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The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 19, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The wars on crime and terrorism have turned into a war on privacy and freedom, according to this provocative but sometimes overwrought exposé of infringements of the Bill of Rights. In this first of two volumes, Pulitzer-winning journalist Shipler (Arab and Jew) focuses on the Fourth Amendment's guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure, and finds violations that remind him of his days covering the Soviet Union. Most shocking is his ride-along reportage on the Washington, D.C., Police Department's bullying searches for guns and drugs in black neighborhoods. (Random stop-and-frisks and automobile searches are so ubiquitous, he observes, that African-American men automatically raise their shirts to expose their waistbands when cops approach; residents are puzzled when he tells them they have the right to refuse police searches.) When the author turns to less intrusive surveillance, like the Bush administration's warrantless wire-tapping, his outrage-"government snooping destroys the inherent poetry of privacy"-is less compelling; he writes as if search engines sifting e-mails are tantamount to Hessians kicking in doors. (Apr.)
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“Provocative . . . Shipler vividly describes a world wholly foreign not only to Supreme Court jurists but to most Americans . . . If the right of privacy is to survive, it will be because citizens, enraged by stories like those Shipler tells, recognize that it is not enough to shrug one’s shoulders and say, ‘I have nothing to hide.’”
            -David Cole, The New York Review of Books
 “Compelling . . . Shipler does a masterful job of interweaving poignant anecdotal accounts of his first-hand observations of the gun and narcotics units of the Washington Metropolitan Police department with trenchant, insightful, and spot-on legal analysis.”
            -Stephen I. Vladeck, Washington Independent Review of Books
 “Important . . . I suspect Shipler’s arguments will speak to . . . most Americans . . . The Rights of the People is timely, eloquent, solid, fair-minded and, on almost every page, upsetting.”
            -Craig Seligman, Bloomberg
“Vivid . . . A valuable reminder that we all suffer a loss of liberty when the government casts aside the safeguards of the Constitution.”
            -Ken Gormley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“This powerful book demonstrates the reality behind abstract debates about liberty and security, and shows us what happens when liberty starts to erode.”
-Linda Greenhouse, author of Becoming Justice Blackmun 
“David Shipler has done something extraordinary. He took the guarantees in our Constitution and explored, on the ground, how they were actually being applied in the lives of Americans. The result is a wonderful book that shows how large a gap there is between constitutional promises and reality.”
            -Anthony Lewis, author of Gideon’s Trumpet
“This is a book that all Americans should read carefully.”
            -Maxwell McKee, Sacramento News and Review
“An insightful analysis of the erosion of basic civil liberties within the past decade . . . A sobering look at the rights Americans take for granted.”
            -Starred review, Booklist
“Shipler’s sure grasp of frequently impenetrable Supreme Court decisions (translated nicely for the non-lawyer), his engaged reporting and his generally evenhanded assessment of the reasons for these sometimes abrupt, mostly incremental intrusions on our freedoms make for an informed, persuasive argument. A timely call for vigilence.”
“Provocative . . . Shocking.”
            -Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (April 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140004362X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400043620
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,270,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By brilyn37 on May 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is the kind of civics book that everyone who isn't well versed in the Fourth Amendment should read. Mr. Shipler lays out the long arch of our devolving civil liberties in America. The erosion of our privacy rights and protections under the Bill of Rights have grave implications. This book has helped me connect the dots to understand both the scope of the problems we face and, in a palpable way, the personal effects these issues have on individual citizens. The book is written by a layman for layman. It is very engaging reading.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By DWD's Reviews VINE VOICE on July 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Pulitzer Prize-winning auther David K. Shipler takes a long hard look at the rights we have sacrificed in the era of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, and lesser wars such as the War on Handgun Violence in 'The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties.' I picked this book up figuring that my Conservative sensibilities might get ruffled a bit by a New York Times reporter but I might learn a thing or two along the way.

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.

Mr. Shipler and I meet on that continuum at the spot I just described.

The Rights of the People starts with a history of civil rights in American history and there were a few things that surprised this American history addict (let's just say that the more I read about Woodrow Wilson, the less I like). Shipler then moves into a chapter called "Another Country." This country is inner-city Washington, D.C.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ray Gardner on July 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Very good book. I have to admit that I was waiting for Shipler's own left of center biases to shine through, but he does an outstanding job of rising above the fray.

Typically when someone on the left takes up this subject they point out violations on the part of Republicans in a very personal manner as in, Nixon was evil, or George Bush was this or that, and then Roosevelt, Obama, et al have their sins mixed in with the faults of America at large so as to minimize their personal stake in the matter.

Not so with this book. Shipler points out the loss of freedoms under the Bush administration, but - and this is refreshing - actually blames the shock and uncertainty of the moment instead of assigning their actions to some nefarious plan by Dick Cheney and his crew of devilish imps. Likewise, he makes due note of Obama's continuation of the Bush administration's policies, and in fact - though this is only implied, and not even purposely - Obama looks much worse since he is not dealing with the war on terror in the initial crises mode that Bush had to face, but is simply holding the ship steady on its course for stripping the citizenry of even more freedoms.

And even that subject, Bush or Obama, Left or Right, takes a backseat to the stated goal of his book; that of our rights. The author spends much more time talking about our rights as they are violated on a day to day basis, and not just at the 30,000 foot view of biased punditry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on August 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
David Shipler centers this invaluable work on how decades of Supreme Court rulings, based on a mix of unjustifiable deference to law enforcement officers (his take), and SCOTUS denigration of criminals' right to have rights (my take), have continued to erode the average American's right to be free in their persons, etc., from unreasonable searches and seizures. "Unreasonable" has been redefined or defined away. "Good faith" actions of what law enforcement does and why have been expanded. The "public sector" vs. the private one has been expanded, especially in the electronic world.

And, that's just in regular criminal jurisprudence.

Shipler also tackles the post-9/11 world of FISA and terrorism, while showing that the civil liberties erosion there has had spillover into regular criminal court proceedings.

Best of all, he doesn't just write about this from an academic point of view.

He rides shotgun with DC Metropolitan Police, on the night beat, Southeast DC, on the guns and drugs roundup. He sees how some cops bend the rules on searches, simply by their "copness." He sees how much of the black-majority community is semi-intimidated by this, while many of the actual illegal gun owners or drug sellers know it's a game, and do the best they can to play. He sees how this doesn't necessarily improve the protection of law abiding residence of the area, contra the warped mindset of the Supreme Court.

A great read.
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