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With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful
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With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  973 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews

From "the most important voice to have entered the political discourse in years" (Bill Moyers), a scathing critique of the two-tiered system of justice that has emerged in America

From the nation's beginnings, the law was to be the great equalizer in American life, the guarantor of a common set of rules for all. But over the past four decades, the principle of equality be

Hardcover, 1st edition, 304 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Metropolitan Books (first published August 16th 2011)
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Oct 17, 2012 Mariel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: stewing in the nuances of hooligan law
Recommended to Mariel by: green is the new green
"The poorest laborer stands on equal ground with the wealthiest millionaire, and generally on a more favored one whenever their rights seem to jar." - Thomas Jefferson

The United States of America was intended to be a nation of laws, not of men. Liberty and justice for all. That was then.

In 1965 six large banks petitioned congress for retroactive immunity after an illegal merger. It was opposed by Senator Robert Kennedy and Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach said their proposal was "nothing mor
Dave Lefevre
Nov 06, 2011 Dave Lefevre rated it it was amazing
Shelves: political
On Face The Nation on October 9, 2011, Newt Gingrich said, to paraphrase, that the President of the United States could ignore Congress and the Courts if he or she feels they have become "dictatorial or arrogant." This breathtaking statement, akin to Nixon's famous statement that "If the president does it then it is not illegal" to Robert Frost, was reported widely by CBS, however all other news outlets just yawned at it.

This type of belief that the President and other political elites are above
Barry Eisler
Feb 13, 2012 Barry Eisler rated it it was amazing
This superb book is a powerful indictment of America's two-tiered system of "justice" and the perversion of American ideals by the American establishment (better understood as an oligarchy). It could serve as a manifesto of the Occupy movement, which, contrary to variously naive and opportunistic mischaracterizations, has no problem with people winning, and is opposed instead to systemic, institutionalized cheating.

If you think certain classes of people should be above the law, or that the law (
Nov 20, 2011 Richard rated it it was amazing
Though the content of this book is similar to what Glenn Greenwald writes in his blog, it was nice to read something that allowed Greenwald the space to put forward an argument and build upon it.

Greenwald uses his book to provide ample evidence of how the law has been used to, as the title states, destroy equality and protect the powerful. From the bailout of Wall Street to the torture regime, Greenwald certainly isn't lacking in areas to write about. He begins his argument with the pardon of R
This is an excellent and entirely depressing book about the political and financial elites' blanket immunity from the law.

I was a little put off by the introduction which goes on at great length about how the founders prized the rule of law above all else. In general I'm not a huge fan of the theory that says if the founders said/believed it, it must be right. (Especially when they themselves didn't apply an idea equally. Obviously African-Americans, women, and non-property owning whites were t
Dec 13, 2016 Clif rated it it was amazing
All Americans should read this cautionary book that describes in detail and chronologically how our country has departed from the rule that John Adams proposed, that we be a nation of laws and not of men.

I've always been impressed with the move to impeach Richard Nixon that forced him to resign from office. That event was a high point in American history. As has been said, the strength of democracy is not in electing good people but in removing bad ones.

Much to the dismay of those who value the
Mar 25, 2012 Glenn rated it it was amazing
Glenn Greenwald is one of the preeminent writers on civil liberties, US foreign policy and the intersection of the two. As a former lawyer, Greenwald brings strong rhetorical arguments to readers every day on His success on the Internet and various publications led to his first book, a reaction to the Bush presidency and its damaging effects on the rule of law in our country. The second took a similar track while the third addressed the great hypocrisies of many conservative leaders.

What a profoundly relevant and necessary book about the two tiered justice system in American politics.
Greenwald's take is that todays gross misconduct to protect the politically powerful started when President Ford pardoned President Nixon. He used the same line about looking forward not backwards that President Obama used to not only condone but retroactively immunize President Bush wiretapping , banking crisis, mortgage crisis and torture crimes and the Obama administrations own crimes. For m
Jan 08, 2012 Brenton rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics-law
Hopefully there aren't that many people out there who don't recognize that there is currently a lot, and I mean a LOT, of unrest and unhappiness in the general US population. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of that unrest is misunderstood, misattributed, misapplied, or even willfully mischaracterized. The Tea Party may have had some noble goals in the beginning, but those were quickly overshadowed by birthers, extreme libertarians, and loonies who couldn't spell anything on their picket signs ...more
Aug 28, 2012 Dale rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, nonfiction
Greenwald has been writing about the two-tiered US justice system for several years on his blog at, so for his regular readers there's not much new in this book. But it's worth reading to get a sense of the way in which this system has developed in the past 40 years.

A capsule summary: Ford's pardon of Nixon; the nearly complete absence of penalties for the perpetrators of the Iran-Contra affair; Bush's pardon of Caspar Weinberger in 1992; Clinton's refusal to investigate the very serio
Aug 05, 2015 Kcatty marked it as could-did-not-finish
Note to self: stop reading Glenn Greenwald.

The two blurbs on the back were from Michael Moore and Rachel Maddow. I should have known from that...

I think Greenwald is one of those radical, paranoid liberty nuts who sees inequality around every corner and any government law as intrusion.
Except he's liberal, so apparently he's accepted by the media.

Yes we know that the media, politicians and people turned a blind eye to Bush's idiocy that was EVERY DAMN THING HE DID. We understand that celebrities
Dec 18, 2012 Connie rated it really liked it
Like all of Greenwald's books I have read to this point, this is well researched, and well-written. His premise is that justice is only available in the United States for a certain chosen few – – the elite, the politicians, and the wealthy.

He spends many chapters relating how various presidents and people on their staffs have avoided prosecution, even though they committed countless felonies.

As did many of us, Greenwald had high hopes that Pres. Obama would follow through with his pre-2008 elect
Colleen Clark
Aug 15, 2012 Colleen Clark rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics-terror
Excellent. Brief and clearly written. The title exactly describes the subject of the book. 274pp

The Introduction begins, "As a litigator who practiced for more than a decade in federal and state courts across the country, I've long been aware of the inequities that pervade the American justice system....only when I began regularly writing about politics [Greenwald is a contributor to Salon] did I realize that the problem extends beyond...inequities....Those with political influence and financial
Joerg Rings
Jan 22, 2012 Joerg Rings rated it really liked it
A very good but depressing account of the state of the rule of law in the US: Non-existent. While the wealthy basically now trade a system of favors for never being held accountable for their crimes (starting with the Nixon pardon, going on and accelerating today under the Obama-administration for the banks), the poorer ranks of the US are locked up in a prison system so strict and large it's in a league of its own in the world. This started in the 60s, when after the civil rights movement the l ...more
A Mulford
We're supposedly (because we're supposed to be) a nation of laws and not men. But that's not really true, as Greenwald more than adequately portrays in this, his latest, book.

It's one thing to understand that fair and equitable treatment within the criminal justice system is not perfect, After all, nothing is. But there is a huge difference between occasional miscarriages of justice and institutional favoritism which quite often gives the rich and powerful very little punishment, if any punishme
Adam Edwards
Jan 02, 2012 Adam Edwards rated it it was amazing
When you tire of the mindless talking heads on television, start here and then read Glenn's daily column on He is the only journalist I can trust to present the facts independent of partisan shills on both sides of the aisles. He equally rebukes Bush and Obama, as well as their predecessors, for their disregard of our rights for which our ancestors died. This is the book that defines the modern independent who does not wish to choose the lesser of two evils.
David Melbie
Mar 10, 2012 David Melbie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to David by: Library choice
I am stunned. Most of what this book is about I already knew but, reading about it all together in a book has made me shudder. Greenwald has enlightened me regarding just how unconscionable the crimes of our politicians and financial institutions and other corporations really are in America. Spring is coming and I am the 99%!
Genine Franklin-Clark
Mar 06, 2013 Genine Franklin-Clark rated it it was amazing
Illuminating, disturbing. Nothing of which I was unaware, but Mr. Greenwald packages the information in a neat little, scathing package. We Americans have no right to the arrogance we display; our system of justice is broken.
Jan 01, 2012 Jaculin rated it it was amazing
Well written, informative and INFURIATING.
Dec 27, 2011 Rich rated it really liked it
Very good! Very infuriating! Obama does not fare well.
Mar 28, 2012 Irus rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Please read this book.
Jul 01, 2012 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: law, politics
Although many consider it little more than a holiday with fireworks, July 4 is meant to celebrate the final approval of the Declaration of Independence and its precepts. One of its key elements is epitomized in the phrase "that all men are created equal." Granted, there was an inherent contradiction with the existence of slavery in America, but the concept was a bit more specific. As many contend, the phrase stands for the proposition that there was to be no inequality before the law, that the l ...more
Dec 29, 2014 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us-politics
Civil Rights lawyer Glenn Greenwald persuasively makes a case that the rule of law only protects the elite class of Washington, and discriminates against the underprivileged. Greeenwald describes the new application of the rule of law as a protection for the nation's most flagrant offenders through a "revolving door" where titans of the private sector change addresses to K street, Washington D.C. From their comfortable landing spot, these elites use their lobbying firms and old connects in the p ...more
Galen Johnson
Greenwald does an excellent and convincing job of laying out his case that the justice system is anything but just. He is organized in his arguments and uses plenty of examples. However, his tendency to overstate things ("But as always happens...", the law was applied more equally in the past [the exception for women and slaves and immigrants is an afterthought to this argument], etc.) makes it harder to swallow his arguments even though I want to believe him. And there are a lot of facts and fi ...more
Oct 19, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it
In 'With Liberty and Justice for Some,' Glenn Greenwald explores many systemic problems that have created an elite class in America. The elite class is comprised of those who write and enforce our laws and most people who write about the laws and how they are enforced. In other words, career politicians, corporate lobbyists, and journalists who cover the charade make up the American elite class. The elite can pay for luxuries that other Americans never will afford. The founding fathers would be ...more
Jan 15, 2015 Pabgo rated it it was amazing
Greenwald never disappoints. Detailed, very well researched and presented. For anybody considering going into full blown apathy mode, this will certainly push you over the edge. I believe it is not enough to wave your hand through the air and proclaim, "I don't care, they're ALL crooks." One should at least be aware of WHY this is a valid position in the end.
For anyone (including myself) who thought that Obama was the face of "Hope and Change", this book shows that we were hoodwinked and delud
Joseph Harris
Jun 06, 2012 Joseph Harris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Greenwald lets no one off the hook in demonstrating the vast differences in legal recourse between rich and poor, powerful and weak… When the executive, judicial and legislative branches collude to avoid enforcement, lawlessness is the end result.”

Kirkus Reviews

"Glenn Greenwald'slatest book is an absolute must-read. Incredibly persuasive, rigorous and damning." —Christopher Hayes

“Glenn Greenwald is not just the American Left’s most fearless political commentator; his fearlessness i

Oct 24, 2012 Justin rated it liked it
I love Glenn's work but it does take some adjustment reading him in book format as opposed to his blog, now hosted on the Guardian's web site. While he has more room to state his case and develop his arguments here, it took an awful long time for that argument to get going. He spends a bit too much time discussing things in terms of what the Founding Fathers believed and would have wanted. That may work for strict constructionists and conservatives, but many others outside that camp don't necess ...more
Edie Maas
Oct 11, 2016 Edie Maas rated it really liked it
"When the law is wielded only against the powerless, it ceases to be a safeguard against injustice and becomes the primary tool of oppression."

Which Greenwald demonstrates - sadly not through abstract legal theory or historic case-studies but - via 270 pages of brutally thorough evidence from the last few decades of American society. Documenting the rise and institutionalization of elite immunity (and increasing impunity), from Watergate, through warrantless wiretapping, the financial crisis an
A very good summary of how the political and social elites have systematically avoided the rule of law in the past 30 or so years. Greenwald focuses on a couple major areas: the Nixon pardon, wiretapping, bailing out the banks, and warcrimes/torture. He then wraps up the book with a chapter about how punitive action has disproportionately increased for the poor and minorities in the same time frame.

The book is extremely well researched and put together. It provides an excellent and thorough reca
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Glenn Greenwald is an American lawyer, columnist, blogger and author who worked as a constitutional and civil-rights litigator prior to becoming a contributor (columnist and blogger) to, where he focuses on political and legal topics. He has also contributed to other newspapers and political news magazines, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The American Conservative, T ...more
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“Revealingly, the central function of the Constitution as law--the supreme law--was to impose limitations not on the behavior of ordinary citizens but on the federal government. The government, and those who ran it, were not placed outside the law, but expressly targeted by it. Indeed, the Bill of Rights is little more than a description of the lines that the most powerful political officials are barred from crossing, even if they have the power to do so and even when the majority of citizens might wish them to do so.” 12 likes
“It is difficult to overstate the extent to which congressionally bestowed retroactive immunity represents a profound departure from basic norms of justice. Ordinary Americans are sued every day and forced to endure the severe hardships and sometimes ruinous costs of litigation. When that happens, it is the role of the courts alone to determine who is at fault and whether liability should be imposed. The Constitution vests “the judicial Power of the United States” in courts, not Congress. And when it comes to lawsuits brought against ordinary Americans, that is how such suits are always resolved: by courts issuing rulings on the merits. The very idea that Congress would intervene in such proceedings and act to protect ordinary Americans from lawsuits is too outlandish even to entertain. But when the wealthiest, most powerful, and most well-connected financial elites are caught red-handed violating the privacy rights of their customers and committing clear felonies, their lobbyists call for a new law that has no purpose other than to declare that the old laws do not apply to them. That is the living, breathing embodiment of our two-tiered justice system—a lawless Wild West for elites in which anything goes. Examining how the telecoms pursued the amazing feat of getting full immunity for their systematic lawbreaking highlights how and why the rule of law is so easily discarded in the United States. The” 0 likes
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