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The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight over Presidential Power First Edition Edition
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“Mahler’s account of Hamdan’s treatment at Guantanamo Bay makes The Challenge an important book.”—Carol A Sigmond, The Federal Lawyer
“With an engaging writing style and eye to detail, Mr. Mahler…takes the reader through Mr. Hamdan’s evolution from a street urchin to one of a handful of “high value” enemy combatants…If “The Challenge” offers a good account of the making of an implausible warrior jihadi, it provides an excellent account of the making of equally implausible warrior lawyers…“The Challenge” is not just a very readable account of an important case. It is also an intimate account of the lawyers who overcame personal conflicts, animus and flaws to produce a decision for the ages. It is an intriguing tale of how a unique convergence of personalities propelled an unlikely dabab driver from Yemen to international prominence.”—Jonathan Turley, The New York Times
“The work of lawyers for a detainee is brilliantly explored in Jonathan Mahler’s The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight over Presidential Power. But it is much more than a book about law and lawyers. It tells the story of a captive who gave his name to a great constitutional decision; and it describes the personal struggles of his lawyers, their courage, and their faults. The result is a work of rare drama.”—Anthony Lewis, New York Review of Books
“Mahler’s fluent account of events is essential reading for students of constitutional law-and anyone concerned with civil rights.”—Kirkus
“[W]hat Mahler chronicles -- the seesaw process of constitutional challenges to the military commissions -- is of more than historical interest: It is part and parcel of all that has transpired in recent weeks and a portent of the future as well.”—Art Winslow, Los Angeles Times
“One recalls the ethically simple Gideon's Trumpet when reading the latest great-case narrative, Jonathan Mahler's The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight Over Presidential Power….A riveting read.”—Michael O’Donnell, San Francisco Chronicle
“[Mahler] excels at telling the story of a talented, fractious team coming together for a greater goal: Charles Swift, a naval officer whose passionate commitment to the case scuttled his career and his marriage; Neal Katyal, a brilliant scholar whose arrogance alienated his allies; and Hamdan, a desperate, furious cipher.”—The New Yorker
“I was in the Pentagon on 9-11, and in its aftermath, I witnessed the most remarkable and chilling attempt to consolidate and abuse executive power, circumvent and ignore the rule of law, and reverse engineer due process and the rules of evidence to deny our newest enemies a fair trial. The Challenge is the riveting and very inside story of an unlikely coupling of two lawyers from two very different legal worlds, one military and one academic, who joined forces to restore our jurisprudential values. Jonathan Mahler captures the essence of their personalities and the truly heroic battles that they fought in a way that is both informative and fascinating. Do not get too comfortable though. This struggle—of epic constitutional proportions--continues, and every American who holds freedom dear must be educated about the dangers of executive power run amok. The Challenge is the book that will anchor that education.” —Donald Guter, retired Admiral and former Judge Advocate General, U.S. Navy; Dean, Duquense Law School
“This is the definitive work on an epic Supreme Court case—and on the human beings behind the headlines.” —Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court
“The Challenge is a rare achievement—a book as involving as it is important. The characters (real people, powerfully sketched) and the narrative (gripping as a movie) make Jonathan Mahler’s book impossible to put down. And yet beneath the turning pages there’s a firm spine: a profound meditation on what patriotism means and how durable our Constitution is. The classic American story: upholding the rules, meeting the standard, at high personal cost. This book has the great legal drama of an entertainment—the charge, the defender, the filing-in to the courtroom—but it ends as an inspiration.” —David Lipsky, author of Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point
“Out of a great Supreme Court case Jonathan Mahler has made a riveting story. Here are the Guantanamo prisoner who challenged the President, the lawyers, the judges. I could not stop reading.” —Anthony Lewis, author of Gideon’s Trumpet
"The Challenge is the definitive insider’s account of how a law professor and a military lawyer won a historic Supreme Court case against military commissions established by the Commander in Chief. Jonathan Mahler tells this improbable but important story in a gripping, accessible narrative that reveals both the promise and the limitations of judicial review in the age of terrorism.” —Jack Goldsmith, Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law, Harvard law School, and author of The Terror Presidency
Top Customer Reviews
Take a constitutional law prof at Georgetown with a terminally ill father, a card-carrying-member of the ACLU Navy lawyer with ADD, and top legal eagles from white-shoe law firms pitching in pro bono work and getting frustrated at not being heard out enough in briefs, and you get some idea of the potential for conflict - potential that became actuality at times.
But yet, everybody held together, above all Prof. Neal Katyal and Lt. Com. Charles Swift.
However, the grind took its toll on Swift, with an eventual divorce and his Naval promotion path blocked.
And, continued confinement in Guantanamo continues to take its toll on Salim Hamdan.
In a brief wrap-up in that vein, Mahler talks about the post-Hamdan legal world, especicially the Military Commissions Act and the Boumediene case.
If you want a legal thriller that's real-life, not fiction, and about life and death constitutional issues, this is a must read.
Salim Hamdan grew up in a poor, backward farming region of Yemen, received something like a fourth grade education, and was orphaned by the time he was eleven. Adrift at a young age in a place that celebrated religious martyrdom, he fell under the spell of a radical jihadist and eventually made his way during the 90s to Afghanistan where he became employed as Osama bin Laden's driver and bodyguard. After 9/11 he was captured by the Northern Alliance and turned over to the U.S. for a ransom. After the order was signed by Bush to set up the military commissions, Hamdan was one of the first to be charged.
The main part of the story concerns the heroic efforts of especially two lawyers, law professor Neal Katyal and Charles Swift of the JAG corps, in taking up Hamdan's case and eventually presenting it before the Supreme Court. Katyal became the driving force. He had been a hawk when working in the Clinton Administration concerning running down al Qaeda and had later supported the Patriot Act, but he had serious qualms about giving the President a blank check in setting up military commissions.Read more ›