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Claim of Privilege: A Mysterious Plane Crash, a Landmark Supreme Court Case, and the Rise of State Secrets
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Claim of Privilege: A Mysterious Plane Crash, a Landmark Supreme Court Case, and the Rise of State Secrets

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  41 ratings  ·  8 reviews
On October 6, 1948, a U.S. Air Force B-29 Superfortress crashed soon after takeoff, killing three civilian engineers and six crew members. In June 1949, the engineers' widows filed suit against the government, determined to find out what exactly had happened to their husbands and why the three civilians had been on board the airplane in the first place. But it was the dawn ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by Harper Perennial (first published June 1st 2008)
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A decent introduction to the initial history of the State Secret Privilege, but little analysis of the actual policy.

The book is a history of the relevant case US v. Reynolds, but it is only a history of this case. The author goes into great detail about not only the details of the case and the USAF crash that led to the litigation, he also goes into (often painstaking) detail about the lives of the individuals involved (ie where the widows met their husbands, what their first dates were like,
Really good, actually -- Siegel writes about law in a way that doesn't make me immediately think, "Oh, this guy isn't a laywer," which is rare. How many newspaper stories or books have you read where the writer just doesn't seem to know how to put legal words together in the same way that a lawyer does? Siegel avoids that.

More importantly, though, Siegel tells a story that draws clear parallels between the dawning of the Cold War and the post-9/11 era without beating us over the head with it. He
Siegel unpacks the precedent behind the state secrets privilege and the case US v. Reynolds, a landmark case giving the executive branch great power and privilege. Siegel is meticulous in his evidence and analysis, looking at the case from every possible perspective. This attention to detail helps to give the reader the big picture however, at points the narrative lags and there are entire sections you can skip without missing a thing. Overall a very interesting and informative book, one worth l ...more
ej cullen
Military plane goes down carrying civilian engineers in 1940s. Government refuses to compensate, discuss or reveal anything about flight to families of the deceased, citing national security issues. Fifty years later, children of the deceased sue for info/reparations. Government continues to refuse to comply. Finally, it is shown that there was no reason to withhold all the info. Landmark case, still argued to this day about issues such as "Executive Privilege" and government secrecy.
I loved Siegel's other books. but this one left me flat. I enjoyed the beginning, the story of the crash. I didn't mind the legal complexities which take up much of the book. But I really didn't like the 2nd lawsuit with the children, wives, and assorted others getting together. In addition to overflowing my cup with more legal ins and outs, the people involved were....corny. I don't know another way to say it. If I saw them coming I would cross the street.
Great reporting. This reads like a news story for a few reasons: the author is a journalist, the book is drawn together in part from his reporting, and the events are real. That, and the basis of such a controversial doctrine as the State Secrets Privilege deserves as much scrutiny as possible.
I expected more from this book, it wasn't quite as sexy as I'd hoped. It's still an appalling story.

Notes and highlights:
This is an eye-opener!!!!
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Barry Siegel is a former national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times who won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2002 for his piece "A Father's Pain, a Judge's Duty, and a Justice Beyond Their Reach". He is an expert on literary journalism and was recruited by the University of California, Irvine to chair that school's new English program in Literary Journalism. Siegel is the author of ...more
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