First, the non-experts
In February 2009, a U.S. judge denied an injunction against force-feeding
of detainees at Guantánamo by asserting that her court lacked the neces-
sary competency to administer justice. The matter was best left, the hon-
orable judge wrote, “to the discretion of those who do possess such ex-
I am grateful to the lawyers, journalists, teachers, writers, activists,
and artists, who have been undaunted by questions about expertise.
These are the people who have tried to understand and explain to us how,
after the attacks of September 11, the world changed, and then changed
again. Joseph Margulies, Jane Mayer, Philip Gourevitch, John Sifton, and
Jonathan Raban, are a few of those from whose work, and in a couple of
cases from whose guidance, I have beneﬁted a great deal.
The expert’s assumption of omniscience is matched by the terrorist’s
illusions of omnipotence; unlike them, and more self-consciously, the
nonexpert maps the limits of our knowledge as well as our existential
comfort. In the middle chapters of this book, I present the work of writers
and artists who have adopted, sometimes with relish, the tools of the sur-
veillance state; in those chapters and elsewhere, I also engage with lawyers
and journalists working on issues of detention, torture, and human rights.
My thanks to these individuals, many of whom I also interviewed for this