The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals
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In the days immediately following September 11th, the most powerful people in the United States were panic-stricken. The radical decisions about how to combat terrorists and strengthen national security were made in a state of utter chaos and fear; but the key players, Vice President Dick Cheney and his powerful, secretive adviser David Addington, used the crisis to further a long-held agenda to enhance presidential powers to a degree never known in US history, and obliterate Constitutional protections that define the very essence of the American experiment. The Dark Side is a dramatic, riveting, and definitive narrative account of how the United States made terrible decisions in the pursuit of terrorists around the world - decisions that not only violated the Constitution to which White House officials took an oath to uphold, but also hampered the pursuit of Al Qaeda. In gripping detail, acclaimed New Yorker writer and bestselling author Jane Mayer relates the impact of these decisions: US-held prisoners, many of them completely innocent, were subjected to treatment more reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition than the twenty-first century. In all cases, whatever the short-term gains, there were incalculable losses in terms of moral standing, the US's place in the world, and its sense of itself.

Customer Reviews:

  • Highly recommended.
    First rate piece of journalism.

    There are so many great reviews of this book its hard to really add anything more.

    I have read all of the one and two star reviews of this book. I do not believe that any of those reviewers actually read the book. ...more info
  • Lack of moral leadership explained
    This is a well-written, well-researched book that details the lack of moral leadership of the Federal government during the Bush administration. Apparently, Dick Cheney, David Addington and Donald Rumsfeld (among others) held sway when important decisions needed to be made about our response to the 9/11 attacks. They convinced a lackluster President to violate many principles of law and morality in order to defeat terrorism. Instead of a beacon of light for the world, we became a rogue nation. The American public only has itself to blame for tolerating the crimes of the Bush administration. It is as important as the Shock Doctrine in bringing to light how a great nation can be brought low through misguided ideology....more info
  • I Question Her Motives And Truth Telling
    I am mentioned in this book (regarding my discovery of John Walker Lindh, bringing him a medic and rescuing him from a unsecured hospital) and have been in another article by Mayer about the same topic. In the article she ignored court records, used altered transcripts and invented motive and events to suit her prejudices. In this book she takes a moral position that murderous people with evil intentions have more rights than the people they kill and that the men and women trying to defeat them are essentially evil. That sadly is just not true.

    For the record, in my case, she was not there, never contacted or interviewed me (because the truth would conflict with her pre-determined opinion) and chose to portray a event in a completely differentlight. I therefore would advise readers to independently check her facts, seek other sources and be leery of her very selective and in my opinion, morally questionable point of view.

    Knowing what I know to the be truth casts much doubt on the rest of her premise, logic and structure. This is a Scahill-like book that will excite Bush-bashers but will do little to serve as an accurate record of the truth or history of the war on terror. To others who are guided by doing the right thing and are maligned by journalists of her ilk. Don't be silent in correcting the record of history.
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  • Powerful and very scary view of how the War on Terror has been fought
    In reading this book one can not help but be greatly disturbed by how the Bush administration made the active decision to violate the constitution and violate the separation of powers all to recreate a type of imperial presidency. The book gives a blow by blow description of how the Bush administration used the fear of extremists to drive through policies and new laws that served to weaken constitutional rights while at the same time expand police powers.

    The book also does an excellent job at showing how the administration basically ignored the Geneva Conventions, which the United States helped establish and long championed, to literally beat out false and useless information from terrorists. Water boarding being the most notable example, the book also details other methods used to obtain information and how many times the tricks used by the CIA resulted in incorrect information, done to curry favor with interrogators who were easily taken in.

    I would encourage anyone who would like to know why the United States has such a low standing in the world to read this book. And when the next terrorist attack happens and people wonder why, we can point to stuff like this and say we were more concerned with bullying suspects then in building real intelligence. ...more info
  • Remarkble book
    Great book, I will not recommend to any light hearted person!!
    I closed the book many times because of torture details is so inhumane and shocking. No person living in civilized world can expect such harsh torture.
    ...more info
  • So that's what we were doing...
    This book is both fascinating and sad. It provides a gripping account of the Bush administrations blatant and tragic suspension of the constitution and Geneva conventions to turn us from a nation of mostly-law to a nation of lawlessness, from protecting civil rights to becoming a major violator and torturer. All done in the same incompetent and arrogant fashion that is so typical of the CIA. (This comment is based on information from The Sword and Shield, Truth of the 9/11 Commission, The Looming Tower). We want to create a gulag, but reinvent it. We want to find terrorists, but endlessly reward bad ideas and incompetence, destroying thousands of lives and our country's reputation in the process.

    The author provides some view into the mindset of what drove our country in this direction, and provides many details of what we did, showing the bureaucratic misdecisions and indecisions and corrupt decisions that led to our most senior government officials deciding that they were above the law.

    It is very interesting from a historical and legal perspective, and unless you have preconceived notions that the Bush administration did no wrong and could do no wrong, you will find this a fascinating book.

    My only complaint was that the author's portrayal of Zelikow is quite different than that I've read in other books, and that might lead to a more positive view of his role and Rice's role in the mess.

    A very good, interesting, detailed read that is important to read...more info
  • Hated it!
    Doesn't get that we are not fighting an army, but a ruthless islamic group that will not stop until we are all dead or converted. Thank God for George Bush and Dick Cheney that protected us from these civilian killers. If it takes pouring water over their face to simulate drowning to save mine, or your family.........sign me up. Humiliation is not torture. These people cut off our heads. WAKE UP AMERICA! ...more info
  • Devastating!
    The Bush-Cheney regime created a torture state worthy of the Nazi's right here in our midst. This book is a work of genius and should be read by anyone before they even think about going along with any torture program. Forget about waterboarding, many of these people were killed or simply disappeared. If the perpetrators of these horrors are not brought to justice, we in America have gone beyond all hope....more info
  • Heroes and villains
    A very well-written book, based on research and interviews that backup Mayer's stories. I found the lack of a chronological continuum a bit confusing at first, but as the book progressed, that was less disconcerting.

    The book presents a picture of the Bush administration in a time of crisis and how it reacted to that crisis. While history will probably praise some elements of the Bush team's reaction to 9/11, I fear it will be less laudatory of the ensuing torture debacle. This book presents a picture of Pres. Bush being out of the loop, WH Counsel (later AG)Gonzalez being out of his league, and VP Cheney (and his team) being out of control - a sad state of affairs that seems to have led to abuses that should never have happened. Whether you agree with Mayer's research or not, it does paint a less-than-rosey picture of the Bush Administration's use of executive power.

    But the real story the book tells is of the heroic efforts of other members of the administration who took exception to the practices and argued against them, oftentimes at great risk to their careers and even their persons. These stalwart believers in the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions fought until the Courts, Congress, the press, and the American public finally saw the true events and through the light of public scrutiny held them up as practices that tarnished the image of America at home and abroad.

    Whether a Bush-hugger or a Bush-basher, the reader must see the fight to stop the illegal treatment of detainees as evidence that there are still true heroes in the federal government....more info
  • Important Read
    In 1788 Warren Hastings, former viceroy of India, was impeached for corruption and abuse of power by the British authorities. By all accounts Hastings was not a terrible viceroy, and a lot of his actions could be justified by the culture he found himself in. But the Whig politician and prosecutor Edmund Burke argued that it was more than just Warren Hastings who was on trial: it was Britain's liberty and republican virtues that were really on trial. If corruption and abuse of power were not checked in India then East India Company employees would become fabulously wealthy there and return to corrupt the British political establishment. Hastings was acquitted, and the British republic soon afterwards became the British empire.

    In her book "The Dark Side" the veteran New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer puts on trial the chief architect of America's war on terror Dick Cheney, and charges him with incompetence and stupidity. Not only has the Vice-President failed to make America safer but by condoning and promoting torture and extraordinary rendition has tarnished America's reputation abroad. And by suspending habeas corpus and flagrantly expanding the power of the executive branch Dick Cheney has also imperiled America's liberty.

    Oddly enough Jane Mayer rarely mentions Dick Cheney, and instead focuses her attention on Dick Cheney's surrogates the brilliant workaholic lawyers David Addington and John Yoo. Together the two have overrided much of the government's oversight capabilities and shamelessly and blatantly politicized the Justice Department. Those who objected were treated harshly and banished from government.

    Dick Cheney's office and its supporters created a culture that produced the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal. And the grotesqueness of the evil of this culture is only matched by its gross incompetence. One top CIA officer decided on a whim to rendition a German tourist, and had him tortured for months without any solid evidence because she couldn't admit she had made a mistake.

    Barack Obama may have taken office but "The Dark Side" hints that this culture may be too difficult to abolish: the whisteblowers have left office, and the maliciously incompetent have been promoted too high.

    There is no doubt in Jane Mayer's mind: Dick Cheney and his top lieutenants are guilty of degrading America's ability to defend itself, its reputation abroad, and its liberties at home.

    The question only remains is if Dick Cheney is guilty of being stupid or being evil, and for Jane Mayer the answer is obvious. Dick Cheney has said publicly that he's making America safe, and clearly he's failed. But are Dick Cheney, David Addington, and John Yoo really that stupid and incompetent? How did they obtain so much power if they're so stupid and incompetent?

    We know that Dick Cheney and his people are sharp and competent, and so how could they fail so miserably? Well, who said they failed at all?

    At Guantanamo Bay, using modern science and psychology, they managed to perfect the most painful form of torture known to man. Hooded and naked in a cold dark room the detainees are deprived of identity and sense of place and time, driving some of them insane. Extraordinary rendition is also terrifying in its randomness: anyone can be at any time be made to disappear.

    If your goal is to extract actionable intelligence and hunt down terrorists torture and extraordinary rendition make no sense. But if your goal is to terrorize an entire generation of Muslim men so they wouldn't dare to join a terrorist group then Dick Cheney's policie make sense -- if only in a twisted and perverted Dick Cheney sort of way.

    So is Dick Cheney right? Well, he can't be proved wrong. And if there is a terrorist attack during Obama's regime then isn't he proved right? "The Dark Side" is really a lot darker than Jane Mayer or any one of us can truly imagine. ...more info
  • Crimes, lies and videotape
    "Sunlight is the best disinfectant", U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote, so Jane Mayer's stunning new look at the Bush administration's secret torture program inverts that quote into the perfect title of her book..."The Dark Side". In fact, she might have subtitled it, "Total Eclipse". It's bad enough that the president (so easily led as some in the White House have surmised) surrounded himself with one of the poorest teams in presidential history, but then he let the lawyers run it...David Addington and John Yoo, to name the two most influential ones. All of this under the secretive guise of the biggest "vice" of all...Dick Cheney...and you end up with an administration that thinks itself not only above the law, but that it IS the law.

    Mayer probes the set up as to how Guantanamo Bay came into being in its current state and how Abu Ghraib was the beginning of the end of secrecy in the Bush White House. She follows the case of Mohammed al-Qahtani, (detainee number 063 at Guantanamo), the so-called "twentieth hijacker", as well as Manadel al-Jamadi, whose quick arrest and subsequent beatings in American hands left him dead within hours. But perhaps the saddest of all cases was that of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who was detained and tortured for months because his name bore a resemblance to a similar name on a terrorist list. Completely innocent, Masri has never fully recovered after his release.

    The side show to all of this is the brutal infighting that took place in Washington. The Pentagon, CIA and FBI provided a trifecta of outsized egos and non-cooperation. With the White House added, it was a powder keg of a mix. As Mayer points out, it was the shamelessness of these people who went about trying to deny torture while knowing it was being carried out. That is the essence of "The Dark Side". But in it were those who tried to let in the light...Alberto Mora, Jack Goldsmith and James Comey....conservatives all, but with a strong core of decency.

    As this pitiful administration creeps to a close it will become more evident in the coming months and years how disastrous this post-9/11 time has been. Hijackers reduced the twin towers to rubble but the Bush White House reduced the country in its response. One can only hope that when we look back on this time, the phrase "a government of laws, not of men" will have seen to have been twisted into a gross aberration....more info
  • a rule of men, not laws
    I'm the author of Prepared for Rage: A Novel, about an Islamic terrorist who tries to blow up the space shuttle. There are interrogation scenes at Guantanamo, and I was so dreading the research for them. I really didn't want to have to learn about waterboarding.

    A funny thing happened on the way to researching the Gitmo scenes. Every source I found, either on line or in the library, said the same thing: Torture doesn't produce good intel. The person being tortured will say anything to make the torture stop. The way to get good intel is to talk to the subject, to listen to them, to coax them, cajole them, flatter them, befriend them. Trick them. I can't tell you how relieved I was, and I promptly invented a honey trap instead.

    Then along comes Jane Mayer's The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, and suddenly I'm in the middle of a horror show somewhere between the Spanish Inquisition and Nazi doctors in WWII concentration camps. People are being kidnapped and tortured by the CIA under cover of the executive privilege of the president of the United States. Surprise! No good intel is being produced, either.

    I gave it five stars for content, but I can't say you'll enjoy reading this book. I felt sick while I was reading it and I still feel a little sick now. But it's a book that should be read, at the very least as a cautionary tale as to just how far things can go wrong when nobody's watching. There are heroes, though, like David Brant, the head of NCIS, Alberto Mora, Counsel to the US Navy, the FBI agents who refused to have anything to do with the torture, and all those administration attorneys who, while they were hired because they had the correct conservative credentials nevertheless knew that kidnapping and torture are wrong, unconstitutional and unAmerican, and who fought the good fight against this program, some of them from the beginning, and some of whom were fired or forced to quit because of it.

    It's the victims who stay with me, though. Maher Arar and Khaled el-Masri, literally innocent bystanders who will never be the same again after their treatment at the hands of the CIA.

    This book is also difficult to read because of the sheer weight of detail beneath which it almost founders. I can't believe Ms. Mayer got this many people to talk so freely to her. I kind of got the impression that they'd been dying to talk to somebody. The least we can do is listen to what they have to say.

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  • The Dark Side
    Frightening. Did I say frightening?

    I had read most of what Ms. Mayer writes in her book by reading The Emerald City, The Assassin's Gate, and all of the others. But they were either diaries, or for short periods of time, or focused on just one aspect of this C-4. Ms. Mayer took the long view and tied many of the strings together. It's easier to see now that the war was rigged by the Administration. That they purposefully, yes, purposefully mislead the nation and the Congress, for the most part in their arguments for attacking Iraq. I never thought that I would say the word impeachment with regard to the Bush Administration, but that is definitely in the front of my mind now. Too bad they have to leave their rented apartments in four and a half months. It will deprive us of the ability to pursue this.

    Here is a question someone asked me recently: Are the 4000+ US dead, 30000+ US wounded and over 100,000 Iraqi and Afghani civilians killed balancing off the number of innocent civilians that were killed in the Towers by Al Qaeda? I do not know the answer, but I will say that this book definitely changed the way I felt about my god-child going over for her second tour, and her brother's tour, and her husband's second tour....more info
  • "The Dark Side"
    Bought it as a gift. Arrived in a timely fashion and in great condition. Thank you....more info
  • Torture: True or False
    There is no question the Bush-Cheney group are responsible for the implementation of torture as defined under the Geneva Conventions.

    When the order from Gitmo arrived in Iraq, un-trained and even more so, un-accountable contractors used the techniques used and authorized by Rumsfelt to inflict not only pain and suffering on innocent people, but moreover, a lifetime of "payback" mentality towards US forces in Iraq. That said, some of these innocent people who were detained and perhaps tortured were the ones who laid IED's of EFP's to kill or maim our troops.

    Bush, Cheney, Feith and others should be held accountable for their decisions and actions. Good book..factural and to the point.....more info
  • Fantastic and Scary
    An exceptionally well-written account of the Bush administration's response to the September 11th attacks. An important read for anyone who feels that the United States should be (or is) a force for good in the world....more info
  • 4 AM Cold Sweat
    Last book that woke me in near-panic at 4 AM was Economics of the Final Jihad -- about the creeping Islamist ideological tyranny that (as referenced in The Dark Side) has been used as the justification for our own domestic creeping ideological tyranny.

    In the same way 'EotFJ' gave a terrifyingly clear picture of implacable, single-minded zealots patiently undermining the economic heart of our Democracy and Western culture, Jane Mayer's book describes how the radical neo-con element of the GOP has laid the groundwork for an imperialist coup over the past thirty years. This cabal is personified and championed by Dick Cheney, who was perfectly positioned after September 11, 2001 to spring the steel-jawed trap that has hamstrung and brought down the rule of law.

    Under the guise of protecting America -- and some of them believe that, no doubt -- these utterly partisan politicians, lawyers, and bureaucrats have treated the Constitution as a nuisance to be ignored, the balance of powers as a trivial impediment to be dismantled, fundamental human rights as roadside litter -- and American citizens as potential enemies, all.

    The torture 'debate' on which the book focuses was never a debate -- it was a stacked deck with a crooked dealer, and it is a quite brutal demonstration of how these ideologues work. On the surface, this book is chilling enough, describing graphically what Americans have done to kidnap, brutalize, and destroy other people with no regard for guilt or innocence.

    The subtext, though is what woke me in a nightmare -- fear is the justification and the goad, but for these men and women, power is the goal, has always been the goal: having gotten this close, don't imagine for one minute they will let it go.

    ...more info
  • Fear and loathing in D.C. or when you lose the past the future makes no sense.
    Those of you who are considering a truly scary read for Halloween "The Dark Side" by Jane Mayer is just the book for you. The horror of the Bush Administrations' CIA Terror Project has been given the Disney treatment in main stream media but Mayer sets the record straight with Grimm precision.

    I must begin by acknowledging that few reviews of this book will come from non-partisan reviewers. As the Bush administration frames it, to have any opinion outside of GOP talking points is considered unpatriotic. I am a devotee of CSPAN and was familiar with most of the players and basic plot of this tragic play but was amazed at Mayer's ability to nail down with certitude the basic truth, even with the majority of evidence still classified as State Secrets. This is an exceptional work of investigative journalism, and at 335 pages this tightly packed expose is not for the faint of heart or fair weather patriot as it surely will test the mettle of any patriotic American.

    This accurate account of the evil that was done in the name of justice will forever haunt me (and depressed me enough to abandon my desire to practice law). To see the obvious revealed and writ large and know that despite all, neither the current administration, legislature nor public opinion has wavered from the blank check given Bush/Cheney to fight their misguided war on terror. One can only hope that this book is only a first step in a national detoxification program to remove the poisons fed to us by the current administration before their cancerous effects create permanent dysfunction.
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  • We do torture!: Required reading for any thinking American (that means you, Sen. Obama)
    Jane Mayer's look deep inside the Bush/Cheney White House at how and why torture was and still is used to interrogate prisoners around the globe is simpy essential reading for all right thinking Americans interested in how we as a nation have lost our moral authority.

    The book is certainly not going to be considered a "page-turner" by anyone, but the shocking depth or depravity within the Bush administration, and the ease with which hundreds of CIA and military personnel adopted torture techniques, is mind blowing. Apparently there are a lot of very bad men and women who were just waiting for the opportunity given them by the terrorist attacks to become, quite simply, outlaws. Shocking and despicable.

    I cannot stress enough how important it is to read this book. Hopefully, Senator Obama will, once he wins the White House, put a stop to the insanity of torturing our prisoners and regain a moral foothold, both at home and in the world....more info
  • "prosecutable war crimes"
    The first Sunday after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dick Cheney appeared on Meet the Press and described how the Bush administration would respond: "We'll have to work sort of the dark side, if you will. 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." He wasn't kidding. In the panic and paranoia that engulfed the Bush administration after the September 11 attacks, Cheney decided that the end of national security justified any and all means.

    Jane Mayer reconstructs in meticulous detail how Cheney and his closest aides legalized torture as American public policy. There were noble administration people who demurred and dissented, but virtually all of them were marginalized. A small "War Council" acted in secrecy to actively exclude all naysayers and normal processes of checks and balances -- David Addington, John Yoo, Tim Flanigan, Alberto Gonzales ("an empty suit"), and Jim Haynes. These highly partisan ideologues, a weak president, and interagency rivalry and dysfunction created the "perfect storm." According to Human Rights Watch, "more than 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel were involved in abusing more than 460 detainees." What the public has seen and heard about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib are only the tip of the iceberg.

    The Bush administration boasts that its torture program has been worth the intelligence it gathered, but that's far from clear. Furthermore, "seven years after the attacks of September 11, not a single terror suspect held outside of the U.S. criminal court system has been tried." This is a tragedy in itself because, let's be clear, many of these detainees deserved to be punished. But such prosecutions become impossible when evidence was gathered by torture. And so now America holds hundreds of detainees that it can't prosecute, can't very well release, and can't reasonably hold forever without charges.

    In spurning "the last nearly universal moral taboo" of torture, America's reputation among its allies has been badly sullied. Canada, for example, placed the United States on its list of rogue nations that torture (332-333). Our enemies have been enraged and emboldened. Our own military personnel can expect similar treatment. Cheney was careful to pass legislation that granted himself and his colleagues retroactive legal immunity, which is an explicit acknowledgement of what nations around the world have already concluded-- that our highest government officials are liable for "prosecutable war crimes" (244). Such prosecution will not happen at home, but as Phillipe Sands has argued in his own book, Torture Team (2008), those responsible for legalizing torture ought to be very careful about traveling overseas. As I write, Mayer's book has been named as a finalist for a National Book Award. ...more info