That's why Susan N. Herman's Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of Democracy is such an important book. It doesn't present much new analysis. The basic message is one everyone has heard again and again: we must defend our civil liberties, and for the past decade all three branches of our government have failed us. Lawsuits have been stymied by ridiculous procedural arguments; Congress has legitimated executive over-reaches, and secrecy is the rule of the day. Nor does Herman present many new solutions. Civic engagement, responsibility, and awareness are her suggestions.
But the book is a crucial addition to the discussion because it is a strong reminder of where we are and what's happened. Herman puts a human face to the stories that all of us have heard of in the abstract, like Sami al-Hussayen who was prosecuted for helping a charity run its website, or Abdullah al-Kidd, who was arrested and held in terrible conditions because of a "need" for his testimony which never materialized.
With these stories and more, Herman helps us put the last decade into context. She weaves a narrative that's both informative and powerful. The road ahead on civil liberties won't be easy, and we'll face a lot of distractions along the way. But we must make our way back to the Constitution and our bedrock principles, and an important step in that process is remembering.