January 17, 2008

Book Review - Bush, the Detainees, and the Constitution

Bush, the Detainees, and the Constitution: The Battle over Presidential Power in the War on Terror
Howard Ball
KF 5060 .B35 2007

Law school professor Howard Ball examines the legal issues that have arisen as a result of the War on Terror, beginning with court cases brought in 2004 and 2006 by detainees at Guantanamo, Ball dissects the legal arguments that set the human rights of the detainees against Bush's proclamation that only he has the authority to decide their fate and the actions taken by the Courts and Congress to assert their own authority. Ball asserts that the presidential administration has repeatedly taken actions that undercut both the letter and the spirit of the law by proposing new legislation, issuing presidential statements, and even redefining the detainees to change their legal status. Ball also argues that use of military force, the Patriot Act, and wiretapping programs, as well as Bush's claims to "state secrets privilege" have provided a context in which the outcome of these cases is subjected to more than purely legal scrutiny. Ball, unabashedly a critic of the Bush administration, concludes that it has undermined the protections of individuals under the law. He recognizes that in times of war, tension and conflict will always exist between the need for national security and those individuals who attack the nation. However, Ball challenges readers to look beyond the immediate conflict to the shift away from a "balance of power" structure within the United States government and the erosion of representative democracy that is occurring.