The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al-Qaeda MP3 CD – 1 Dec 2011
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This is an absorbing account of America's fightback after 9/11, full of revealing or amusing details ... So ultimately this book is cheering as well as fascinating, because it reveals the dedication of those who defend us, as well as the weird frailties of those who try to kill us (Sunday Times )
Although many have claimed to tell the inside story of the hunt for al-Qaeda, Ali Soufan has a better claim than most ... this is one of the most valuable and detailed accounts of its subject to appear in the past decade (The Economist )
In a new memoir, a former F.B.I. agent who tracked Al Qaeda before and after the Sept. 11 attacks paints a devastating picture of rivalry and dysfunction inside the government's counterterrorism agencies. The book describes missed opportunities to defuse the 2001 plot, and argues that other attacks overseas might have been prevented, and Osama bin Laden found earlier, if interrogations had not been mismanaged (Scott Shane New York Times )
He's the special agent who came in from the cold...the most successful U.S. interrogator of Al-Qaeda operatives...Soufan was involved in a string of crucial investigations and interrogations, from the Millennium Bombing plot in Jordan to the U.S.S. Cole bombing in Yemen and a number of Gitmo interrogations. His greatest success was the interrogation of Abu Jandal, bin Laden's former bodyguard (Bobby Ghosh Time )
After the 1998 embassy bombings,Soufan helped assemble the initial evidence linking them to Bin Laden. Soufan's language skills, his relentlessness, and his roots in the Middle East made him invaluable in helping the FBI understand Al Qaeda, an organization that few Americans were even aware of before the embassy bombings (Lawrence Wright New Yorker )
To those inside the U.S. government Soufan has long been something of a legend. He conducted the most effective and fruitful interrogations of Al Qaeda suspects during the war on terrorism, and save for some inexplicable failures by the CIA, he and his team might well have prevented 9/11. Soufan has since left the FBI and written a gripping account of his experiences, brimming with details about Al Qaeda and its historical development (Harper's Magazine )
Most Americans first heard of FBI agent Ali H. Soufan in the spring of 2009. That's when he testified from behind a black curtain in the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing room ...The testimony was explosive.
Now Soufan has fired another salvo ... detailed descriptions of what unfolded behind the closed doors of the world's interrogation rooms. We learn that terrorists smirk when they think they have the upper hand. They quarrel over interpretations of the Koran. One burst into tears after he was allowed to telephone his family.Soufan describes the tension between two men sizing each other up on either side of a table. In those moments, which make up the bulk of the book, the narrative soars, as Soufanallows readers to experience the high-stakes intellectual dance between foes.
Soufan's story provides a new and important window on America's battle with al-Qaeda.(Washington Post ) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent, served on the front lines against al-Qaeda and gained an international reputation as a top counterterrorism operative and interrogator. He has been profiled in The New Yorker and featured in books, newspaper articles, and documentaries around the globe.
'He's the special agent who came in from the cold...the most successful U.S. interrogator of Al-Qaeda operatives...Soufan was involved in a string of crucial investigations and interrogations, from the Millennium Bombing plot in Jordan to the U.S.S. Cole bombing in Yemen and a number of Gitmo interrogations. His greatest success was the interrogation of Abu Jandal, bin Laden's former bodyguard'
Bobby Ghosh, Time
'After the 1998 embassy bombings, Soufan helped assemble the initial evidence linking them to Bin Laden. Soufan's language skills, his relentlessness, and his roots in the Middle East made him invaluable in helping the FBI understand Al Qaeda, an organization that few Americans were even aware of before the embassy bombings'
Lawrence Wright, New Yorker--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
However, as interesting as this book is, it does have a VERY big negative going for it which is a real shame. The negative in question is stated on the cover, is explained in the foreword, and has been commented on by other reviewers.The big negative is the number of redactions (censured words. names etc. At the start of the book its not too bad, but it gets worse the further you read on and as a result in places its makes for some pretty hard reading. The redactions are especially prominent in the final 3rd of the book where nealy whole pages are nothing but black bars where the text has been censured. As a result the flow of the book and the "story" itself becomes hard to understand at best, and at times impossible. The author explains in the foreword that despite him never working for them, the redactions were put in on at the request of then CIA (both the FBI and US state dept give the book the OK in its original format)and while it may be understandable that the CIA may want some redactions, in some cases they have at time gone way over the top and have contributed to ruining a very good book.
I hope that the paperback version, or 2nd edition (if there is one)can correct this problem as this really is a very good book on a very interesting subject. Sadly, the book in its present form its ruined by the amount of redactions in it and that is a shame.
This may seem like a petty way to approach this book, but actually, it's the whole FBI / CIA relationship in a nutshell. There are some chapters were the CIA has literally insisted that the personal pronouns are removed. You can clearly see from the context (and the size of the black bar) where words like 'I', 'He' and 'They' have been removed. It's ludicrous, and demonstrates the kind of attributes that the CIA is often associated with; paranoia, bureaucracy, and inter-agency pettiness.
I mention this because the author, Ali Soufan is a former FBI agent, and here he tells the background story of the hunt for Al Qaeda, following attacks such as that on the USS Cole in Yemen, and of course, September 11th. The overriding theme is that Soufan (and, to a certain extent, the FBI) was always in the right, particularly with regards to interrogations, whilst the CIA merely hampered efforts to protect America and bring Bin Laden to justice.
It's one man's opinion and is inevitably biased, and it would be interesting to hear a different or opposing perspective on the events. However, as much as Soufan can come across like a flawless boy scout throughout, it's difficult not to side with his point of view in the majority of situations. His approach in dealing with terror suspects always seems more constructive, and according to this book at least, seems to get better results.
If you want to delve behind the headlines and find out some of the human stories on both sides of the 'war on terror' then this is a very informative and well-told tale.
Lets get the first issue out of the way: the book has been redacted by the CIA. In the preface Soufan rejects the necessity for this, given that most of the information in the book is actually available in the public domain. Well, yes and no.
Ali Soufan's image is also blacked out in the cover notes, but it took me exactly 5 seconds to find a full image of him on the internet: his likeness is also public domain: double standards. I'm guessing though that Ali and everyone else knows the real reason that the CIA redacted his book - they don't like him because he made them look like fools in the 9/11 Commission as well as later when the CIA came to pushing EITs (Enahnced Interrogation Techniques, such as waterboarding). Soufan's techniques were more successful.
Given that the redactions are actually in the public domain, I actually enjoyed finding out what has been redacted. Most of the time its actually quite easy (it looks like different departments redacted different chapters, so clues to the information redacted in one chapter are actually in other chapters!).
Because of the deep well of information (much of it new), presented in a well written and exciting narrative, I can't help but recommend this book to anyone interested in making sense of recent International Politics.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Author Ali Soufan was a United States Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who participated in many high profile terrorist investigations, including the bombing of the USS Cole in... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Tristan Martin
very detailed account of how the US hunted AL Qaeda pre and post 9/11Published 14 months ago by riley36
this book promises much more than it delivers,its gives a rather drab view of the infighting and politics between the fbi and the cia. Read morePublished on 21 Aug. 2013 by m. dosa
The author is an American FBI operative who infiltrated Al Queda in the years before 9/11, and he provides a chillingly convincing account of the triumphs and failures of... Read morePublished on 10 May 2013 by Withnail67
This is kind of heavy reading, told by an experienced interrogator, from his own true experiences. It is a little heavy on 'me, my, I' in places, but this does not detract from... Read morePublished on 21 July 2012 by Roroblu'sMum
This is quite challenging, to a large extent due to the redactions, but ultimately quite a rewarding read. Read morePublished on 3 July 2012 by Brett H
No, if you're looking to buy this book and reading this review, then obviously you aren't just looking for an easy read. Read morePublished on 25 May 2012 by SCS
This is a very accomplished overview of Ali Soufan's experiences as a FBI agent engaged with tracking down - and understanding - al-Qaeda. Read morePublished on 25 April 2012 by Amazon Customer
...but I'll try to keep it short.
***The good bits***
This is a must-read book. Soufan has written an accessible, funny, emotional, at times deeply moving account... Read more