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Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power Paperback – July 3, 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Margulies, a Minneapolis lawyer and civil rights activist, served as lead counsel in Rasul v. Bush, successfully petitioning the Supreme Court to extend the right of judicial review to all prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. This book, Margulies's first, minutely chronicles the attempts of the present administration to extend the bounds of presidential authority while limiting official culpability. Breaking new ground by comprehensively analyzing the government's legal reasoning and deconstructing it in the light of historical precedent, Margulies states: "The Bush Administration has not provided a complete explanation for its detention policy. (Part of the motivation for this book is that no one else has either.)" Interspersed with accounts of his fascinating and frustrating attempts to obtain access to his British client, Shafiq Rasul, Margulies shines light on the theory and practice of indefinite military detention, peering into a self-contained, Kafkaesque universe of our own creation barely 90 miles from American shores. Accessible to nonlawyers, the book also offers full citations for those who wish to do further research. Margulies's clear explications of intricate legal points move his narrative effortlessly from the signing of the Geneva Conventions through the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, to the myriad cases of the detainees in Guantánamo. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In Rasul v.Bush, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of prisoners in U.S. military custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to challenge the legality of their detention in federal court. As one of the lead counsel on behalf of the detainees in that case, law professor and civil-rights attorney Margulies is uniquely qualified to narrate the legal struggles surrounding the prison that was built to evade legal oversight. Infused with firsthand accounts of both interrogation room and courtroom, Margulies' narrative is lucid, precise, and made urgent by recent legislation, currently before the Supreme Court, that purports to render Rasul meaningless. Most compelling, however, is that Margulies never lets the legal blow-by-blow obscure the historical and political import of Camp Delta, where preservation of prisoners' "debility, dependence, and dread" trumps all other concerns and even shapes the Bush administration's interpretation of the law. Timed to coincide with the Supreme Court's forthcoming ruling on jurisdiction over Guantanamo, this powerful selection deserves all the attention it will receive. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (July 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743286863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743286862
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,089,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hearing much about the myriad court cases running through the system the past several years in regard to Guantanamo, this book did a great job detailing the Administration's position and laying out the misguidedness of this policy. I found much about the book shocking for many of the truths revealed as to how our Administration has allowed the torture of "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo and has encouraged the torture of these people by foreign governments (i.e. Egypt, Pakistan). Margulies does a good job of concisely explaining the history of Guantanamo as well as laying out a very thoughtful and powerful argument against the Administration. He traces back into US military conflicts over the past 50 years to show why the Administration's current policies contradict everything for which our country stands. Most impressive about Margulies' book is the lack of partisan ranting and uncivil discourse heard by other Bush opponents. Margulies succeeds in convincing the reader that from both a Left and Right standpoint the Bush Administration has overstepped its bounds and put our country more at risk, not less.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power" is a powerful and extraordinary book about the Bush Administration's attempt to create a law-free zone at Guantanamo, Cuba, where suspected terrorists can be held outside of judicial scrutiny and tortured for information on al-Qaeda. Anyone who cares about the U.S. Constitution, the law of war, our relationship with the Islamic world, or the successful prosecution of the war on terror should read this book. The revelations of Bush Administration incompetence and criminality are shocking.

The book is written from a lawyer's perspective and lays out clearly the history of the Guantanamo prison and the legal battles over the treatment of prisoners there. As the author stresses, the torture tactics have done immense damage to American prestige yet produced little if any valuable intelligence. This failure should not be a surprise, since most of the prisoners are either innocent of terrorist activity or were Taliban small-fry with no connection to September 11 or other attacks on U.S. targets. That hundreds of these pathetic men are still incarcerated speaks volumes about the indecency of the Bush Administration and its inability to admit that it ever makes mistakes.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court and the U.S. Senate have stepped in to curb the worst abuses and to restore some sanity to our detention policies. They have partially rescued America's good name and commitment to the rule of law. However, until officials of the Bush Administration are put on trial for violations of the War Crimes Act and the Torture Act, the stain on our national honor will not be fully erased.
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Format: Hardcover
I truly wish this book were fiction, so that I might consider it merely a thought-provoking, witty and beguiling book, as humorous as Joseph Heller's "Catch 22". But alas, this is not fiction. And the reality that this book is not fiction of a perverse, evil and unfair mind, and that it is as true and real as the tiny, crawling, white worms one so often finds in an old bag of rice, actually paralyzed me at moments with fright as I read the book at night, and I felt as if my hair was almost set on fire.

The author, Joseph Margulies, is an attorney at Mac Arthur Justice Center, and a law professor at Northwestern University Law School in Chicago. He has been honored with the prestigious Sullivan Award (2005) for the commendable service he did in protecting our civil liberties, and also for challenging the detention policies of the Bush administration at Guantanamo Bay. At a time when the members and the chairmen of the relevant oversight committees of both the Congress and the Senate (the House and Senate Judiciary Committee, e.g.) have done nothing to either halt or restrain the blatantly unconstitutional policies (the Supreme Court has now clearly said so) and atrocities of the Bush Whitehouse, it is admirable that the author has strived, often pro bono, to force the Bush White House, in federal courts, to abide by our constitution and also the Geneva Conventions. (The White House has now said that it will abide by the Geneva Conventions!). By striving so courageously to rescue the Guantanamo Bay detainees from a legal Black Hole, he has won the admiration of decent people from around the world, and we should consider ourselves fortunate that we have a man of his caliber and decency living amongst us.
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Format: Hardcover
Margulies, counsel for Rasul, a former Guantanamo detainee, gently walks the reader through three plus years of litigations with an obstinate Executive (see Rasul v Bush). An Executive, absolutely certain that their paradigm shift to the "dark side" was necessary and justified by its self declared "War on Terror".*

Margulies, in a very readable book, sifts much of the sophistry used by the Executive's lawyers (and supporting sophists) to justify its paradigm shift, concluding:

"It is a sad day when competent lawyers who are asked to play this role [of assisting the Bush administration with a conscious desire to evade and circumvent the requirements of the law] agree to do so. If the rule of law is to be silenced during war, lawyers should not be the ones who silence it."

However, Margulies retreats from any attempt at comparing the Executive's secret worldwide CIA torture centers with the former Soviet gulags. One can understand this in terms of magnitude. Fortunately, America has not approached the millions harmed or killed or murdered in the old Soviet gulags. But elementally, which Margulies focuses on throughout the book, aren't they the same?

In both the gulags and terror centers, governments have authorized or commanded the barbaric and depraved treatment of a human being, resulting in grave harm or serious harm or death, for the purpose of enforcing or justifying or extending their ideology or set of beliefs.

I'm grateful to Margulies for writing this book. I'm more grateful that America still has individuals (e.g. Marulies, Ratner, Swift, Katyal et al) and groups that are willing, to immediately shine a light on our government's dark side. In the beginning all they had was a flashlight.
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