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The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance Hardcover – September 2, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press; A Seven Stories Press 1st Ed edition (September 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583226214
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583226216
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.7 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,732,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Royce E. Buehler on September 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. Why is it the time? Because our basic constitutional rights are under the most vigorous full frontal assault since the Civil War, and possibly of our whole history.
Previous assaults have all taken place in time of war. But always in time of a real war, that is to say, military actions undertaken against identifiable enemy states, ending in clear victory or withdrawal. The "war on terror" is a struggle against a permanent class of shadowy enemies. Al Qaeda is a serious threat, but while there may not always be an Al Qaeda, there will always be terrorists. Any freedom we relinquish only for the duration of the "war" on terror will be a freedom we lose forever.
Hentoff wastes no words. He doesn't rant, preferring to quote the sober judgments of the Supreme Court and the Founding Fathers. He gives us a quick but reasonably thorough overview of the many blows Ashcroft's Justice Department has rained on the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, and the principle of an open government accountable to the people. He provides the dates and notable contents of the bills, the executive orders, and the arrogations of power, usually sufficiently sourced to follow the dots in Google to the full texts. He brings the story right up to date (including the Justice Department's own stinging inspector general's report from June of 2003).
And though the crisis is urgent, Hentoff offers a lot of hope. Because, as he also documents, Americans from the grass roots to Congress, of all political persuasions, have started waking up to the danger and taking action.
Don't be confused by the one-star reviews. This is in no sense a partisan book, except to the extent that Franklin, Adams and Jefferson were partisans of liberty.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Pat G. Roach on September 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The point of the book is to assess the current state of civil liberties in America in light of legislation enacted and attempted by Bush-Ashcroft. In Hentoff's typically tight yet thorough journalistic style he documents the case that indeed, American's 4th Amendment (regarding unreasonable search and seizure) and 5th Amendment (regarding due process of law for suspects) rights have been and are being egregiously violated. Furthermore, these violations are hastily being codified into law. He commends Republicans and rebuffs Democrats (and vice-versa, when appropriate) for standing up for the Constitution, so he is not simply acting as a shill for the Left, as some might be inclined to assume. The question that should plague the reader after finishing the book is this: if in our war on terror we destroy the values which make America what it is (e.g. Bill of Rights) are we not then losing the war? And what way of life are we trying to preserve by the war, if we compromise our defining document - the Constitution
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Theodore A. Rushton on December 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a chilling record of the government assault on basic American civil liberties by a cowardly Bush administration that is increasingly relying on a climate of fear to hold onto power.
Net Hentoff, of course, is an immediately suspect writer. He has an impeccable record of defending, explaining, respecting and advocating civil rights. He is one of those precious few in every society with the courage to challenge the power of government to boss people around. He functions at the level of you, me and us.
Some politicians have a different outlook; they think they deal in great national and global issues on which the future of all mankind hinges. They are wrong, of course. It's not because they are evil, though some are certainly evil. It's because the nature of representative democracy requires politicians to represent all of the people. Like any "averaging" system, it excludes anyone who is not in the white bread and vanilla pudding "middle" of society. In a free society, individuals are free to choose such exotic ideas as Thai red-curry chicken or a sunny Provencal daube.
The US Constitution and its Bill of Rights wasn't handed down to us by ancient wise politicians; it is a set of values of the American people. Personally, I have great faith in the individual wisdom of Americans. Even if everything Hentoff says comes true, I'm confident a new "American Revolution" will root out such tyranny. Hentoff is not so sanguine, he stresses the "grass roots of the Constitution" and urges freedom loving Americans to act now. Ashcroft needs to be reminded his sworn duty is to uphold the Constitution, not to cave into the fears of the chicken-hawks in the Bush administration.
Normally, civil rights is a liberal issue.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D. Smithee on December 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This work is not nearly as disorganized as the Amazon.com review would suggest, but would have gotten five stars if an editor had tightened it up a bit.
Nat Hentoff offers a succinct and revealing view of the 2001 "Patriot Act" the Bush II administration rushed through congress. In many cases the provisions of this law come in direct conflict with several of the first ten amendments and give our government, specifically the executive branch, frighteningly broad powers over the citizenry it is supposed to serve.
Particulary scary is the President's new power to hold people indefinately without charging them, without access to attorneys and without the knowledge of anyone, including their family. The comparisons to Abraham Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeous corpus during the Civil War are inevitable. However, the strugle to hold our country together had a distinct end, which is something the current administration's war on terror lacks. The executive branch may hold this power forever.
Mr. Hentoff extends his analysis to "Patriot Act II" which has not yet been passed, but could grant this power against U.S. citizens. He examines other portions of the bills which allow the siezure of property merely on suspicion, rather than reasonable evidence and the installation of the "magic lantern" into peoples' computers, allowing government agencies to track all activity without their knowledge. Your records from public libraries and booksellers may be seized and examined not only without your knowledge, but the acts make it illegal for these organizations to tell you the records have been accessed. The U.S. government is slowly removing many of the protections that make the United States unique and free.
As quoted from the third season of The Simpsons, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." This book arms you with the knowlege to help protect your freedoms. It is a quick and gripping read.
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