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

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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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
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,395,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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