Thursday, June 21, 2012

Samuel Walker's "Presidents and Civil Liberties"

Samuel Walker is Emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he taught from 1974 to 2005. He is a widely quoted expert on issues of civil liberties, policing and criminal justice policy.

Walker applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama: A Story of Poor Custodians, and reported the following:
The Page 99 Test works. On that page of Presidents and Civil Liberties you read that President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the late 1930s ordered several violations of civil liberties. He authorized the FBI to renew investigations of political groups (where there was no evidence of illegal activity) and in 1940 encouraged Attorney General Robert Jackson to find a creative evasion of a recent Supreme Court decision limiting wiretapping.

These and other events highlight three major themes in the book. The first is well-known: that several American presidents violated the rights of Americans. The second theme is less familiar: that some of the most highly regarded liberal Democratic Party presidents were guilty of transgressing the Bill of Rights. Woodrow Wilson suppressed dissent during World War I, in perhaps the worst violation of freedom of speech and press in American history. FDR ordered the evacuation and internment of all Japanese Americans from the west coast. No other president ever put Americans in concentration camps.

A third theme is that the intelligence agencies –the FBI and the CIA– were not “rogue elephants,” as many people believe, but generally acted at the behest of presidents. FDR directed the FBI to resume political spying in 1936 (after the conservative Republican President Calvin Coolidge had it stopped in 1924). President Harry Truman created the CIA and approved dubious actions such as secretly pouring funds into European elections countries to influence the outcomes. President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved CIA plans that led to the overthrow of governments in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954). President Lyndon Johnson ordered the CIA to spy on Americans in 1967, despite a warning by the CIA Director that it was illegal. President Ronald Reagan approved illegal actions by the CIA and the National Security Agency in the Iran-Contra scandal. The list goes on.

What you find on page 99 of Presidents and Civil Liberties, in short, is just the tip of a very large and ominous iceberg.
Learn more about the book and author at Samuel Walker's website.

Writers Read: Samuel Walker.

My Book, The Movie: Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama.

--Marshal Zeringue