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The Black Banners: Inside the Hunt for Al Qaeda by [Soufan, Ali]
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The Black Banners: Inside the Hunt for Al Qaeda Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Review

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 )

Review

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

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 7726 KB
  • Print Length: 578 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0393079422
  • Publisher: Penguin (12 Sept. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141971789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141971780
  • ASIN: B005HHSY1S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #383,490 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I found this book to be very interesting. It is written by a former FBI cover agent who infiltrated Al Queida before the 9/11 attacks and he has a remarkable story to tell. Its certainly unique and makes for some pretty compelling reading. Overall, it it very well written and the author describes places, events and people very well; but due to the high number of people involved in his "story" and the "FBI jargon" / acronyms he uses it can be a bit confusing in places if you lose attention (despite my best efforts I found I was referring to the index / who's who list quite a lot!!)

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.
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By Russell Smith VINE VOICE on 16 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The review copy of this that I read was heavily redacted by the CIA. Now, at first, that's fun - a couple of black lines where names should be gives an air of authenticity and danger. Later on, however, it gets annoying, literally, entire chapters are 90% black line with the remainder rendered completely impenetrable.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an amazing book on one of the biggest international news stories of the last decade: the story of Al-Queda. It is amazing not least because it is written by one of the key players on the US side, Ali Soufan, an Arabic speaking FBI officer. He is notable because he conducted the interrogation that proved the link between 9/11 and Al-Qaeda (and he did it without recourse to torture - he actually just used Muslim social customs and religious argument during the interrogation).

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.
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