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The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay Hardcover – February 19, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A book that pulls no punches. It names names. And in so doing, it is a gutsy, finely wrought narrative that explains how a small group of Bush-era political appointees managed to develop a parallel justice system designed to ensure a specific outcome."—Dina Temple-Rastin,The Washington Post
(Dina Temple-Rastin The Washington Post)

"It’s a pity that Kathryn Bigelow, the director of the acclaimed war-on-terror thriller Zero Dark Thirty, didn’t have the opportunity to read Jess Bravin’s meticulously reported account of America’s trial practices for post–September 11 terror suspects, The Terror Courts." —Jane Mayer, Democracy
(Jane Mayer Democracy)

"A damning, brave book by an author who is legitimately outraged by what he uncovered."—Kirkus Reviews
(Kirkus Reviews)

“Jess Bravin’s The Terror Courts is the definitive account of the legal aftermath of 9/11—and the still-unsettled legacy of the decisions made in those frenzied days.”—Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath: The Obama White House vs. the Supreme Court

(Jeffrey Toobin)

"Jess Bravin has written an authoritative account of a dark chapter in American history, a chapter that is still being written. This riveting and deeply disturbing book should be required reading for all engaged citizens."—Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University
(Anne-Marie Slaughter)

"Excellent. . .You should read this book now, while the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay is growing. You should read it now, while there is a pending request by the Pentagon to spend another $49 million for a new prison on Cuba. You should read it now, while John Yoo is still the go-to guy for quotes about interrogations, and while Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, crows on a wire, are still offering up terrible advice about prosecuting detainees." —Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic
(Andrew Cohen The Atlantic)

"This is the genius of Bravin's book—and what sets it apart from what has come before. He doesn't just give us context and perspective about the ideological battles waged among Bush Administration officials over torture. He doesn't just explain why the Obama Administration still has failed to recover from the early errors of judgment that marked the first tribunal processes. He also highlights the utterly self-defeating role played by the military-political complex." —Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic
(Andrew Cohen The Atlantic)

"A riveting and at times scathing account of the formation of the commissions and how they have been troubled from the beginning over questions about detainee abuse and the legitimacy of commissions themselves."—Arun Rath, PRI's The World
(Arun Rath PRI's The World)

“A remarkable job by one of the news media's most persistent reporters on matters of law and national security. Bravin penetrated a system designed for railroading prisoners in near-total secrecy, and he demonstrated the persistence of many ordinary—and some extraordinary—Americans’ visceral devotion to such quaint notions as the presumption of innocence and the rule of law.”—Harvey Silverglate, Reason 
(Harvey Silverglate Reason)

"Bravin does a masterful job documenting the flaws in the military commission system and describing the petty bureaucrats who tried to cover them up. He is not soft on the detainees, and in fact reveals a number of new details showing how deeply and dangerously some were involved in Al Qaeda . . . . It’s impossible to read this book, though, without coming away dumbfounded anew by the extent to which the Bush Administration contributed to its own legal difficulties by resorting to shortcuts, abuse, and legal overreaching . . . . These are not easy stories to tell, but Bravin sketches them ably, bringing to life not just the arguments on both sides, but the personalities and the motivations of the main players from Bush to Obama."—Jane Mayer, Democracy
(Jane Mayer Democracy)

"Bravin brings cohesion and drama to the story, which is a genuine public service. He does this by focusing on the struggle of a wonderful protagonist, military prosecutor and Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch, whose moral clarity and professional ethics are repeatedly assaulted by the unconstitutional process in which he finds himself participating. We see much of the story through Couch’s eyes, and as a result, the drama is personal, even emotional."—Jane Mayer, Democracy
(Jane Mayer Democracy)

"A scintillating look inside military commissions!" —Concord Monitor
(Concord Monitor)

The Terror Courts makes compelling arguments that, compared to civilian trials, the military trials take longer, cost more, have inferior procedures and produce more lenient sentences. Forget about the ideological and legal debates over the military tribunals: The things just don’t work.”—Dana Milbank, Washington Post
(Dana Milbank Washington Post)

"The Terror Courts provides much-needed insight into the maddening history of the military commissions, and provides a tirelessly reported, clearly written depiction of these bastardized, superfluous, and unnecessary tribunals. . . Are you among the vast majority of Americans who have a hard time believing that our country would attempt to execute criminal defendants by trying them in a traveling circus? Then read this book."—Tom Durkin, Commonweal
(Tom Durkin Commonweal)

Publishers Weekly Top-Ten Political Book Pick
(Publishers Weekly)

“The first inside account of America’s continuing legal experiment at Guantanamo Bay.”—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

“A scintillating look inside military commissions!”—Tampa Bay Times
(Tampa Bay Times)

“A scintillating look inside military commissions!”—Concord (N.H.) Monitor
(Concord (N.H.) Monitor)

“[S]ynthesizing many sources into an accessible history. . . Bravin’s book is a welcome addition to the history of national security legal policy dilemmas in the Bush era.”—The New York Times
(Charlie Savage The New York Times 2013-04-03)

"Jess Bravin's book The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay. . . tells the story of the evolution of Guantanamo's legal universe in captivating detail, and provides the reader with a clear picture of just how we arrived at this bizarre moment in our history."—John Knefel, Rolling Stone
(John Knefel Rolling Stone)

“Powerful . . . [The journalist’s] craft shines through, drawing the reader into the human story at its heart . . . . [Bravin’s] fascinating insights into the role of social interaction and friendships in the formation of the trial processes at Guantanamo Bay…demonstrate the kind of legal culture that academics speak of but rarely paint as vividly.”—Inside Story (Australia)
(Inside Story)

"Most readers probably know that the military commissions have not been a great success, but the core accomplishment of Bravin's book is to bring home the scope of the disaster, and the profound diffculties from which American justice will now have to extricate itself. Its excellence consists in telling this story on a scale that is human and engaging."—Avery Plaw, International Affairs
(Avery Plaw International Affairs)

Named one of the top books of the year (2013) by the Kansas City Star
(Kansas City Star)

Washington Post Notable Nonfiction of 2013
(Washington Post)

Winner of the 2013 American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award for Media and Arts in the book category.
(Silver Gavel Award American Bar Association 2014-03-14)

"Gripping and comprehensive."—International Review of the Red Cross 
(International Review of the Red Cross)

“Highly recommended for an overarching backstory to . . . one of the greatest American legal and human rights controversies of the twenty-first century . . . . In addition to containing a compelling story . . . The Terror Courts provides valuable lessons for government and military lawyers who may one day find themselves caught up in history-making cases.”—Mjr. Thomas S. Hong, The Army Lawyer
(Mjr. Thomas S. Hong The Army Lawyer)

About the Author

Jess Bravin, Supreme Court correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, has covered the Guantanamo military commissions since 2001. The author of Squeaky: The Life and Times of Lynette Fromme, he is based in Washington, DC.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (February 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300189206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300189209
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #248,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Susan Hunsinger on May 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who's caught up with current affairs since 9/11 has an opinion is used to the disturbing and frustrating stories that often come out of Guantanamo Bay: harsh interrogation tactics, inhumane prisoner abuse and the ineffectiveness of the actual trials. Even 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, has yet to pay for his heinous crimes. Newspapers have even just recently published the news of wide-spread hunger strikes by prisoners who are then often violently force fed.

But reading about Guantanamo from it's very creation after the 9/11 terrorist attacks up to the present day, has a way of putting into perspective the enormous stain it is on the American justice system. This incredibly well-researched book explores the way the Bush administration essentially ignored all legality to hold their military commissions, the fighting within the Departments of Justice and Defense that delayed trials for years and the deplorable conditions prisoners were held just to gather information that couldn't even be used in court.

This is absolutely a must-read for any law student, particularly those interested in civil rights or constitutional law.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tanstaafl Rog on March 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book gives me huge appreciation for the people of integrity that are not letting the machine roll over them, but standing up for the principles of fair play, taking personal risks by refusing to go along with the political machine. Fascinating looks at the tortured logic that tries to pass off torture as merely "enhanced interrogation." Appalling that the advocates of "rough justice" just wouldn't let themselves see the ultimately self-defeating consequences. Well worth the read if only for the thought it provokes...
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By T & D C on February 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The Terror Courts is compelling, meticulously researched and well-written. It reads like a thriller but knowing that it is non-fiction makes it more powerful than any novel could be. Definitely worth reading.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dave S on May 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Bravin in his book demonstrates what happens when a government administration tries to justify unlawful means with laws that cannot support unjust means. Bush and Company and the current Obama administration have failed to bring justice to the families of 9/11 and the United States. There is no substitute for the rule of law. Bravin through his wonderful research has shown that not getting the administration of justice correctly the first time that its is impossible to getting it right no
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Marie L Park on February 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A must read for anyone interested in our legal system. This book should be put on the reading list of every law school student. Judges and practicing attorneys should read it as well. It is hard to put down once you start.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Emilie R. on December 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
I recommend this book for anyone who wants to know more about what our country has done behind closed doors. The detail in this book is unlike any articles that I have seen on the topic. It is well-researched and is an important read for all US citizens in whose name these crimes are being committed.
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Format: Hardcover
The book is an eye-opening journalistic account of an episode of recent history that should be more controversial. It appears that the American people -- including myself -- just don't care enough about abuses of power, from the Bush White House down through the ranks to individual interrogators, guards and triers-of-fact. The president and his vice president and secretary of defense apparently didn't care a whit or give a damn about Anglo-American jurisprudence, precedence or the legal ethics that should have guided their every move in the legal aftermath of 9/11. Fortunately, others did. Many of the people in Bravin's book -- JAGs, terrorists and bureaucrats -- come alive, while others for unknown reasons remain relatively flat. But it is still a good book, a very good book, well worth reading and study. The writer deftly entwines biography with history, office politics with political egoism, personalities with physical descriptions to paint a picture of a legal mess created by haste, arrogance, anger and a quest for revenge, justice be damned. It should be read by all lawyers, judges, historians and anyone else with an interest in how fair play can unravel when heated political emotions get involved.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an engrossing tale of the military commissions that have been functioning since the Bush administration through the present. It looks at politics, the law and the human stories of many of the people involved, including the detainees. I'd call it first rate journalism, although there are some threads that aren't tied up at the end, and the writing style is readable but not excellent. This is something American citizens need to read and understand about their government. The degree to which this obviously unconstitutional system was colored by political concerns and by the fear the public would learn about Bush era torturing of prisoners is frankly completely horrifying. I recommend it highly.
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