This is the property of the Daily Journal Corporation and fully protected by copyright. It is made available only to Daily Journal subscribers for personal or collaborative purposes and may not be distributed, reproduced, modified, stored or transferred without written permission. Please click "Reprint" to order presentation-ready copies to distribute to clients or use in commercial marketing materials or for permission to post on a website. and copyright (showing year of publication) at the bottom.


By Megan Kinneyn | Nov. 2, 2006

Law Office Management

Nov. 2, 2006


Reviews of George W. Bush versus The U.S. Constitution and Anonymous Lawyer. By Stephen F. Rohde and Nina Schuyler

George W. Bush versus The U.S. Constitution: The Downing Street Memos and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War and Illegal Domestic Spying
      Academy Chicago Publishers, 312 pages, $15.95, softcover
      Compiled at the direction of Representative John Conyers, edited by Anita Miller, introduction by Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson
      This year, President George W. Bush is not running for office. Yet how American voters cast their ballots in the midterm elections this month could determine whether he gets to finish his second term or is impeached and removed from office.
      The blueprint for Bush's impeachment has already been drafted by Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), who has served in the House of Representatives for 42 years and in 1974 voted to impeach President Richard Nixon. For the past two years, as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Conyers and his staff have researched and documented what they consider to be evidence of President Bush's unprecedented abuse of executive power.
      That prodigious effort resulted in a comprehensive congressional report that has now been published as a book. According to Conyers, the publication was prompted by the unwillingness of the Bush administration "to allow its actions to be subject to any form of meaningful outside review. Not only were 122 Members of Congress unable to obtain any response to their questions posed regarding the Downing Street Minutes, but neither the House nor the Senate has ever engaged in any serious review of the facts surrounding the NSA [National Security Agency] domestic spying programs."
      The report states that the "institutional damage resulting from such constitutional neglect will likely be felt for many years, if not generations. The lesson of this Report is that if we allow intelligence, military and law enforcement to do their work free of political interference, if we give them requisite resources and modern technologies, if we allow them to 'connect the dots' in a straight forward and non-partisan manner, we can protect our citizens."
      Conyers and his staff started work on the book immediately after he convened a remarkable hearing on the Downing Street Minutes in June 2005, held in the basement of the Capitol building because the Republican leadership would not let Conyers meet upstairs. The Minutes, obtained from the British government, provided concrete evidence that Bush was prepared in 2002 to "fix" the intelligence to support a preordained plan to attack Iraq.
      The investigation concluded that there is substantial evidence the president, the vice president, and other high-ranking members of the Bush administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such a war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees in Iraq; permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of the administration; and, in the name of national security, approved domestic surveillance that is both illegal and unconstitutional.
      Anyone who has paid attention to news coverage of Bush's policies at home and abroad for the past five years would be familiar with these charges. What the Conyers report contributes to the debate is the systematic documentation and largely unemotional presentation of each of these findings, supported by objective evidence often taken from information provided by the administration itself.
      Conyers's book documents in detail how Bush and his administration deliberately misled Congress and the American public about the rationale for invading Iraq, convincing a majority of Americans that Iraq was involved with al Qaeda and was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union Address that "[t]he British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" to build nuclear weapons. But Conyers cites evidence that, in fact, Bush had already been told by the CIA that the evidence was forged. Bush claimed to have hard evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but U.N. investigators could not verify any of those claims; subsequent searches of Iraq revealed no such weapons.
      At home, Bush authorized the NSA to conduct warrantless wiretaps on American citizens, claiming that it was justified by the urgent need to stop terrorist attacks. Yet, Conyers explains, there was a legal mechanism available under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to conduct emergency wiretaps followed by retroactive court approval within 72 hours. Bush ignored that mechanism, and Conyers marshals evidence to demonstrate that Bush acted illegally and thereby breached his executive duty to take care that the nation's laws are faithfully executed.
      Conyers also presents considerable evidence that Bush and his administration set up a system of prisons around the world for holding terror suspects (the existence of which was publicly admitted by the president on September 6, 2006). And by showing how the U.S. government has transported prisoners to other countries for the purpose of having them tortured, Conyers makes a strong case that Bush is guilty of violating both domestic and international law.
      Conyers's book, supported by almost 1,400 footnotes, draws together in one place disparate facts, events, charges, and countercharges revealing critical information from contemporaneous press accounts that even the most attentive observer could easily have missed.
      Although dense with information, the book is compelling and engrossing to read and will surely serve as a resource for politicians and the public during the remaining days of the Bush administration and for historians for years to come. Whether President Bush is ever found guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors and removed from office is a political question that will depend on what happens in the months to come at home and abroad. In any event, the Conyers report documents a pattern of abuse of executive power in the name of national security that demands the attention of every person who cares about the future of our constitutional democracy. —Stephen F. Rohde practices intellectual property law, trial and appellate litigation, and civil rights law in Los Angeles with the firm of Rohde & Victoroff. His most recent book is Freedom of Assembly (Facts on File, 2005).
      Anonymous Lawyer
      Henry Holt, 320 pages, $25, hardcover
      By Jeremy Blachman
      Enter the world of Anonymous Lawyer, by Jeremy Blachman, and you've crossed over into the mind of the hiring partner at a prestigious law firm. It's almost too close for comfort, almost too real to be called fiction. In a somewhat flimsy premise, the eponymous Anonymous Lawyer launches a blog, explaining, "it's like an outlet I didn't realize I even wanted. There's no one here to talk about this stuff with." The book, written in blog form, covers eight weeks in the course of a summer: the wooing of summer associates, firm gossip, name-calling ("The One Who's Never Getting Married, "The One Who Dresses Like a Slut," "The Suck Up"), and Anonymous Lawyer's obsessive desire to be chair. "Then my life can mean something," he writes. All he has to do—or so he thinks—is beat out his nemesis, "The Jerk." When he's not plotting how to beat The Jerk, Anonymous Lawyer is lambasting partners, associates, and summers.
      "On my way in this morning, I peeked inside a few people's offices. I do this for fun sometimes. See what secrets they're hiding. Associates think they're fooling us if they leave the door open and a jacket draped over the chair, but they don't realize I know when they're here.... Candyman's office. I opened some drawers. Just as I thought, he's got a half dozen of my secretary's Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in there. Not anymore. Let him wonder what's happened to them."
      Sure, in this quick read Blachman has blown things out of proportion. There are lawyers who take a vacation now and then; the lawyers at Anonymous Lawyer's firm do not take vacations. No partner
      in his or her right mind would fire an assistant on the day she announced she was pregnant (there's the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, after all)—better to wait and gather evidence of insubordination, or poor work product, and then fire her. And few partners or chairs, experiencing a heart attack at the office, would take the time to send out a firm email, let alone write, "I should have spent more time at the office."
      But there are times when the narrative, which draws on Blachman's real-life Anonymous Lawyer blog, feels all too plausible. Anyone who lives with or is friends with a lawyer knows about the long hours, the phone calls from partners that seem to come right as the party is singing "Happy Birthday," or how all those hours at the firm shrink a lawyer's life to such a degree that identity is tied to the size of one's office, beating the stated billable hour requirement, and winning the big assignment (which means working even longer and harder).
      The book's Anonymous Lawyer asks readers of his blog for ideas about how to torture associates. In an interview with the New York Inquirer, Blachman said he posted such a request on his real-life blog and got hundreds of responses. A suggestion in the book: "Have them unstaple and restaple all your documents because you want the staples to be perfectly straight and parallel to the margin. Tell them you've changed your mind and need all the staples at a 45 degree angle. Then tell them they're in big trouble for wasting staples."
      In the end—inevitably, predictably, thankfully—the secret blog that Anonymous Lawyer has been maintaining comes back to bite him (I won't say how), and just in time—too much more of Anonymous Lawyer's narcissistic snobbery and readers would be looking for their staplers to staple shut the book. —Nina Schuyler is a Bay Area writer.

Megan Kinneyn

Daily Journal Staff Writer

For reprint rights:

Email for prices.
Direct dial: 949-702-5390

If you would like to purchase a copy of your Daily Journal photo, call (213) 229-5558.

Send a letter to the editor: