Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie Savage's penetrating investigation of the Obama presidency and the national security state
Barack Obama campaigned on changing George W. Bush's "global war on terror" but ended up entrenching extraordinary executive powers, from warrantless surveillance and indefinite detention to military commissions and targeted killings. Then Obama found himself bequeathing those authorities to Donald Trump. How did the United States get here?
In Power Wars, Charlie Savage reveals high-level national security legal and policy deliberations in a way no one has done before. He tells inside stories of how Obama came to order the drone killing of an American citizen, preside over an unprecendented crackdown on leaks, and keep a then-secret program that logged every American's phone calls. Encompassing the first comprehensive history of NSA surveillance over the past forty years as well as new information about the Osama bin Laden raid, Power Wars equips readers to understand the legacy of Bush's and Obama's post-9/11 presidencies in the Trump era.
A government of lawyers wrangles over the War on Terror in this sprawling study of national security policy in the Obama Administration from Pulitzer-winning New York Times correspondent Savage (Takeover). He follows law-professor-in-chief Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and their legal advisers as they try to square statutes, court rulings, and constitutional principles with harsh, dubious policies on terrorism detainees, Guant namo Bay prisoners, targeted killings, drone strikes, warrantless NSA surveillance, and prosecutions of whistle-blowers. In a cogent critique, Savage portrays Obama's "lawyerly administration" as more concerned with legal authorization than civil liberties, embracing Bush administration policies that dismayed the liberal base. Working from insider interviews, Savage foregrounds human drama ("in Montclair, New Jersey, Jeh Johnson tried not to brood") as policymakers react to Republican political attacks and events such as the failed underwear bombing of an airliner. But this is largely the dry drama of attorneys taking meetings, pondering Talmudic legal niceties (how long can a suspect be held on a ship according to the Geneva Conventions?), and writing climactic memos. Savage's doorstop-size tome is a comprehensive, reasonably accessible account of national security legal issues that often bogs down in eye-glazing details of FISA courts and the like; this is a political saga that only a lawyer could love. Photos.