Civil libertarians and security specialists will find this of considerable interest.

NATIONAL SECURITY, LEAKS AND FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

THE PENTAGON PAPERS FIFTY YEARS ON

A roundtable reconsideration of the Pentagon Papers and the legal precedents its publication yielded.

Assembling journalists, jurists, and security experts, editors Bollinger and Stone present 16 essays and a concluding report by an impromptu commission identifying points of friction and recommending next steps. At issue is the applicability of the laws surrounding Daniel Ellsberg’s delivery of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and Washington Post, both of which published excerpts from these classified documents. The Nixon administration moved to enjoin publication, and the Supreme Court, in “a stunning decision rejecting the government’s position and protecting the right of the freedom of the press,” ruled that prior restraint violated the First Amendment in the absence of proof that publication would compromise national security. That was tested in 1979, when Progressive magazine attempted to publish plans to build a hydrogen bomb; the court ruled that the public had no need to know how to do so, upholding the constitutional validity of the ban. Fast-forward to the WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden cases, and the court’s decision—which essentially holds that a “leaker” may be punished but the publisher not—becomes problematic. One central reason, observes former White House security adviser Avril Haines, is that “traditional media outlets” have ceded ground to myriad online publications such that “we cannot rely on the press to be a separate actor in the framework capable of making a considered judgment about what is newsworthy.” Several contributors thereby support a “new compact” that proposes both incentives and disincentives for publishers as well as broader Congressional oversight of classified information and its declassification. Others argue against such measures as bringing leaker Julian Assange to trial, for “sooner or later a prosecutor or future attorney general will determine that the precedent set…can be used to prosecute a reporter—next time, from a real news organization.”

Civil libertarians and security specialists will find this of considerable interest.

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-751939-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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