BookBrowse Reviews How Would A Patriot Act? by Glenn Greenwald

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How Would A Patriot Act?

Defending American Values from a President Run Amok

by Glenn Greenwald

How Would A Patriot Act? by Glenn Greenwald
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    May 2006, 146 pages

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In the spirit of the colonists who once mustered the strength to denounce a king, Greenwald invites us to consider: How would a patriot act today?

From the book jacket: Glenn Greenwald was not a political man. Not liberal, not conservative. Politicians were all the same and it didn’t matter which party was in power. Extremists on both ends canceled each other out, and the United States would essentially remain forever centrist. Or so he thought.

Then came September 11, 2001. Greenwald’s disinterest in politics was replaced by patriotism, and he supported the war in Afghanistan. He also gave President Bush the benefit of the doubt over his decision to invade Iraq. But, as he saw Americans and others being disappeared, jailed and tortured, without charges or legal representation, he began to worry. And when he learned his president had seized the power to spy on American citizens on American soil, without the oversight required by law, he could stand no more. At the heart of these actions, Greenwald saw unprecedented and extremist theories of presidential power, theories that flout the Constitution and make President Bush accountable to no one, and no law.

If we are to remain a constitutional republic, Greenwald writes, we cannot abide radical theories of executive power, which are transforming the very core of our national character, and moving us from democracy toward despotism. This is not hyperbole. This is the crisis all Americans—liberals and conservatives--now face.

In the spirit of the colonists who once mustered the strength to denounce a king, Greenwald invites us to consider: How would a patriot act today?

Comment: Like Greenwald, I have never embraced partisan politics, and even if I was to, BookBrowse is not my personal soap box - so when I first heard of How Would A Patriot Act? I assumed it was going to be just another political diatribe which would be unsuitable for BookBrowse - but on reading it, I found something quite different. Clearly and concisely, Greenwald lays out the ways in which the Bush administration is blatantly operating outside the law in areas such as illegal eavesdropping, locking up citizens without due process, declaring war without the consent of congress and muzzling the media; and asks why the American people allow this to continue. His conclusion is that we are being governed in large part by fear.

Take for example the issue of illegal eavesdropping. I've followed the eavesdropping debate somewhat in the New York Times but had somehow missed the fundamental point which is that between 1978, when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was passed requiring court approval for all surveillance of citizens, and 2001 (when Bush first ordered eavesdropping outside the law), the government submitted more than 13,000 requests to the FISA court - and the court approved every single one! There's even a provision in the law that allows for surveillance for 72 hours without a court order. So why, when Carter, Reagan and Bush Sr. managed to fight the Cold War without apparently ever violating FISA (or even claiming that a change to the law was required) has the Bush administration felt it necessary to operate outside the law? If they felt the law was inadequate the appropriate response is to get it changed but they have made no attempt to do that - they've simply chosen to ignore it.

Left wing groups are embracing Greenwald as their own and right wing groups accuse him of selling out. However, it really does seem that Greenwald is genuinely non-partisan - he does not criticize Republicans or, for that matter, praise the Democrats - his focus is simply on an administration that he sees as operating in clear contradiction of, not only America's laws, but also the core values that define America. Whatever your political persuasion, this book is worth a second glance - Davina.

This review is from the June 15, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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