new book powerfully reminds us that our constitutional rights are little more than words on paper if we fail to take them seriously when it's inconvenient or even painful to do so.”
            -Linda Greenhouse, author of Becoming Justice Blackmun
“David Shipler’s Rights at Risk is simply a wonderful book. It lays out, more powerfully than anything else I have read, how our constitutional rights have been whittled away in recent years—by presidents and judges and police chiefs. All in the name of national security or safe streets. More than a cry in the night, it is a careful, intensely researched account of a dangerous trend that not enough of us have noticed. Not just law, it is human drama.”
            -Anthony Lewis, author of Gideon’s Trumpet
“In Rights at Risk, Shipler continues his project of showing us how the constitutional rights we exalt in theory are being undermined in practice. This masterful and illuminating book reports how our criminal justice system frequently omits the justice, and how we are not as free to speak out to and against the government as we might like to think. The Constitution needs our help to survive, and reading this book is a valuable first step to reclaiming our fundamental values of fairness and equality for ourselves and for future generations.”
            -Susan Herman, President of American Civil Liberties Union and author of Taking Liberties

“Shipler argues that although a basic knowledge of the Bill of Rights by all citizens is not possible to achieve, we need to maintain a robust ‘Constitutional culture.’ By reading this book and discussing it with others, you will be doing your part.”
            -Portland Book Review


About the Author

David K. Shipler reported for The New York Times from 1966 to 1988 in New York, Saigon, Moscow, Jerusalem, and Washington, D.C. He is the author of five other books, including the best sellers Russia and The Working Poor, as well as Arab and Jew, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Shipler, who has been a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has taught at Princeton University; at American University in Washington, D.C.; and at Dartmouth College. He writes online at The Shipler Report.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1557 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 6, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004X6P0WA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #792,501 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For All Concerned Americans! May 21, 2012
Whether you are on the political right, left, or center, this is a book that you need to read. I don't say it lightly, and "must read" is a term thrown around to the point of cliche. But that's what I mean... if you are concerned American, you simply must read this.

Journalist David Shipler has done us a service with Rights at Risk. Most of use have grown up believing that our adversarial justice system is quite fair, that our right to speak, peaceably demonstrate, and petition the government "shall not be infringed," that we have a sphere of personal privacy guaranteed us by our Constitution and government. In this book, Shipler recounts just how much these used-to-be truths are eroding. Particularly, ever since Sept. 11th (but certainly not ONLY since then), our justice system has become more weighted toward the rights of the prosecution, our First and Fourth amendment rights have become subject to much more 'balancing" (where government courts get to decide when rights are outweighed by compelling government interests), and more.

Much of the book is spent on civil rights...rights to a fair and speedy trial, rights to a trial by jury, rights delimiting what police and prosecutors can do. One concern Shipler is concerned to document is the murky territory of what counts as a coerced confession. Police can lie to suspects (claiming they have evidence they don't have), employ pretty harsh psychological tactics to wear suspects down, threaten suspects with fictitious legal action in order to scare them into confession, etc. (And this is not even close to what the military allows...even during the Obama administration).
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended July 13, 2012
Last summer I read David K.Shipler's first book on this topic, The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties (see my review by clicking here) and I found it to be the most profound book I read that summer and maybe all year. I began my review of that book with this thought:

"I always tell people that the traditional left-right continuum used to describe someone's politics is so inaccurate as to be useless. Really, what is the difference between an aging hippie living on a hill somewhere raising some dope for personal use and telling the government to get out of his business and a Barry Goldwater-type conservative (like me) living by himself on a hill somewhere that tells the government to get its nose out of his business? Some dope. Otherwise, they are both determined advocates of civil liberties - keep out of my business if it is not hurting anyone else."

When I read the first book I was expecting to get a snoot full of political commentary that I disagreed with from a New York Times reporter with a left-wing agenda. To be blunt, I was expecting one of those political attack books that Al Franken, Michael Moore, Ann Coulter and David Limbaugh produce with regularity (Well, Al Franken is busy being a Senator now so I suppose he has stopped). Instead, I found the book to be politically balanced and quite remarkable. This book is just as remarkable, if a little less balanced by the inclusion of a half-dozen snide comments that should have been edited out, in my opinion.
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lynne Stewart is being punished for being the lawyer representing poor and despised people we need more lawyers like her and William M. Kunstler may he rest in peace there is no justice in America for lawyers like Lynne Stewart you ask why would I say that turn to the top of page 104 "She was prosecuted, convicted, disbarred, and sentenced to twenty-eight months in prison......." The section ZONING OUT FREE SPEECH beginning on page 242 is more must read material on what is happening in present day America everyone in this country needs to read this book.
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2 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Please just another joke book September 3, 2012
This is nothing more than another attempt by a left-wing wimp to hate on America. First off saying torture never works is a bald face lie. That right there is enough to tell you there is no objectivity from this wimp author. Secondly to the left torture is as simple as depriving someone of sleep. Anybody that thinks they will be getting anything but a fool and his idiotic ideology here is mistaken. There is nothing wrong about having a debate about torture and whether or not a country should use but if you start with a lie and continue to try and make your case with more lies then you are not capable of having a serious conversation nor should you be worth wasting time on. This coward author is nothing more than a joke and that is why this piece of junk book isn't worth reading.
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More About the Author

David K. Shipler

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author and Former Foreign
Correspondent of The New York Times
Writes online at The Shipler Report,

Born Dec. 3, 1942. Grew up in Chatham, N.J. Married with three children. Graduated from Dartmouth in 1964. Served in U.S. Navy as officer on a destroyer, 1964-66.

Joined The New York Times as a news clerk in 1966. Promoted to city staff reporter, 1968. Covered housing, poverty, politics. Won awards from the American Political Science Association, the New York Newspaper Guild, and elsewhere.

From 1973-75 served as a New York Times correspondent in Saigon, covering South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Reported also from Burma.

Spent a semester in 1975 at the Russian Institute of Columbia U. studying Russian language and Soviet politics, economics and history to prepare for assignment in Moscow. Correspondent in Moscow Bureau for four years, 1975-79; Moscow Bureau Chief from 1977-79. Wrote the best-seller Russia: Broken Idols, Solemn Dreams, published in 1983, updated in 1989, which won the Overseas Press Club Award in 1983 as the best book that year on foreign affairs.

From 1979-84, served as Bureau Chief of The New York Times in Jerusalem. Was co-recipient (with Thomas Friedman) of the 1983 George Polk Award for covering Lebanon War.

Spent a year, 1984-85, as a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington to write Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land, which explores the mutual perceptions and relationships between Arabs and Jews in Israel and the West Bank. The book won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction and was extensively revised and updated in 2002. Was executive producer, writer and narrator of a two-hour PBS documentary on Arab and Jew, which won a 1990 Dupont-Columbia award for broadcast journalism, and of a one-hour film, Arab and Jew: Return to the Promised Land, which aired on PBS in August 2002.

Served as Chief Diplomatic Correspondent in the Washington Bureau of The New York Times until 1988. From 1988-90 was a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writing on transitions to democracy in Russia and Eastern Europe for The New Yorker and other publications.

His book A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America, based on five years of research into stereotyping and interactions across racial lines, was published in 1997. One of three authors invited by President Clinton to participate in his first town meeting on race.

His book, The Working Poor: Invisible in America, was a national best-seller in 2004 and 2005. It was a finalist for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award and the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award. It won an Outstanding Book Award from The Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights at Simmons College and led to awards from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the New York Labor Communications Council, and the D.C. Employment Justice Center. He has written two books on civil liberties, the first published in 2011, The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties and the second, Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America, in 2012.

Shipler has received a Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Award from Dartmouth and the following honorary degrees: Doctor of Letters from Middlebury College and Glassboro State College (N.J.), Doctor of Laws from Birmingham-Southern College, and Master of Arts from Dartmouth College, where he served on the Board of Trustees from 1993 to 2003. Member of the Pulitzer jury for general nonfiction in 2008, chair in 2009. Has taught at Princeton and American University, as writer-in-residence at U. of Southern California, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow on about fifteen campuses, and a Montgomery Fellow and Visiting Professor of Government at Dartmouth.

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