The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
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The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  2,211 ratings  ·  333 reviews
One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year National BestsellerWith a New AfterwordNational Book Critics Circle Award Finalist A Best Book of the Year: Salon, Slate, The Economist, The Washington Post, Cleveland Plain-DealerThe Dark Side is a dramatic, riveting, and definitive narrative account of how the United States made terrible decisions in the pursuit of terr...more
Trade Paperback, 412 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by Anchor (first published July 15th 2008)
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there’s something i call ‘generational narcissism’ which is basically the naive belief that one’s generation is special and different and unique for no other reason than that one is part of it. there are a few varieties:

1) new-age generational narcissism: the belief that the ‘universe’ (that vague overused and totally unhelpful term) has destined some serious astronomical, astrological, apocalyptical and/or spiritual kind of paradigm shift to occur in one’s time. i.e. age of aquarius, end of day...more
Nov 16, 2009 Kathrynn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Every American
Eyeopening! Glad I opted to read this as it explained a lot of what I'd picked up in bits in pieces from other media over the years, but I thought to myself, "No way! We have too many checks and balances for a single individual to take over." The author did a nice job of timelining what happened after September 11, 2001 and how key players and top officials were swept out of the way while Vice President Dick Cheney and his "adviser" David Addington took over The White House.

In my opinion, David...more
"He who does battle with monsters needs to watch out lest he in the process becomes a monster himself." - Friedrich Nietzsche

In reaction to Britain's brutal treatment of American prisoners of war, George Washington vowed that this new Democracy would "take a higher road." Thus, the U.S. military doctrine was born, based upon the belief that "Brutality undermines military discipline and strengthens the enemy's resolve, while displays of humanity could be used to tactical advantage." Since its inc...more
Erik Simon
Where to begin? Honestly, where to begin?

There were a lot of books about 9/11 and the Iraq War and the Bush Administration and all of that stuff that I didn't bother to read because I knew the essential components of everything those books were already saying, so I thought it worth my while to read other stuff. The same was true for this book, but Andrew Sullivan kept harping on both its greatness and on the need to prosecute Bush/Cheney and the gang for torture that I finally decided to read th...more
Will Byrnes
The title comes from Dick Cheney’s vow to go to the “Dark Side” in the battle against terrorism. There is a wealth here of drill-down detail about the mechanisms by which America abandoned the constitution in favor of a unitary, imperial president (and really vice president) who believes that l’estat est moi.

I have read a fair number of books that delve into the Bush administration and nowhere have I seen the comprehensive depth Mayer has given to her examination of how America has traded its s...more
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Required reading for every American. Jane Mayer documents how a handful of people in the Bush Administration changed the moral course of America and tarnished our global reputation in the name of "keeping us safe." Benjamin Franklin said that those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserver neither liberty nor safety. Well, that's pretty much where we are at. Yes, there have been no more attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11. But that "safety" was not a product of torture. Just because they got a...more
Sep 01, 2008 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: deluded Republican automatons
Recommended to Paul by: Democracy Now!
Well, I finished the book. Quick read, and most of it I had read already in the pages of The New Yorker. Still, it is nice and convenient to have Jane Mayer's articles all in one continuous narrative. The book, needless to say, is quite harrowing. There is no doubt that the American Government is torturing. Bush, Cheney, et alia have all admitted as much, only they don't, of course, use the word "torture", thinking like little school kids if they avoid the word they'll also avoid punishment. Ins...more
Dana Stabenow
A painstaking and just amazingly detailed account of how extreme rendition (in English, kidnapping) and extreme interrogation (in English, torture) came to be public policy in the current administration. I can’t say you’ll enjoy reading this book, 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.

It is reassuring to report that there are heroes, like David Brant, the head of NCIS, Alberto Mora, Counsel to th...more
This book makes my blood boil. These people, who not only authorized torture, but encouraged it, have disgraced our country and screwed up our struggle against jihadism. It is a story of incompetence and arrogance, centered on the Vice Presidency and the VP's grey eminence, David Addington.

Notable in the book are the stories of honorable men with military and conservative backgrounds who could not stomach what was going on and resisted it.

Also notable is the argument that torture, ultimately, is...more
I guess I'm getting to be squarely middle-aged; I find these days I'm tearing through non-fiction of a political nature -- books that help me secure my place in these insane times. Mayer's book is dense, detailed, and disturbing. I can't figure out whether this kind of writing is politically partisan ... or if it's just a case of the scary f***king truth being succinctly reported. It was helpful for a scatter-brained reader like myself to hop around a bit from section to section, then circle bac...more
Jun 01, 2013 Diane rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Diane by:
I heard and read about some of the main facts written in this book, but when Jane Mayer put the story altogether I became even more sickened by the administration's (Cheney and Addington's) authorization of the capture and torture of suspected terrorists, keeping them without charges of crimes in order to keep their illegal activities secret in Guantanamo and other hidden torture sites throughout the world. (When the stories leaked out, they then attempted to grant immunity to themselves and tho...more
Jennifer Arnold
For me, Mayer's book brought to mind a line from Yeats (one of my favorite poets)..."The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." In this case, it's Cheney, Rumsfeld, John Yoo, David Addington, and a host of other White House appointees whose dogmatic belief that coersion and torture are the only way to extract information from alleged terrorists (despite hard evidence to contrary - the best evidence we got out of anyone came from FBI interrogators, using ol...more
The only book (ok, aside from the series that included Zizek's little book) about 911 I've ever read. It'll probably remain that way for some time, but this is a great work of journalistic history. It made me understand things about the Bush administration (or, according to this book's overarching argument, the Cheney administration) that I never fully grasped. A lot of the broad strokes here we all know already, but it makes such a difference to read them in a succinct historical narrative inst...more
At the end of WW2, Europe was devastated, Germany in particular. It had reaped what it had sowed. German prestige was non-existent after the horrors of Nazism and the prestige of the United States could not have been higher. The whole world looked to the U.S. for the future.

Just last week, I saw a ranking of countries in world public opinion. Germany was by far and away number one and the United States was well down the list. Less than 75 years after being at the top, the U.S. has been easily su...more
Mayer systematically and stylistically uncovers one of the ugliest chapters in U.S. history: the torture of suspected terrorists by the CIA and the Armed Forces. Amazing, and ugly. An apostasy of legal and moral reasoning gave the whole affair the barest of veneers of justice. And the waterboarding wasn't the worst part. The experts say that the sensory deprivation and solitary confinement are far worse. After 48 hours you go insane, start slamming your head against the wall. The CIA made some s...more
I found in this book a great deal of often scattered information. Much of it I was already familiar with from other people's investigations of the torture policy of the White House and of clandestine U.S. interrogation research since WWII. The book did little to pull together Ms. Mayer's discoveries or provide a coherent narrative. I found myself creating a timeline to keep track of who knew what when, said what to whom when, etc. It may be a book helpful to military and presidential historians,...more
Daniel Solera
Not since I read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine have I clenched my fists while reading. Jane Mayer’s vitriolic political investigation is a fitting companion piece to Klein’s humanist manifesto, detailing the gruesome policies that were unlawfully created in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Through countless interviews and in-depth character description, Mayer shows how a country’s human rights record was irreperably damaged by a paranoid and deceptive government, willing to pay any pric...more
Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch

We had high expectations of this work, which though perhaps unfair, were disappointed. Hoping for a fierce and well ordered indictment, though indictment there was what we all too often found ourselves upon was a more-or-less (given the inherent difficulty of access) complete, but often scattered, episodic and anecdotal tour of the federal legal bureaucracy as it dealt with the possession and interrogation of captives in the G.W. Bush administration’s “War on Terror.” Here are sips and hints of...more
Vice President Cheney indicated that the U.S. might have to cross over to "the dark side" in order to fight terrorism effectively. This book provides a good in-depth review of those decisions, their effects and effectiveness. We've all heard and read a lot about the effectivenss of torture in questioning prisoners, and whether the enhanced interrogation techniques that had been used in Iraq and Guantanamo, or in secret renditions to other nations, have been legal or effective. Many of our Nation...more
This is a page turner. Well written, and reasonably well organized. And juicy. I knew quite a bit of it from listening to interviews with the author, but it hadn't sunk in in the same way. I enjoyed remembering where I was when a piece of news broke, or a decision was handed down (particularly Hamdan), and reading about the background.

Of course, now Obama's in, and Bush is out so there's less need to read this material, right?

You know these people want to get back in. You know there will be an...more
Steve Horton
Awesome account of former VP Cheney as anti-Christ, leading the "fight" against terrorism regardless of the impact on America's fundamental principles of justice. It struck me as frightening that one person on a crusade properly positioned in the White House could undermine our rights and liberties as Americans.

I asked Jane Meyer at a book signing if she thought our trip to the dark side would have happened without Cheney in the White House. "Interesting question," she said. "I think after 9-11...more
Emily Bazelon
The must-read book about law and the Bush administration.
Elliot Ratzman
Undermining the Constitution? How about accruing power to the Presidency over Congress, even the Supreme Court, to wage torture? These were the legal statements and hijinks of David Addington “Cheney’s Cheney”, John Yoo, Cheney and Gonzales after 9/11; they justified throwing away all legal processes and got little actionable intelligence (after renditioning and torturing a number of innocents, and shutting up the real Al Qedaniks). They created a black hole of evil amidst CIA incompetence and m...more
This is an ambitious work of reportage that discusses how far over the line the U.S. stepped in its pursuit of the war on terror, and why. In regard to the actual definition of torture, Mayer uses interviews to show opposing viewpoints rather than presenting much legal research of her own. The book is more about the political situation that allowed the U.S. to operate on "the dark side," despite many warning signs that this was illegal or at the very least imprudent and ineffective.

Mayer describ...more
Read the STOP SMILING interview with author Jane Mayer

Lift Every Voice
By James Hughes

(This interview originally appeared in the third annual STOP SMILING 20 Interviews Issue)

After millions embraced Barack Obama on election night in Chicago, though still weeks before the record crowds that flooded the National Mall and its tributaries became flyover country for a departing president bound for Dallas dormancy, I spoke with author Jane Mayer about the range of emotions and challenges churned up in...more
Combined with the lessons learned from Angler, The Dark Side by Jane Mayer has given me a greater appreciation of how power was wielded in the executive branch during the Bush years. On many occasions while reading this, I was indignantly furious that a small group of appointed officials, the so-called "War Council", so easily set into motion yet another erosion of the U.S.'s supposed moral commitments (in this case, the disavowal of torture). I assume that this was the desired effect. Her prima...more
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: We have to work the dark side, if you will. We’re going 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.

I remember when VP Cheney made this statement in late 2001. It gave me pause at the time and I wondered what he meant. Jane Mayers book shows where The Bush Administration took the intelligence an...more
a book i struggled to complete, and read several books inbetween.

a lot of facts, a lot of "players", and the worst part of it, is that it is all true.

Americans should be very thankful that they have a "new leader" and the clandestine Bush Government has been exiled.

I understand that after 911, the world struggled to cope with the great loss of the American people. We empathized, we sympathized, we cried, and had our hearts torn out by it. But as we all hopped on the "bandwagon" to catch the "evi...more
After the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, the United States declared a War on Terror. A bunch of right-wing lawyers working in the Bush administration decided that, unlike in America's other wars such as World War II and Vietnam, the people fighting for the other side have no rights. This included soldiers of the Taliban, the de facto government of almost all of Afghanistan. Several hundred people were seized, held without due process, mistreated and often tortured in the legal offshore zone of Gua...more
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Torture and The Dark Side: Interview with Jane Mayer 1 20 Jun 23, 2009 12:11PM  
The PBC Minute: Jane Mayer (video) 1 14 Jun 23, 2009 08:51AM  
  • Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency
  • The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism
  • The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
  • The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule
  • Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War
  • The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008
  • Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches
  • The Forever War.
  • The Longest War: A History of the War on Terror and the Battles with Al Qaeda Since 9/11
  • The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq
  • Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics
  • Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy
  • Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib
  • The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America
  • Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
  • Standard Operating Procedure
  • Descent into Chaos: The United States & the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan & Central Asia
  • Against All Enemies
Jane Mayer is the co-author of two best-selling narrative non-fiction books:

1. Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, and

2. Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas

She received glowing reviews for each and they were book-of-the-month-club selections, the latter of which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

She is a Washington-based staff writer for The New Yorker, specializing in...more
More about Jane Mayer...
Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984-1988 Grandmother Mayer Speaking of Journalism: 12 Writers and Editors Talk about Their Work Religion, Culture, and International Conflict: A Conversation

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“Few would argue against safe-guarding the nation. But in the judgment of at least one of the country's most distinguished presidential scholars, the legal steps taken by the Bush Administration in its war against terrorism were a quantum leap beyond earlier blots on the country's history and traditions: more significant than John Adams' Alien and Sedition Acts, than Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, than the imprisonment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. Collectively, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. argued, the Bush Administration's extralegal counter-terrorism program presented the most dramatic, sustained, and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history.” 4 likes
“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding. —Justice Louis Brandeis, Olmstead v. United States (1928)” 0 likes
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