35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2003
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. Ashcroft is thoroughly bashed, but Bush hardly comes in for a mention. There are as many Republican heroes credited here - Dick Armey, Charles Grassley, Bob Barr, even Grover Norquist - as there are Democratic ones. The Bill of Rights, after all, is the common glory of every American. Ashcroft's claim, for example, (sustained by the fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on December 8, 2002) that any President and any Attorney General have the right, on their sole say-so, to imprison any American citizen indefinitely without charges or legal representation, is a declaration of war on the spirit of America, and of everyone who values freedom. That's Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, and independents alike.
It's short. It's alarmed because the times are alarming, but it's measured in tone. It's packed with information you *should* have been reading in your paper. Do yourself and your country a favor, and read it.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2003
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
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2003
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. But not this time. Hentoff repeatedly quotes the leading conservatives in Congress, plus right-wing papers such as The Washington Times. A lot of people across the politiocal spectrum are genuinely upset about the threat to our basic rights. It is an issue that concerns all those interested in individual freedom, and his book draws from an eclectic range of sources.
Okay, so Attorney General John Ashcroft says his trashing of civil rights is necessary to fight terrorism. Under the new laws, Hentoff points out that a person who stands peacefully outside an abortion clinic to urge women not to have an abortion could technically be charged as a terrorist and lose all of their civil and legal rights. Will this happen? Well, it's not likely (cross-your-fingers) under Ashcroft -- but he (hopefully) isn't Attorney General-for-life.
Far-fetched? Well, remember the 1930s when mobsters weren't convicted of being killers? Convictions were based on income tax charges. Remember the Mississippi murders of civil rights workers in the 1960s? Their murderers were not convicted of murder; they were nailed for violating the civil rights of the victims. The lesson is that if the government wants to convict a person, they will find a way. In this book, Hentoff shows how the government now has hundreds of new ways of convicting any individual who upsets these new absolute monarchs of madness. King George III should have been so lucky!!!
Hentoff offers enough examples to frighten everyone who values American rights. What can you do on an individual basis? Well, people who love liberty in many communities have persuaded local governments to enact policies refusing to cooperate with the police state envisioned by Ashcroft. This book provides dozens of reasons to take such action.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2003
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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2003
I never knew most of the things this book uncovers --I think neither did most of the members of congress who voted for the Patriot Act. It is disturbing to find how close to losing our fundamental constitutional rights we can come without realizing it. A wake-up call here.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2004
I hate writing reviews, but here's one for this book. I picked it up over holidays and read it in a few days. The book summarizes various violations to the Bill of Rights focusing on 1st and 4th amendments. It asks the so called "unpatriotic" questions, and thus exposing many things that are overlooked by mainstream media and consequently majority of Americans.
Hentoff might as well send his book to all of the senators save Russ Feingold who was the only one to dissent on USA PATRIOT Act pushed so hastily by the Justice Department a month after 9/11.
I don't care who you are a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent; you should always ask questions! Don't let anybody tell you that questioning your commander in chief is unpatriotic! America was born out of dissent. America should always question their leaders' decisions; that is what makes this country so great-the ability to do so.
Read this book and after do not just put it down, but make your phone call, email your senators/representatives and let them know: YOU WANT YOUR RIGHTS BACK!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2003
While more and more books and articles which nail the destruction of American Democracy upon the "crazies" who constitute today's neo-conservative movement are finding the light of day, this book is particularly clear in pointing out the death of The Bill of Rights.
The vast and growing mass of moderately conservative Americans who are coming to join along with liberals in dismay of this evil treachery will find this book clear in its details, which explain how the neo-con axis of Bush/Cheney/Ashcroft/Rumsfeld etc. have become the most destructive terrorists acting against America.
Nat Hentoff is an excellent writer who's been writing about a vast spectrum of topics for decades. This work is as readable as you would expect from him.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
" If Americans win a war (not just against Saddam Hussein) but the longer term struggle and lose the Constitution, they will have lost everything." (Lance Morrow from TIME, March 10,2003). This is a meaningful quote from page 105 of Nat Hentoff's book titled THE WAR ON THE BILL OF RIGHTS AND THE GATHERING RESISTANCE. This quote is a good summary of the theme of the book which thoughtful readers should read and seriously ponder.
The first sections of the book deal with inane, stupid remarks by government officials between 2001-2003. For example, Bush & co. said they were going to spy on Americans and curtail First Amendment Rights as well as Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eight Amendment Rights to protect "Freedom." The book has government officials' quotes either threatening those who dissented from government attempts to lie and deceive the American citizenry in the name of security. Atty. General Ashcroft threatened those who disagreed with The Patriot Act (the most unpatriotic legislation this reviewer has seen)with criminal charges and the official designation of terrorist which eventually was openly defied.
Nat Hentoff then details actual and potential abuses committed by government against U.S. citizens who were/are deemed terrorists real or imagined (in most cases imagined). For example, U.S. citizens have been assassinated in foreign lands because of alleged friendships. One U.S. citizen was assassinated (executed) without any charge or suspicion of any charnges. Only after he was executed came the charge he was a terrorist when he could no longer legally defend himself against such allegations. Other Americans have been victimized by government agents breaking-and-entering into innocent Americans' homes to take "evidence" with no charges ever filed. These illegal burglaries enabled gov't agents to take whatever they want and leave no receipt or account of whatever was taken (stolen). If homeowners complain, they can arrested for protesting theft of personal property. The Patriot Act can disinfranchise U.S. citizens and cause loss of citizenship for exercising First Amendment Rights auch as Freedom of Speech and Press.
Further scrutiny of the Patriot Act is cause for more concern. Financial auditors can be prosectuted for publicizing fraud and corrpution especially when they tell the truth. Americans can prosecuted based on false rumor, hearsay evidence, outright distortions and lies, plus false testimony. Those charged have no right to confront hostile witnesses (Sixth Amendment right), no right to a public trial by jury, no right to legal counsel, etc. U.S. citizens can lose all their rights of Due Process (Fifth Amendment Rights) plus lose the right against self incrimination. American citizens can subject to torture (violation of Eightth Amendment Rights)and subject to secret military tribunals where the Rules of Evidence do not meet the standards of proof in civilian courts. What Bush & co. have stated is that mere false accusations and politcal power are to become the prevailing legal (illegal) system.
Yet to the chagrin of Bush & co. some thoughtful Americans have defied the Patriot Act and govenment officials. Beginning in 2002, some folks in New England started Bill of Rights Committees to defy John Ashcroft and the Bush Adm. The day Ashcroft announced that those who exercised their rights under the Bill Rights could be arrested and prosecuted, some folks in New England formed Bill of Rights Committees in open defiance of Ashcroft and Bush & co. Some folks in California and Broward County, Florida formed similar committees and created Free Speech/Free Press Zones. Government abuses have been challenged in court with some surprising success. Hentoff asked the question if enough Americans were interested enough in their birthright to give the Constitution and The Bill of Rights a continuing American legacy. Time will tell.
Other anecdotes should have been included. For example, postal authorties called the police in Chicago, Ill. when postal patrons wanted stamps with the Liberty Bell rather than stamps with American Flag. When American citizens are arrested for wanting stamps with the word "Liberty" rather than stamps with the American Flag, the time for concern is past due. One book store patron in Atlanta,Ga. had visit from the FBI because some do gooder tattle tale reported this patron for reading an article the tattle tale did not like.
Readers should note that Nat Hentoff is not partison. One of the Republican conservatives, Richard Armey, excoriated Bush & co. for their abuse of power and breaking the law. Don Young, a conservative Republican from Alaska, also had severe criticism for the abuse of power and illegal government activities that violated the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the rule of law.
Mr. Hentoff wrote a book that is important reading for those who value "old fashioned Americanism." A comment was made about the abuse of power and U.S. imperialism that dissent against imperialism and defense of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights was 100% Americanism. Honoring the U.S. Constituion and the Bill of Rights is the sign of a true patriot.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2007
When I first got the book in the mail and saw on the back a rather substantial plug from Judge Napolitano I thought,"OH WOW!!! This really must be an incredible book!"
About the first 1/2 to 2/3ds of the book Hentoff does a most masterfull job of laying out how Bush and Co. have raped the guts right out of the Constitution. But at the same time while going through things I clearly picked up a strong thread of liberalism. Rather than blowing the Patriot Act and Bush out of the water like he could, it doesn't take Hentoff long before he starts citing and referencing well known and clearly liberally biased sources like the NY and LA Times, the ACLU, and the Washington Post, even though some of the concerns and takes they raise may be valid. At the same time he, too many times, refers to our Constitutional Democracy which, for a supposed constitutional scholar, he's grossly in error on as the Constitution clearly states guaranteeing to each state a republican form of government.
And he does come across as at least a little partisan when he talks about the "democrats" who voted against the Patriot Act and/or Bush. I believe there might be more than a slight inference in the overall style of the book that "if we just get the right "democrats" back in office we'll be okay."
But he does do, initially, a very good job talking about the FBI cointelpro operation(counterintelligence stuff)which lead to the Senate Select Committee hearings, headed up by Frank Church, which helped reestablish some boundaries which the gov't and the FBI had to respect. But he does bring these up to talk about how badly OberstFuhrer Bush and his merry band of SS men have completely overturned and flouted them.
Too, Hentoff does a very good, and scary, job elaborating on how, ultimately now(if it wasn't already), the Constitution is little more than a roll of toilet paper for the gov't to wipe itself with if they choose to target and go after someone. Hentoff does get in to some very very alarming detail on how, with Echelon, Carnivore, the Terror Information Awareness System, the TIPS(creating informants) program,the gov't in its totality is trying to farm and watch everything-create virtually a total police state-in order to thwart the "war on terrorism", which is endless the way they've defined it. He does a beautiful job too at laying out the hypocracy of bush and all his minions when they talk about wanting to preserve our freedoms and way of life when they haven't the slightest respect for our freedoms and are radically altering our way of life.
Summing up, the book could have been a lot more in depth and Hentoff could have gotten in to a lot of other stuff to help buttress the undergirding title of the book.
on November 23, 2008
This book from Nat Hentoff covers the same ground that a lot of other authors have covered. He blasts Ashcroft and Bush for the Patriot Act, the rush to pass it, and the related erosion of civil liberties.
What Mr. Hentoff does better than most writers is tie together the little-known activities used by Ashcroft and others to back-door unconstitutional provisions that were originally rejected.
He also does an excellent job of exposing some of the positive counter-actions to the Patriot Act across the country. These actions by cities and towns across America got little media attention. The resistance is the best part of the book in my humble opinion.
He provides first-hand observations from both Democrats and Republicans on the subject of former AG Ashcroft's lack of concern or lack of knowledge about the Constitution and Bill of Rights. An interesting quote from Ashcroft in a 1997 statement titled "Keep Big Brother's Hands Off the Internet" highlights the hypocrisy of the former AG. It's ironic that within a 5 year span Mr. Ashcroft went from that position to actually becoming an aggressive component of "Big Brother".
Mr. Hentoff gives due credit to Senator Russ Feingold for opposing the Patriot Act.
An interesting note was the changing of the name of the Carnivore Surveillance System.
From the author- "This will be one of the severest tests yet to rescue the Constitution from our government."
"The War on the Bill of Rights-and the Gathering Resistance" is repetitive and somewhat disjointed, but I recommend the book as one of the better books on the subject and arguably the best coverage on the resistance to the Patriot Act.