Lost Liberties: Ashcroft and the Assault on Personal Freedom

Lost Liberties: Ashcroft and the Assault on Personal Freedom

by Cynthia Brown, Aryeh Neier
     
 

In the wake of September 11, John Ashcroft’s Justice Department has presided over an unprecedented assault on the civil liberties established in the Bill of Rights. Enacted in haste and, at times, in partial secrecy, the legislation and orders have not been carefully examined, and their implications are only now beginning to surface. Not since the internment

Overview

In the wake of September 11, John Ashcroft’s Justice Department has presided over an unprecedented assault on the civil liberties established in the Bill of Rights. Enacted in haste and, at times, in partial secrecy, the legislation and orders have not been carefully examined, and their implications are only now beginning to surface. Not since the internment of Japanese Americans during the 1940s have we witnessed such abridgment of American rights.

While the loss of liberties has been met with apathy by the press and public alike, the lawyers and analysts in Lost Liberties provide a detailed, comprehensive look at the USA Patriot Act, chronicling the destructive impact of crackdowns on thousands of Americans and revisiting the ugly history of political repression in times of crisis. Featuring original contributions from David Cole, Michael Tomasky, Nancy Chang, Kenneth Roth, and Anthony Romero, Lost Liberties will be a critical text for those who want to know in advance the long-term implications of these drastic measures.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Most Americans are probably unaware of the scope of the 2001 U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, an attempt to safeguard the country against future terrorist attacks. In contrast, each of the 13 authors of this series of essays, many of whom are lawyers with groups devoted to protecting civil liberties such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, is totally immersed in the act's most arcane provisions. Animated by passion, and informed by considerable intellect, the essays catalogue a long list of civil liberties central to a democratic society that, in their view, have been sacrificed in the Bush administration's haste to strengthen national security. The list of casualties includes both collective rights (the rights to political dissent, to an open government and to be free of government surveillance) and individual rights (such as the right to a lawyer and trial when charged with a crime). Many of the essays recognize that the U.S. government has at times suspended civil rights, as with the internment of Japanese in WWII and during the McCarthy hearings, but they argue that these policies were wrong and ineffective, and should serve as cautionary tales, not models. The most effective essays are about people caught in Kafkaesque detentions and procedures by various administration policies. The essays, gathered by Brown, former program director for Human Rights Watch, are explicitly designed to provide arguments to those who agree that the forfeiture of civil liberties presents a greater long-term danger to our freedom than terrorism. Readers sympathetic to the Bush Administration may find the essays naive and infuriating. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Just in time for the second anniversary of 9/11, a compendium of lawyerly essays on the cost of that event to our civil rights. Former Human Rights Watch program director Brown here assembles a dozen attorneys and legal scholars to consider what some consider to be the rise of a near-police state from the ashes of the World Trade Center. "Within hours after the collapse [of the Twin Towers] and the destruction of a portion of the Pentagon," she writes, "most of us knew that civil liberties would be under fire." And not for the first time: as several contributors note, after similarly grave states of emergency, the first response of the government has been to curtail the rights of some if not all citizens and aliens within our national boundaries, with no real resulting gain in national security. Crediting George W. Bush for his efforts to avoid violence or repression along strictly ethnic lines, Brown and company nonetheless fault the administration, and in particular Attorney General John Ashcroft, on several rights-related counts, for, as Brown adds, "the president’s praiseworthy and successful efforts to avoid ethnic and religious violence were not matched by a comparable attempt to protect constitutional rights." One of the government’s sins, in the view of contributors David Cole and Tanya E. Coke, is the increase in racial profiling to target suspected terrorists; as Cole remarks, "the safeguards of the criminal process are there for a reason, and whenever a democratic government imposes punishment or deprives persons of their liberty without adhering to these principles, it does more harm than good." Another, rejoins Reg Whitaker, is the creepy Orwellian Total Information Awarenessprogram of Iran-Contra veteran Richard Poindexter, a financially and spiritually costly campaign that, Whitaker holds, simply will not work. Still others, writes Janlori Goldman, are the various measures aimed at combating bioterrorism, many sublimely ridiculous--such as the Homeland Security department’s issuing of Baby Wipes and Dustbusters to every post office in the land. Useful, provocative reading for civil libertarians and rights activists.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565848290
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
09/01/2003
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.16(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author


Cynthia Brown, former program director of Human Rights Watch, is now a freelance consultant and editor based in New York.

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