Book Prize Recipient, 2009

Jane Mayer has been awarded the 2009 Ridenhour Book Prize which honors an outstanding work of social significance from the prior publishing year. Mayer’s book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into A War on American Ideals, is a damning indictment of how the United States made self-destructive decisions in the wake of 9/11 that not only violated the Constitution and American values, but actually hindered the pursuit of Al Qaeda.

In The Dark Side, Mayer details how Vice President Dick Cheney and his powerful, secretive advisor David Addington used the fallout from the terrorist attacks to further their long-held agenda to enhance presidential powers. She relates how U.S.-held prisoners, some of them completely innocent, were subjected to torture that frequently led to false confessions. And she sets these specific cases against the larger tableau of political Washington where numerous administration lawyers, politicians and administration officials—many deeply conservative—tried without success to oppose these policies.

As new and increasingly disturbing facts continue to emerge regarding the conduct of the Justice Department over the past eight years, The Dark Side provides an invaluable chronicle of one of the most troubling chapters in American history, one that will serve as the lasting legacy of George W. Bush.

The New York Times’ Alan Brinkley called it a “powerful, brilliantly researched and deeply unsettling book.” Other reviews were similarly full of praise. “Many books get tagged with the word ‘essential;’ hers actually is,” wrote Louise Bayard on Salon. “The Dark Side is about how the war on terror became ‘a war on American ideals,’ and Mayer gives this story all the weight and sorrow it deserves.”

Jane Mayer is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the coauthor of two bestselling books, Landslide and Strange Justice. Based in Washington, D.C., she specializes in political and investigative reporting. Before joining The New Yorker, Mayer was a reporter at The Wall Street Journal for 12 years, where she became the paper’s first female White House correspondent. Mayer has written for a number of publications, including The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the New York Review of Books.

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