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The Challenge

The Challenge

How a Maverick Navy Officer and a Young Law Professor Risked Their Careers to Defend the Constitution--and Won

Jonathan Mahler




The Challenge tells the inside story of an improbable act of patriotism. At its center are Navy lawyer Charles Swift and Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal, two men who, in the aftermath of 9/11, found themselves defending an accused Yemeni terrorist named Salim Hamdan in America's first military tribunals since World War II. The entire system was stackd against them, and Swift's superiors were pressing him to enter a guilty plea. Instead, he and Katyal sued the Bush administration on their client's behalf, arguing that his trial and treatment were illegal and unconstitutional. In the spring of 2006, the case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, reached the Supreme Court. The resulting ruling changed the legal landscape of the War on Terror, and it has been called the Court's most important decision ever on presidential power and the rule of law. Jonathan Mahler's gripping, detailed chronicle follows the case from Yemen to Guantanamo to the courtrooms and the chambers of power in Washington, delivering "the definitive work on an epic Supreme Court case--and on the human beings behind the headlines" (Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court).

Praise for The Challenge

“[The Challenge] tells the story of a captive who gave his name to a great constitutional decision, and it describes the personal struggles of his lawyers, their courage, and their faults. . . . A work of rare drama.” —Anthony Lewis, The New York Review of Books

“A riveting read.” —San Francisco Chronicle

The Challenge is not just a very readable account of an important case. It is also an intimate account of the lawyers who overcame personal conflicts, animus, and flaws to produce a decision for the ages.” —The New York Times

“An excellent legal thriller . . . It's through Mahler's brilliant narrative of these characters that he weaves together the broader, legally complex story of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.” —The Toronto Star

“Mahler excels at telling the story of a talented, fractious team coming together for a greater goal.” —The New Yorker

“For those who thrill to what might be called the geology of American constitutional bedrock, The Challenge is a riveting read.” —The New York Sun


Reviews from Goodreads

Jonathan Mahler

JONATHAN MAHLER, a writer for The New York Times Magazine, is the author of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning.

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Jonathan Mahler

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