Author of Rule of Law
In a world of political accusations and threats of war, what does the public need to know, and what is better left unsaid for our own protection? Are our leaders following the Rule of Law or acting outside it? In his latest legal thriller, Rule of Law (Tyndale House Publishers/September 5, 2017), award-winning author and attorney Randy Singer weaves a gripping page-turner that explores the inner workings of the White House, the CIA and the State Department in dealings with foreign governments. Drawing from one of his own recent cases, Singer gives readers a glimpse of what is really going on behind the headlines of today’s international events.
Q: In the author’s note of Rule of Law you explain you wrote the book to address some critical issues lurking on the horizon. What are some concerns you have that Americans should be aware of?
Throughout the past several years, the CIA has become a much more militaristic organization, using drones and special forces to fight shadow wars in countries where we have not officially declared war. There are consequences to this. Drone strikes sometimes kill innocent civilians. Religious leaders who are not technically enemy combatants are targeted and killed. This in turn breeds contempt for America in the countries where it happens.
Under the Bush administration, the United States was widely criticized for using enhanced interrogation techniques on enemy combatants. During the Obama administration, methods changed to the use of drone strikes on many suspected terrorist leaders and operatives. Such summary executions are sometimes based on nothing more than the traffic pattern and aerial surveillance at a house that gives rise to suspicions of a terrorist planning center, sometimes called a “signature strike.” No longer are drone strikes confined to known terrorist leaders on a CIA or JSOC list. Often, the actual identity of the victims is entirely unknown.
What is worse: capturing terrorists for enhanced interrogation (for which the media roundly criticized Bush) or the summary execution of suspected enemies with no judicial process that characterized the Obama administration (and shows no sign of slowing during Trump’s time in office)? Studies show that, to the extent victims can be identified positively, only a small percent of drone-strike victims were in fact mid- or top-tier terrorist leaders. We must be careful that, in our war on terror, we don’t adopt means of warfare that violate our commitment to rule of law and due process.
Q: Without getting into the details of specific cases, can you share how you’ve gained personal knowledge about some of the situations you write about in Rule of Law? Was the book inspired by actual events?
Sure. As a lawyer, I am involved in anti-terrorism lawsuits that I file on behalf of terrorist victims against state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran and Syria. One of those cases involved the capture and imprisonment of two U.N. workers by the Houthi rebels in Yemen. One of the men made it out alive, but tragically the other was killed after trying to escape. Rule of Law begins with a SEAL rescue mission for two political prisoners held hostage by the Houthi rebels.
Q: How similar to past or current administrations is the cast of the government you created?
I tried to create an entirely fictional administration and Supreme Court that is not at all like the current or past administrations. I did this because people often react to things based on their political preferences, and I wanted to write a story that wouldn’t let us to jump to conclusions without thinking about the deeper issues involved.
Q: Rule of Law is a legal term. For those of us not familiar with “legalese,” what does the term mean, and how does it apply to international settings?
Rule of Law means we are all subject to and accountable to the law, which is supposed to be fairly and evenly applied. In other words, we are all equal in the eyes of the law, from the president to the homeless person on the streets of Washington, D.C. This is a bedrock part of our democracy. The rule of law replaces the arbitrary dictates of powerful rulers with the fairness and equity of the law.
Q: In the story, you pose the question, “Is the president above the law, or does the law govern even the most powerful?” Given today’s political climate, there’s enough difference of opinion to start a civil war. What’s your take on this question?
Great question. Unlike most people, I actually think the present administration is strengthening the rule of law. President Trump is certainly unconventional and strong-willed (that’s an understatement!), showing less deference to the rule of law than any prior administration. However, in pushing the boundaries of what one powerful man can do, he is testing the rule of law and by doing so strengthening our commitment to it. He is like the kid in class who is always testing the teacher. If the teacher can uphold discipline in that environment, he or she becomes more respected than ever before. Similarly, we are seeing that even a powerful and maverick president such as Trump is constrained in positive ways by the school-marm named rule of law.
There are two great dangers here. First, that we allow encroachments on our individual liberties by our own government that we would never have allowed apart from our fear of terrorism. As a defense lawyer, I know the federal government (and especially federal prosecutors) have a frightening amount of power that can destroy even innocent citizens. Their investigative tools and ability to layer on charges based on the wire fraud and conspiracy statutes, combined with the way they can freeze any defendant’s assets as part of a forfeiture action, make it nearly impossible to fight federal charges. We have tilted the scales of justice too far in favor of the prosecutors, sacrificing our individual liberties. Second, I am concerned we are fighting the war on terror in a way we would never have tolerated as a nation even 20 years ago. We must be careful that in destroying the devil, we don’t become one of his demons.
Q: Given all that is going on in this world, is there anything we can do about it? Do we need to be better informed, and if so, how do we learn the truth about what is happening around us?
Two things might help us be better informed. The first is travel. Many Americans understand very little about Middle East culture and politics because it all seems so complicated and overwhelming. There is a huge need right now for people to be part of the relief efforts for refugees displaced by ISIS. When you get to know people and help meet their needs, you naturally learn about the politics and culture of their region and care more about it. Second, we should all probably broaden our sources of news. Many of us watch our favorite cable channels and listen to “experts” rehash the same types of stories over and over. We need to go more in-depth and spend less time in the echo chambers. This can be done with blogs or by reading more serious journals/reports so the issues don’t have to be reduced to two-minute sound bites.
Learn more about Randy Singer and Rule of Law at www.randysinger.net.