This is obviously a "quickie" book--digressive, reiterative, and poorly organized, as if it had been cut and pasted on the fly--and yet it should be read by anybody who still cares about American civil liberties. The message is a solemn one: Hentoff argues that George W. Bush and his administration--especially Attorney General John Ashcroft--have used the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 as a pretext for curtailing the privileges that have long been taken for granted in the United States, most notoriously with the so-called "Patriot Act." Hentoff's tone will not be to everybody's taste: he is unremittingly shrill and preachy--imagine Lenny Bruce without a sense of humor--but the barrage of evidence he has assembled is both persuasive and bi-partisan (he notes, for example, that conservative House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Republican Congressman Bob Barr have warned of a gradual erosion of constitutional rights). He quotes with approval The Washington Post
's political columnist Richard Cohen on Ashcroft ("The attorney general is far more dangerous than any of the immigrants he wrongly detained"), defends the statement, and then goes on to suggest manners and methods for true
patriots to take our country back. --Tim Page
From Publishers Weekly
Hentoff, a veteran defender of civil liberties, elaborates on the legal "steamroller" unleashed after September 11 that he contends is diminishing our civil rights. Thanks to the USA Patriot Act, Hentoff reports, the FBI has authority to enter your apartment without serving a warrant first, take "evidence," copy computer files and even install software that will record your every keystroke for government perusal. All of this is done in the name of fighting terrorism, but, Hentoff relates, the government no longer requires hard evidence of terrorist ties, and actions as simple as attending a protest rally or donating to a charitable organization are now enough to arouse the interest of federal spies. This concise expos/manifesto, the latest salvo in Hentoff's lifelong defense of constitutional liberties, concerns developments he's covered for the Village Voice and other publications, but draws them together into a blistering attack on the administration, and on Attorney General John Ashcroft in particular, who Hentoff says has "subverted more elements of the Bill of Rights than any attorney general in American history." He berates Congress for its "supine" acquiescence to the Patriot Act, and the media for slack coverage of these issues. and raises the specter of J. Edgar Hoover's goon squads. Anyone concerned with civil liberties should read this short and snappy report from the frontlines of this latest constitutional struggle.
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