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In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror

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From the executive director of the ACLU, Anthony D. Romero, and award-winning journalist Dina Temple-Raston, In Defense of Our America takes a critical look at civil liberties in this country at a time when constitutional freedoms are in peril. Using the stories of real Americans on the frontlines of the fight for civil liberties., In Defense of Our America provides a look From the executive director of the ACLU, Anthony D. Romero, and award-winning journalist Dina Temple-Raston, In Defense of Our America takes a critical look at civil liberties in this country at a time when constitutional freedoms are in peril. Using the stories of real Americans on the frontlines of the fight for civil liberties., In Defense of Our America provides a look at the dangerous erosion of the Bill of Rights in the age of terror. Against the backdrop of post-9/11 America, readers are taken behind the scenes of some of the most important civil liberties cases in America. From the story of the "American Taliban" to the battle against the National Security Agency's warrantless spying program, In Defense of Our America tracks a roster of skirmishes in the larger fight for civil liberties in this country. It tracks an effort in Pennsylvania to force religion into the public school science curriculum and tells the story of South Dakota's attempts to place an outright ban on abortions in the state. In a narrative that allows the characters to tell the story, In Defense of Our America offers the first inside look at the Lindh family as they saw their son and brother, John Walker Lindh, emerge as a symbol of America's battle against Islamic fundamentalism. It follows Joshua Dratel, a defense attorney at the center of many legal battles over the rights of individuals suspected of terrorism, and tells the story of a modern-day Scopes trial in Dover, Pennsylvania. The book tracks the case of Matthew Limon, a gay teenager sentenced to 17 years for having consensual oral sex with a younger teenage boy in Kansas, and looks behind the reports of a broken judicial system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In Defense of Our America chronicles the stories of an array of colorful characters to illustrate the state of play in today's fight for civil liberties, including Cecelia Fire Thunder, the Sioux president who wanted to open an abortion clinic on her South Dakota reservation, and high school science teacher Bertha Spahr who defied a school board dominated by fundamentalist Christians by taking a stand against "intelligent design." With unparalleled access to key players in some of the landmark tests of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, In Defense of Our America weaves together a compelling narrative that provides an unusually full look at the fight for civil liberties as Americans struggle to protect their rights and ensure their security.


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From the executive director of the ACLU, Anthony D. Romero, and award-winning journalist Dina Temple-Raston, In Defense of Our America takes a critical look at civil liberties in this country at a time when constitutional freedoms are in peril. Using the stories of real Americans on the frontlines of the fight for civil liberties., In Defense of Our America provides a look From the executive director of the ACLU, Anthony D. Romero, and award-winning journalist Dina Temple-Raston, In Defense of Our America takes a critical look at civil liberties in this country at a time when constitutional freedoms are in peril. Using the stories of real Americans on the frontlines of the fight for civil liberties., In Defense of Our America provides a look at the dangerous erosion of the Bill of Rights in the age of terror. Against the backdrop of post-9/11 America, readers are taken behind the scenes of some of the most important civil liberties cases in America. From the story of the "American Taliban" to the battle against the National Security Agency's warrantless spying program, In Defense of Our America tracks a roster of skirmishes in the larger fight for civil liberties in this country. It tracks an effort in Pennsylvania to force religion into the public school science curriculum and tells the story of South Dakota's attempts to place an outright ban on abortions in the state. In a narrative that allows the characters to tell the story, In Defense of Our America offers the first inside look at the Lindh family as they saw their son and brother, John Walker Lindh, emerge as a symbol of America's battle against Islamic fundamentalism. It follows Joshua Dratel, a defense attorney at the center of many legal battles over the rights of individuals suspected of terrorism, and tells the story of a modern-day Scopes trial in Dover, Pennsylvania. The book tracks the case of Matthew Limon, a gay teenager sentenced to 17 years for having consensual oral sex with a younger teenage boy in Kansas, and looks behind the reports of a broken judicial system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In Defense of Our America chronicles the stories of an array of colorful characters to illustrate the state of play in today's fight for civil liberties, including Cecelia Fire Thunder, the Sioux president who wanted to open an abortion clinic on her South Dakota reservation, and high school science teacher Bertha Spahr who defied a school board dominated by fundamentalist Christians by taking a stand against "intelligent design." With unparalleled access to key players in some of the landmark tests of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, In Defense of Our America weaves together a compelling narrative that provides an unusually full look at the fight for civil liberties as Americans struggle to protect their rights and ensure their security.

30 review for In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Another NPR interview teaser... sounded amazing, yet disturbing. I think this is going to be at the top of the "up next" list. Now that i've completed it...it really was amazing and disturburbing. Everyone.. please read this and have a greater understanding of our country, our constitution, and the ACLU. Who wants it next?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    The American Civil Liberties Union is probably the one organization with whom I consistently agree. That stance, of course, is what drew me to reading this book. Which I checked out of the public library. With my library card. That is probably being tracked, short-listing me as a "credible threat" for having read this book. Well shit. This book collects several stories, each a frontline issue that the ACLU has represented. These include John Walker Lindh's capture and conviction, the abortion ba The American Civil Liberties Union is probably the one organization with whom I consistently agree. That stance, of course, is what drew me to reading this book. Which I checked out of the public library. With my library card. That is probably being tracked, short-listing me as a "credible threat" for having read this book. Well shit. This book collects several stories, each a frontline issue that the ACLU has represented. These include John Walker Lindh's capture and conviction, the abortion ban in South Dakota (particularly how it affected the state's Indian reservations, where extreme poverty has made occurrences of rape and incest five times higher than the rest of the state), age-of-consent laws that are heavily biased against homosexuals (Kansas established a "Romeo & Juliet" law that provided a light sentence for 18- and 19-year-old males who had consensual sex with a younger teenage girl of at least age 15--but if it's two males, the minimum sentence is 17 years in prison), the breakdown of the Louisiana penal system leading up to and immediately following Katrina, NSA spying on peace activist groups (particularly college students), and the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board requiring intelligent design to be incorporated into high school biology classes. Each story is equally inspiring and horrifying. Anthony Romero points out that while the ACLU was directly involved in these cases, the outcome was not always in their favor. Nor has the ACLU always made the "right" choice--Romero humbly writes about his organization's embarrassing actions during McCarthy's communism scare. His afterward is particularly powerful and touching--he spends a few pages injecting his personal experiences dealing with civil liberties as the ACLU executive director AND as an openly gay son of Catholic Puerto Rican immigrants. Why four out of five? Simply, because the book's layout is a bit awkward. Rather than devote a section of the book to each case, Romero has combined them into a continuous overlap, in an attempt to make the book read more like a novel than a report. We see where he's going, and it does work most of the time--unfortunately this leads to the occasional slamming-on-the-brakes-and-throwing-that-sucker-in-reverse when trying to convince the reader that courtroom transcripts make for a riveting, white-knuckled read. But overall, this is an extremely powerful, potentially rage-inducing book. At the very least, it reminds us of the value of that beautiful and utterly brilliant piece of tattered parchment that is the Constitution of the United States.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This book looks at the current state of civil liberties in America, by exploring case studies of several different types of cases. Matthew Limon is a gay teenager from Kansas who was sentenced to a seventeen-year prison term for having consensual sex with a boy three years younger. If his sex partner had been female, the sentence would have been much less. As a way to lessen the impact of a proposed total abortion ban in South Dakota, Cecilia Fire Thunder, the President of the Sioux Nation, advoc This book looks at the current state of civil liberties in America, by exploring case studies of several different types of cases. Matthew Limon is a gay teenager from Kansas who was sentenced to a seventeen-year prison term for having consensual sex with a boy three years younger. If his sex partner had been female, the sentence would have been much less. As a way to lessen the impact of a proposed total abortion ban in South Dakota, Cecilia Fire Thunder, the President of the Sioux Nation, advocated putting an abortion clinic on Sioux land. The school board of Dover, Pennsylvania attempted to force the local high school to include “intelligent design” into the biology curriculum. A middle-age science teacher named Bertha Spahr led the fight against the plan. Kot Hordynski is part of a non-violent anti-war group at the University of California, Santa Clara. The Pentagon put him on a terrorist watch list and called him a "credible threat." Before anyone thinks that the American Civil Liberties Union, of which Romero is the Executive Director, is an anti-conservative or anti-Catholic group, consider: the ACLU defended Rush Limbaugh’s right to privacy when prosecutors wanted his medical records to prosecute his drug bust; they argued that anti-abortion protestors have a right to march and be heard; the ACLU stood up for Oliver North’s constitutional rights during Iran-Contra; when a high school senior wanted to put a quote from the Bible in her yearbook, the ACLU argued that she had a right to free speech-even religious speech. Also, the ACLU helped strike the provision in the Virginia constitution that denied Jerry Falwell’s church the right to incorporate in Virginia. This is a gem of a book. It does a good job of showing how civil liberties were not in good shape, entangling average people, even before 9/11; since then, things have gotten noticeably worse. It is very much worth reading.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maduck831

    “The ACLU sought to release the names of immigrants who were detained and deported. In response, the Bush administration closed all deportation hearings (7) [take on intelligent design – 53] [The Puzzle Palace by James Bamford] [TALON database] “Many of the other prisoners were there, baking in the hot sun on the blacktop asphalt without food or water, for several days.” (130) [Military Commissions Act of 2006] “Police evidence rooms were a soup of DNA evidence, soaked files, and lost eyewitness “The ACLU sought to release the names of immigrants who were detained and deported. In response, the Bush administration closed all deportation hearings (7) [take on intelligent design – 53] [The Puzzle Palace by James Bamford] [TALON database] “Many of the other prisoners were there, baking in the hot sun on the blacktop asphalt without food or water, for several days.” (130) [Military Commissions Act of 2006] “Police evidence rooms were a soup of DNA evidence, soaked files, and lost eyewitness accounts.” (159) [Department of Corrections “advertisements” after Katrina] [much of this is discussed in Eggers book…i.e. support…common sources?] “The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive.” (191) “The ACLU came to the aid of a high school senior who wanted to put a quote from the Bible in her high school yearbook.” (202) “As the old civil liberties adage goes, “When the rights of any are sacrificed, the rights of none are safe.” (209)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Heather Denkmire

    Very disappointing. The content was fine, though for the first 1/4 of the book it was all repeat information for me. I had to stop listening (audiobook) because the reader was awful. Beyond awful. He put me to sleep. It was like a 1950's newsreel or something. Yuck. Boo. I really don't like giving up on books. But to read this myself would probably also put me to sleep. The style wasn't just dull because of the reading, but also in the form of the "story."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    The author claims the book was written like a novel, with the characters telling the story of the loss of liberties we Americans are facing, and allowing to happen, in our post-9/11 society. I am a believer in this fact, but unfortunately the disjointed format of the book distilled the power of the story, leaving the Afterward as the most compelling, cohesive writing in the book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Some pretty incredible stories here. It made me realize that once I have the means to be a regular charity-giver, the ACLU must be high on my list.

  8. 5 out of 5

    James Jardine

    Terrifying but hopeful.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Iryll

    Totally riled me up and got me upset but learned about important issues everyone should know about.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Craig Bolton

    In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror by Anthony D Romero (2007)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Louise Chambers

    I highly respect the ACLU. These stories of the cases that the organization has taken on make it clear that the fight to maintain our civil rights may never cease.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tim Martin

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jayme

  16. 4 out of 5

    Younus

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Adams

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rich

  19. 5 out of 5

    Angelica

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Frieze

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jack Chadwick

  22. 4 out of 5

    Les Adams

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aasussman

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lele

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Bertram

  26. 4 out of 5

    Geoff

  27. 5 out of 5

    James White

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steven Aiello

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kim

  30. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Tedesco

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