The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals

by Jane Mayer

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The Dark Side is a dramatic, riveting, and definitive narrative account of how the United States made self-destructive decisions in the pursuit of terrorists around the world—decisions that not only violated the Constitution, but also hampered the pursuit of Al Qaeda. In spellbinding detail, Jane Mayer relates the impact of these decisions by which key players, namely Vice President Dick Cheney and his powerful, secretive adviser David Addington, exploited September 11 to further a long held agenda to enhance presidential powers to a degree never known in U.S. history, and obliterate Constitutional protections that define the very essence of the American experiment. With a new afterward. 

One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year

National Bestseller

National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist 

A Best Book of the Year: SalonSlateThe EconomistThe Washington PostCleveland Plain-Dealer

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307456502
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/08/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 210,643
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Jane Mayer is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of three bestselling and critically acclaimed narrative nonfiction books. She co-authored Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984–1988, with Doyle McManus, and Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas, with Jill Abramson, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, for which she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, was named one of The New York Times’s Top 10 Books of the Year and won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the Goldsmith Book Prize, the Edward Weintal Prize, the Ridenhour Prize, the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. It was also a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. For her reporting at The New Yorker,Mayer has been awarded the John Chancellor Award, the George Polk Award, the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, and the I. F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence presented by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard. Mayer lives in Washington, D.C.

Read an Excerpt


America should go “not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. . . . She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.” –John Quincy Adams, An Address . . . Celebrating the Anniversary of Independence, at the City of Washington on the Fourth of July 1821
If anyone in America should have been prepared to respond to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it ought to have been Vice President Dick Cheney. For decades before the planes hit the Pentagon and World Trade Center, Cheney had been secretly practicing for doomsday.

During the 1980s, while serving as a Republican congressman from Wyoming and a rising power in the conservative leadership in Congress, Cheney secretly participated in one of the most highly classified, top-secret programs of the Reagan Administration, a simulation of survival scenarios designed to ensure the smooth continuity of the U.S. government in the event of all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Every year, usually during congressional recesses, Cheney would disappear in the dead of the night. He left without explanation to his wife, Lynne Vincent Cheney, who was given merely a phone number where he could be reached in the event of emergency. Along with some four or five dozen federal officials, Cheney would pretend for several weeks to be chief of staff to a designated substitute “president,” bivouacked in some remote location in the United States.

As James Mann reveals in The Vulcans, his rich intellectual history of the neoconservative brain trust that has guided Bush foreign policy, the exercise tried to re-create some of the anticipated hardships of surviving a nuclear holocaust. Accommodations were Spartan and cuisine was barely adequate. Civilian communications systems were presumed destroyed. The challenge was to ensure civil order and control over the military in the event that the elected president and vice president, and much of the executive branch, were decimated. The Constitution, of course, spells out the line of succession. If the president and vice president are indisposed, then power passes first to the Speaker of the House, and next to the president pro tempore of the Senate. But in a secret executive order, President Reagan, who was deeply concerned about the Soviet threat, amended the process for speed and clarity. The secret order established a means of re-creating the executive branch without informing Congress that it had been sidestepped, or asking for legislation that would have made the new “continuity-of-government” plan legally legitimate. Cheney, a proponent of expansive presidential powers, was evidently unperturbed by this oversight.

Mann and others have suggested that these doomsday drills were a dress rehearsal for Cheney’s calm, commanding performance on 9/11. It was not the first time he had stared into the abyss. One eyewitness, who kept a diary, said that inside the Presidential Emergency Operations Command, or PEOC, a hardened command center several hundred feet under the by-then-evacuated White House, Cheney never broke a sweat as he juggled orders to shoot down any additional incoming hijacked planes, coordinated efforts with other cabinet members, most particularly the Directors of the FBI and CIA, and resolved issues such as how to avoid charges of taking hostage two visiting foreign heads of state, from Australia and Lithuania, after all air traffic had been shut down.

Six weeks after the attacks on New York and Washington, the Bush Administration had successfully restored calm, reassured the financial markets, and rallied the sympathies and support of much of the world. But once again the White House was plunged into a state of controlled panic.
On October 17, 2001, a white powder that had been sent through the U.S. mail to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s office in the Capitol was positively identified. Scientific analysis showed it to be an unusually difficult to obtain and lethally potent form of the deadly bacterial poison anthrax. This news followed less than ten days after the death in Florida of a victim in another mysterious anthrax attack. The anthrax spores in the letter to Daschle were so professionally refined, the Central Intelligence Agency believed the powder must have been sent by an experienced terrorist organization, most probably Al Qaeda, as a sequel to the group’s September 11 attacks. During a meeting of the White House’s National Security Council that day, Cheney, who was sitting in for the President because Bush was traveling abroad, urged everyone to keep this inflammatory speculation secret.

At the time, no one, not even America’s best-informed national security leaders, really knew anything for sure about what sorts of threats loomed, or from where. The only certainty shared by virtually the entire American intelligence community in the fall of 2001 was that a second wave of even more devastating terrorist attacks on America was imminent. In preparation, the CIA had compiled a list of likely targets ranging from movie studios–whose heads were warned by the Bush Administration to take precautions–to sports arenas and corporate headquarters. Topping the list was the White House.

The next day, the worst of these fears seemed realized. On October 18, 2001, an alarm in the White House went off. Chillingly, the warning signal wasn’t a simple fire alarm triggered by the detection of smoke. It was a sensitive, specialized sensor, designed to alert anyone in the vicinity that the air they were breathing had been contaminated by potentially lethal radioactive, chemical, or biological agents. Everyone who had entered the Situation Room that day was believed to have been exposed, and that included Cheney. “They thought there had been a nerve attack,” a former administration official, who was sworn to secrecy about it, later confided. “It was really, really scary. They thought that Cheney was already lethally infected.” Facing the possibility of his own death, the Vice President nonetheless calmly reported the emergency to the rest of the National Security Council.

Members of the National Security Council were all too well aware of the seriousness of the peril they were facing. At Cheney’s urging, they had received a harrowing briefing just a few weeks earlier about the possibility of biological attack. His attention had been drawn to the subject by a war game called Dark Winter conducted in the summer before that simulated the effects of an outbreak of smallpox in America. After the September 11 attacks, Cheney’s chief of staff,

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, screened a video of the Dark Winter exercise for Cheney, showing that the United States was virtually defenseless against smallpox or any other biological attack. Cheney in particular was so stricken by the potential for attack that he insisted that the rest of the National Security Council undergo a gruesome briefing on it on September 20, 2001. When the White House sensor registered the presence of such poisons less than a month later, many, including Cheney, believed a nightmare was unfolding. “It was a really nerve-jangling time,” the former official said.

In time, the Situation Room alarm turned out to be false. But on October 22, the Secret Service reported that it had found what it believed to be additional anthrax traces on an automated letter-opening device used on White House mail. By then, Cheney had convinced the President to support a $1.6 billion bioterrorism-preparedness program. Cheney argued that every citizen in the country should be vaccinated against smallpox.

During the ten days after the Vice President’s scare, threats of mortal attack were nonetheless so frequent, and so terrifying, that on October 29 Cheney quietly insisted upon absenting himself from the White House to what was described as “a secure, undisclosed location”–one of several Cold War—era nuclear-hardened subterranean bunkers built during the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations, the nearest of which were located hundreds of feet below bedrock in places such as Mount Weather, in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border not far from Camp David.
In a subterranean bunker crammed with communications equipment and government-issue metal desks, Cheney and other rotating cabinet members took turns occupying what was archly referred to as “The Commander in Chief’s Suite.”

Officials who worked in the White House and other sensitive posts with access to raw intelligence files during the fall of 2001 say it is nearly impossible to exaggerate the sense of mortal and existential danger that dominated the thinking of the upper rungs of the Bush Administration during those months.
“They thought they were going to get hit again. They convinced themselves that they were facing a ticking time bomb,” recalled Roger Cressey, who then headed what was known as the Terrorist Threats Sub-Group of the National Security Council.

Counterterrorism experts knew that Al Qaeda’s members had in the recent past made efforts to obtain nuclear and other horrific weapons of mass destruction in order to commit murder on an even greater scale. Unlike earlier enemies of America, they targeted innocent civilians and fought clandestinely with inhuman disregard for life. Other foes had been better organized and more powerful, but none had struck as great a blow behind the lines in America, nor spread a greater sense of vulnerability in the population. Under the circumstances, Cressey admitted, “I firmly expected to get hit again too. It seemed highly probable.”
The sense of fear within the White House was understandable, but it was intensified by what was supposed to be a valuable new intelligence tool introduced after September 11, what came to be known as the “Top Secret Codeword/Threat Matrix.” Having underestimated Al Qaeda before the attacks, Bush and Cheney took aggressive steps to ensure that they would never get similarly blindsided again. In the days immediately after the attacks, he and Cheney demanded to see all available raw intelligence reports concerning additional possible threats to America on a daily basis. Cheney had long been a skeptic about the CIA’s skills, and was particularly insistent on reviewing the data himself. “The mistake,” Cressey concluded later, “was not to have proper analysis of the intelligence before giving it to the President. There was no filter. Most of it was garbage. None of it had been corroborated or screened.

But it went directly to the President and his advisers, who are not intelligence experts. That’s when mistakes got made.” Others who saw the same intelligence reports found the experience mind-altering. It was “like being stuck in a room listening to Led Zeppelin music,” said Jim Baker, former head of the Counsel in the Department of Justice’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review. Readers suffered “sensory overload” and became “paranoid.” Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey believed that the cumulative effect turned national security concerns into “an obsession.”

A sense of constant danger followed Cheney everywhere. When he commuted to his White House office from the vice presidential residence, he was chauffeured in an armored motorcade that varied its route to foil possible attackers. On the backseat behind Cheney rested a duffel bag stocked with a gas mask and a biochemical surival suit. Rarely did he travel without a medical doctor in tow.
Cheney managed to make light of these macabre arrangements, joking about evading “The Jackal” by varying his routines, and teasing an old friend that, alas, he had too little survival equipment to be able to share his. Some of those around Cheney wondered if the attacks, perhaps in combination with his medical problems, had exacerbated his natural pessimism. An old family friend found him changed after September 11, “more steely, as if he was preoccupied by terrible things he couldn’t talk about.” Brent Scowcroft, a lifelong acquaintance, told The New Yorker, “I don’t know him anymore.” In the view of some detractors, such as Lawrence Wilkerson, the chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, “Cheney was traumatized by 9/11. The poor guy became paranoid.”
From the start of the administration, Cheney had confidently assumed the national security portfolio for a president with virtually no experience in the area. But Al Qaeda’s attacks exposed a gaping shortcoming in the Vice President’s thinking. The Soviet Union, whose threat had preoccupied Cheney and other doomsday planners in the 1980s, was gone. In its place another, more intangible danger had arisen. No one in the Bush Administration, including Cheney, had had the foresight or imagination to see Bin Laden’s plot unfolding.

With the notable exception of Richard Clarke, the long-serving head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council, and a few counterterrorism experts at the CIA and FBI, terrorism hadn’t ranked anywhere near the top of the new administration’s national security concerns. Later, a number of top officials, including CIA Director George Tenet, would offer evidence that they had been keenly focused on the threat from Bin Laden before the attacks. If so, none succeeded in getting the President and Vice President’s attention.

When Al Qaeda struck, Cheney and the other hardliners who had spent decades militating for a more martial and aggressive foreign policy were caught off guard. Frozen in a Cold War—era mind-set, they overlooked threats posed not by great armed nation-states, but by small, lithe rogue groups waging “asymmetric” warfare.

The Bush White House could have demanded an instant review of how they had been so badly surprised, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the results would not have been flattering. But instead of trying to learn from what had essentially been a colossal bureaucratic failure, combined with inattention and a lack of political will at the top, the Bush White House deferred the focus elsewhere.

The lesson for Bush and Cheney was that terrorists had struck at the United States because they saw the country as soft. Bush worried that the nation was too “materialistic, hedonistic,” and that Bin Laden “didn’t feel threatened” by it. Confronted with a new enemy and their own intelligence failure, he and Cheney turned to some familiar conservative nostrums that had preoccupied the far right wing of the Republican Party since the Watergate era. There was too much international law, too many civil liberties, too many constraints on the President’s war powers, too many rights for defendants, and too many rules against lethal covert actions. There was also too much openness and too much meddling by Congress and the press.

Cheney in particular had been chafing against the post-Watergate curbs that had been imposed on the president’s powers since the mid1970s, when he had served as Gerald Ford’s chief of staff. As Vice President, Cheney had already begun to strengthen the power of the presidency by aggressively asserting executive privilege, most notably on his secrecy-enshrouded energy task force. He’d told Bush, who later repeated the line, that if nothing else they must leave the office stronger than they found it. Now Cheney saw the terrorist threat in such catastrophic terms that his end, saving America from possible extinction, justified virtually any means. As Wilkerson, Powell’s former Chief of Staff who went on to teach National Security Affairs at George Washington University, put it, “He had a single-minded objective in black and white, that American security was paramount to everything else. He thought that perfect security was achievable. I can’t fault the man for wanting to keep America safe. But he was willing to corrupt the whole country to save it.”
Whether the White House fears were rational will long be debated. But it was in this feverish atmosphere that a new system of law was devised to vanquish what Bush described as a new kind of enemy in “a war unlike any other.”

Beginning almost immediately after September 11, 2001, Cheney saw to it that some of the sharpest and best-trained lawyers in the country, working in secret in the White House and the United States
Department of Justice, came up with legal justifications for a vast expansion of the government’s power in waging war on terror.

As part of that process, for the first time in its history, the United States sanctioned government officials to physically and psychologically torment U.S.-held captives, making torture the official law of the land in all but name.

The lawyers also authorized other previously illegal practices, including the secret capture and indefinite detention of suspects without charges. Simply by designating the suspects “enemy combatants,” the President could suspend the ancient writ of habeas corpus that guarantees a person the right to challenge his imprisonment in front of a fair and independent authority. Once in U.S. custody, the President’s lawyers said, these suspects could be held incommunicado, hidden from their families and international monitors such as the Red Cross, and subjected to unending abuse, so long as it didn’t meet the lawyers’ own definition of torture. And they could be held for the duration of the war against terrorism, a struggle in which victory had never been clearly defined.

Few would argue against safeguarding the nation. But in the judgment of at least one of the country’s most distinguished presidential scholars, the legal steps taken by the Bush Administration in its war against terrorism were a quantum leap beyond earlier blots on the country’s history and traditions: more significant than John Adams’s Alien and Sedition Acts, than Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, than the imprisonment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. Collectively, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. argued, the Bush Administration’s extralegal counterterrorism program presented the most dramatic, sustained, and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history.

Over a lunch at a genteel Upper East Side French restaurant in Manhattan in 2006, the year before he died, Schlesinger, a liberal Democrat but also an admirer of muscular foreign policy, chose his words slowly and carefully. When asked what he thought of President Bush’s policy on torture, he peered over his glasses and paused. Schlesinger’s The Imperial Presidency had described Richard Nixon as pushing the outer limits of abuse of presidential power. Later, his book The Cycles of American History had placed these excesses in a continuum of pendulum swings. With his trademark bow tie askew, Schlesinger considered, and finally said, “No position taken has done more damage to the American reputation in the world–ever.”

While there was nothing new about torture, its authorization by Bush Administration lawyers represented a dramatic break with the past. As early as the Revolutionary War, General George Washington vowed that, unlike the British, who tortured enemy captives, this new country in the New World would distinguish itself by its humanity. In fighting to liberate the world from Communism, Fascism, and Nazism, and working to ameliorate global ignorance and poverty, America had done more than any nation on earth to abolish torture and other violations of human rights.

Yet, almost precisely on the sixtieth anniversary of the famous war crimes tribunal’s judgment in Nuremberg, which established what seemed like an immutable principle, that legalisms and technicalities could not substitute for individual moral choice and conscience, America became the first nation ever to authorize violations of the Geneva Conventions. These international treaties, many of which were hammered out by American lawyers in the wake of the harrowing Nazi atrocities of World War II, set an absolute, minimum baseline for the humane treatment of all categories of prisoners taken in almost all manner of international conflicts. Rather than lining prisoners up in front of ditches and executing them, or exterminating them in gas chambers, or subjecting them to grueling physical hardships, all enemy prisoners–even spies and saboteurs–were from then on to be accorded some basic value simply because they were human. America had long played a special role as the world’s most ardent champion of these fundamental rights; it was not just a signatory but also the custodian of the Geneva Conventions, the original signed copies of which resided in a vault at the State Department.

Any fair telling of how America came to sacrifice so many cherished values in its fight against terrorism has to acknowledge that the enemy that the Bush Administration faced on September 11, and which the country faces still, is both real and terrifying. Often, those in power have felt they simply had no good choices. But this country has in the past faced other mortal enemies, equally if not more threatening, without endangering its moral authority by resorting to state-sanctioned torture. Other democratic nations, meanwhile, have grappled with similar if not greater threats from terrorism without undercutting their values and laws.

But to understand the Bush Administration’s self-destructive response to September 11, one has to look particularly to Cheney, the doomsday expert and unapologetic advocate of expanding presidential power. Appearing on Meet the Press on the first Sunday after the attacks, Cheney gave a memorable description of how the administration viewed the continuing threat and how it planned to respond.
“We’ll have to work sort of the dark side, if you will,” Cheney explained in his characteristically quiet and reassuring voice. “We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies–if we are going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in. And, uh, so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal basically, to achieve our objectives.”

Soon afterward, Cheney disappeared from public view. But his influence had already begun to shape all that followed.

Table of Contents

Panic     1
Blame     11
The Warning     28
Men of Zeal     44
Detainee 001     72
Outsourcing Torture     101
Inside the Black Sites     139
The Experiment     182
The Memo     213
A Deadly Interrogation     238
Blowback     261
Cover-up     295
Afterword     327
Acknowledgments     336
Endnotes     338
Bibliography     361
A Note on Sources     370
Index     372

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The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Written by ace New Yorker writer Jane Mayer, this book is a page-turning thriller detailing how the Bush Administration reacted to the attacks of 9/11. If you care about our constitution, the rule of law, due process and your own civil liberties, you must read this book. Consider it a legal brief on the crimes of the Bush Administration. All the more devastating because it true.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The door to the misdeeds of the Bush Administration is opened a bit more in this shocking book.The torture discribed on its pages and the total disregard for American values exibited by those in power is nothing less than war crimes.Abu Ghraib is only one example of the depths of depravity exhibited and condoned by those in power in the US Government.As is pointed out in this book, the US historically has taken the 'high road' on prisoner treatment.For whatever reason, the Executive Branch has thrown those values out the window in their zeal to make us safer. As the author points out, their misdeeds have not only made the US more contemptible to many people in the world, we have also become more vulnerable.The saddest part of this book's message is in pointing out how far those in power in the US have carried us into an abyss. And I dare say that there will be more books to come out as time passes on how bad the past eight years have been for our country.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you're a regular reader of some of the better websites exposing graft, corruption, malfeasance and gutting of the constitution. Sites like Harpers No Comment Blog by Columbia University's award winning lawyer, Scott Harper or Talking Points Memo's Muckraker site, then most of this will not be new to you. But if all the news you get is the mainstream media reports from ABC, CBS, NBC, or worst of all, Fox News then you're going to be shocked at some of the revelations in this book. But make no mistake, everything outlined here is absolutely and unequivocally true. If most of America doesn't soon wake up to what has happened, we will become a fascist state in short order. The book outlines the fact that we're well on our way and we have many 'good Germans' who are allowing it to happen.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
Mayer tells her story slowly, deliberately, carefully placing interview upon interview until we are faced with a pile of facts so distastful that it is difficult to imagine we turned faces away for so long. It is true we "didn't know," but the secrecy surrounding the internal operations of the White House is no excuse for allowing what we all may have suspected--that we were losing our moral high ground in the war against terror by stooping so low as to disregard our own, and international laws, in order to fight a virally-organized group of people that hated us for our excesses--the very excesses we were proving to be unequivocably true.
dnDN More than 1 year ago
the dark side is a tremendously important book----reveals all the secrets and lies of the bush regime. sorts out a murky and hard to understand trail of events that led to america's use of torture.----once i started, i couldn't put it down.
WilliamE More than 1 year ago
The Dark Side is a compelling and well written study on the excess of power. It drove home to me the need for rules and checks. Dick Cheney, George Bush, David Addington and the other leaders of the Bush Administration appear to have lost sight that the rule of law is not just for the easy times, but is especially necessary in times of national stress. While Ms. Mayer does an excellent job stating her case, I found her voice a bit too biased. I am a little bothered by her over use of unnamed sources. While it may be difficult to give true credence to the arguments in favor of extreme executive power and the abuse of human rights, I would have found the book a bit more credible if Ms. Mayer hadn't given those views more than just lip service mentioning. Overall, I think this book should be mandatory reading for any American regardless of their political leanings.
AdvRider More than 1 year ago
Agree or not with the actions taken, this book provides a wide range of torture examples sanctioned and authorized by U.S. officials along with the outcome of the information gathered.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Many reviewers have written that Mayer is too biased in her writing. She is being biased, but that is the point of her persuasive literary work. True, if this were a journalistic piece in a newspaper or magazine, it would be inappropriately pointed, but she has written a book whose aim is to persuade its readers into her viewpoint. Obviously she will use facts which support her case while ommitting most facts that hinder her case. She has every right to produce and persuade readers - it speaks of her inspiring confidence and conviction.
RJR109 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The title should have been more discriptive - "The Dark Side" was spoken by VP Chaneyin conjunction with his secret and underhanded methods of making the Bush Presidencysecret along with David Addington, his Asst. and with Geo Tenet, John Yo and others; allobstensibly for the War on Terror
jorgearanda on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A comprehensive, well researched, well documented book about the United States' descent into the circle of nations that torture as a matter of policy. Mayer does not study the institutions that practice torture themselves (the CIA, the Pentagon), rather, she skillfully describes the day-to-day struggles of people within them to establish or to tear apart the policy of institutionalized torture.The Dark Side is a very measured book. It doesn't speculate, it doesn't argue, it just presents the facts that have slowly emerged on the topic. It's not an angry book, yet as I read it I couldn't help but feel anger, and fear of the fragility of our rights.
flourishing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Quite engaging, although I have no way of judging how accurate or truthful it is. I tend to trust it about - say - 80%? Perhaps 75%? Which is pretty good for a book of its type. But I couldn't say why, other than the fact that it appeared as one of the NY Times' best books. Certainly after reading it I felt much better informed about the actual processes that happen inside the White House.
blissread on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an important book for people to understand what has happened to prisoners in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But be aware, it is very painful to read - I found that I needed to read it in small doses.
steambadger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you have not read this book, PLEASE DO SO AT ONCE. It is absolutely essential.
stevetempo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very informative and disturbing read, but well worth it. Also great case history of extremism and how noble ideas (i.e. protecting America against terrorist attack) can go array. Checks and balances are what the American government is all about (in theory). Lets hope we are now on a better track.
Narboink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is exceptionally well written. Even though I had a broad familiarity with the subject matter, this book nonetheless made me feel like I was looking at an old story with fresh eyes. If the seemingly relentless onslaught of governmental malfeasance over the last few years has left you somewhat anesthetized, Jane Mayer makes a noble effort to rekindle your outrage. The tone of The Dark Side is, above all, supremely confident. There is a discernable absence of sentiment, as well as a disinclination to speculate. The story of how America re-established itself as a nation that is comfortable with cruelty is told with crisp efficiency. Additionally, Ms. Mayer has pulled this off without resorting to advocacy. This is the work of a professional journalist, not a pundit with an ideological score to settle.
joshberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The idealogues are infuriating and the torture descriptions nauseating, but this is an extremely well-reported book, exhaustive yet often gripping. Essential reading for anyone seeking a more complete account of America's most recent (and most heinous?) fall from grace.
xiaoshitou on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's not the best writing i've read but i think jane mayer delved into an important topic in this book. Every American should read it.
solla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very well done, full of details, will probably make you sick to read the kind of things recently done in our country.
janewylen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The title of this book comes from a statement of Cheney: "Now we are going to have to go to the dark side." Cheney still believes that torture is necessary, that Obama, by forgoing torture, is putting Americans at risk. Mayer has collected extensive data on torture and extraordinary renditions, and she does not pull any punches. She makes it plain that torture does not work; when tortured, many people will tell authentic sounding lies just to stop the pain.
Brodk More than 1 year ago
Regardless of your political leanings this is a must-read book. Mayer lays out the thinking of the government principals at the time of, and immediately after, the 9/11 bombings. This puts us into the mindset of those who had the power to make policy for the county in the aftermath of those terrorist attacks. Mayer’s focus is, appropriately, how the thinking of government officials led, inexorably, to the policies of detainment without access to lawyers, to black sites, and to Guantanamo Bay. It is important to understand why decisions were made if we are to intelligently criticize them, and criticize them Mayer does, with logic and historical understanding. One can argue that a hard approach was necessary when we needed to be certain that terrorist and sympathizers were eliminated as threats to the United States. However, one cannot view some things with equanimity, regardless of ideology. Remember the US citizen who was picked up at the Detroit airport, with nothing dangerous on him, and moved to an unspecified site with no access to family, friends, lawyers, with the government saying for years that it had the right to do this to anyone, anywhere, as long as officials believed that the person was a threat? This is really the definition of a police state, when the government can detain, without oversight or appeal, a US citizen within the borders of the US, and can hold him indefinitely without charges. No one can, I think, legitimately claim that this is within the Constitution.
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