June 19, 2008
Just Released, Wittes' Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror
Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror
by Benjamin Wittes
List Price: $25.95
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (June 19, 2008)
Description: Six years after the September 11 attacks, America is losing a crucial front in the ongoing war on terror. It is losing not to Al Qaeda but to its own failure to construct a set of laws that will protect the American people—its military and executive branch, as well as its citizens—in the midst of a conflict unlike any it has faced in the past. Now, in the twilight of President Bush’s administration, Brookings Institution fellow Benjamin Wittes offers a vigorous analysis of the troubling legal legacy of the Bush administration as well as that of the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court. Law and the Long War tells as no book has before the story of how America came to its current impasse in the debate over liberty, human rights, and counterterrorism and draws a road map for how the country and the next president might move forward.
Moving beyond the stale debate between those fixated on the executive branch as the key architect of counterterrorism policy and those who see the judiciary as the essential guarantor of liberty against governmental abuses, Wittes argues that the essential problem is that the Bush administration did not seek—and Congress did not write—new laws to authorize and regulate the tough presidential actions this war would require. In a line of argument that is sure to spark controversy, Wittes reveals an administration whose most significant failure was not that it was too aggressive in the substance of its action, but rather that it tried to shoulder the burden of aggressiveness on its own without seeking the support of other branches of government. Using startling new empirical research on the detainee population at Guantánamo Bay, Wittes avers that many of the administration’s actions were far more defensible than its many critics believed and actually warranted congressional support. Yet by resisting both congressional and judicial involvement in its controversial decisions, the executive branch ironically prevented both of those branches from sharing in the political accountability for necessary actions that challenged traditional American notions of due process and humane treatment.
Boldly offering a new way forward, Wittes concludes that the path toward fairer, more accountable rules for a conflict without end lies in the development of new bodies of law covering detention, interrogation, trial, and surveillance. Sure to discomfort and ignite debate, Law and the Long War is the first nonideological argument about a controversial issue of vital importance to all Americans.
About the Author: Benjamin Wittes is a Fellow and Research Director in Public Law at the Brookings Institution. A former editorial writer for The Washington Post specializing in legal affairs, he currently writes a column for The New Republic Online and is a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly. He is a member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law.
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