by Jonathan Mahler
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008
The Challenge is the story of the Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which challenged the authority of the president, under the Constitution, to prosecute suspected terrorists in military tribunals. Salim Ahmed Hamdan was Osama bin Laden’s driver, captured in Afghanistan in November 2001. The case was prosecuted by Charles Swift, a military lawyer, and Neal Katyal, a Georgetown law professor who had almost no trial experience. The pair’s personalities and backgrounds could hardly have differed more.
Jonathan Mahler delves deeply into these two characters and their relationship, the plight of Hamdan himself, imprisoned for years at Guantanamo, and the legal controversies surrounding the case. The story reads with all the drama and tension of a John Grisham legal thriller, only this time the story is true.
There are still prisoners today at Guantanamo who have been indefinitely detained and formally charged with no crimes. For this reason and many others, The Challenge is a vitally important book.