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The Closing of the American Border: Terrorism, Immigration, and Security Since 9/11 Hardcover – September 16, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (September 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061558397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061558399
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,549,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former Washington bureau chief of the Financial Times, Alden provides a thoughtful and balanced assessment of border security and immigration policies before and after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, demonstrating how more stringent security can damage the U.S. economy by discouraging trade, tourism and an influx of bright minds and diligent workers. The author's vignettes make what could be a dry read engaging and urgent. Alden's policy prescriptions are book-ended with the story of Dr. Faiz Bhora, a leading heart surgeon from Pakistan who had trouble returning to the States to resume his work because of visa problems and was eventually caught in the post-9/11 Justice Department crackdown on visa applications by citizens of Muslim countries. Alden points out that the Department of Homeland Security concedes that most of its counterterrorism funds are being poured into securing and controlling the border with Mexico and makes a persuasive case that immigration enforcement and counterterrorism are two different things, and for either to be effective they need to be separated. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“A thought-provoking study that will leave you looking at our borders in a new light.” (The San Antonio Express-News)

“Alden’s book reads like a case study in good intentions and bad effects.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“In this revealing and richly researched account, Alden describes how the Bush administration came to rely on the blunt instrument of immigration enforcement to carry out its counterterrorism strategy after 9/11.” (Julia Preston, Foreign Affairs)

“Compellingly argued and meticulously researched.” (Clive Crook, The Financial Times)

Customer Reviews

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See all 7 customer reviews
I bought this book because I was impressed with an editorial Ted Alden wrote in the Washington Post.
Missy Attridge
That's a terrible shame, because Closing of the American Border is really a must-read if you are interested in homeland security issues.
Jonathan Zasloff
The policy choices remain difficult ones, and as this book makes clear, there is still much work to be done.
Scott G. Borgerson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By DC reader on October 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I decided to pick up this book after reading very positive write-ups in both the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, and while I don't always agree with either paper on the books they recommend, I must say this one was even better than the printed reviews. The newspaper accounts give the impression that this is merely an important book about an important policy issue...which it is. But it's also an incredibly compelling narrative about infighting within the Bush administration over how to respond to 9/11...and make sure it doesn't happen again. Alden interviews almost all the major players -- Colin Powell, Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff -- and lots of less-senior officials who give a really insider account of the battles within the government in the months and years following the attack. Sort of like a classic Woodward book, except on homeland security rather than wars overseas. Can't recommend it more!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Scott G. Borgerson on December 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Edward Alden's timely new book, The Closing of the American Border, is a must read for the incoming Obama administration and any American interested in homeland security (as well as foreigners wanting to better understand often contradictory US immigration policies). Exhaustively researched and brilliantly penned, this page-turner provides a thorough account of the country's border policies since 9/11. This important book is the unofficial history of how overnight border security transitioned from an almost afterthought to a bureaucratic tug of war, sometimes carried out in the oval office, between "the cops" and "the technocrats" struggling to balance protecting the country with civil liberties in a new age of counter-terrorism.

Unlike many serious policy books, The Closing of the American Border is actually a terrific read, written with a combination of serious analysis and gut wrenching anecdotes of detained immigrants whose only crime was their place of birth, unlucky timing, and desire to invest their considerable talents in the United States. The book tells harrowing stories of lives destroyed after being snared in blunt security initiatives aimed at foiling the next major attack. Admittedly, while it is impossible to prove a counterfactual why there hasn't been another terrorist incident, the book details how the closing of the American border has come with considerable cost to America's image abroad and economic competitiveness at home. Immigrants, whose sweat literally and figuratively built America, have run up against an administrative buzz saw from a government still reeling from Al Queda's surprise attack.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ted Alden has written the best available book on the early history of DHS. I joined the department in 2005, toward the end of the period he covers, and I was interviewed for the book; even so, the book gave me new insight into the events that shaped the Department. It is superbly written, with a clear eye for anecdotes that crystallize the policy issues that Alden explores. I don't agree with the author about some of the policy issues, but I still recommended the book to all the officials who came after me at the Department. If you want to understand what DHS is doing today, this is the place to start.

Stewart Baker, former Assistant Secretary for Policy, DHS
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Zasloff on January 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Closing of the American Border is a superb book with an atrocious sense of timing: it appeared almost simultaneously with Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side" and Barton Gellman's "Angler" and got lost in the shuffle (both of those books are excellent as well). That's a terrible shame, because Closing of the American Border is really a must-read if you are interested in homeland security issues.

Alden posits a split in thinking about homeland security between the "technocrats," who wanted to use precisely-tailored measures based upon technology to control the border and enphasized intelligence gathering, and the "cops," who took a traditional law enforcement approach and particularly relied upon immigration enforcement, because they did not have to worry about constitutional due process and other Bill of Rights limitations. (According to rightfully-maligned Supreme Court precedent, Congress has "plenary power" over immigration, which means that the Constitution often just does not apply. The Court's recent decision in Boumedienne might signal a change in that approach, although I wouldn't hold my breath.).

Alden's book is so good in no small part because he shows how neither approach is perfect: technology just can't do what we want it to do, and what its promoters (often the contractors who make it) claim it will do. But the costs of a pure law enforcement approach are even worse: there is precious little evidence that rounding up thousands of immigrant men of Middle Eastern background actually get us much intelligence or prevent crimes. Instead, they undermine intelligence by destroying the government's credibility in immigrant communities and are fabulously expensive.
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More About the Author

Edward Alden was born in New York, raised in Vancouver, British Columbia and currently lives outside Washington, D.C. with his wife and two children, where he is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the former Washington bureau chief for the Financial Times, and has also worked as a reporter at the Vancouver Sun and Inside U.S. Trade. His book "The Closing of the American Border" was named as a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. The judges wrote: "Exceptional journalism is required to take immigration -- a neglected sideshow in the nation's globe-girding response to the September 11 attacks -- and make the topic as evocative of America's misplaced values as the Iraq War and the tolerance for torture." Most recently, he has directed and co-authored the "Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy," which the Miami Herald said is a must-read for every member of Congress.