The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War against al-Qaeda

The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War against al-Qaeda

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by Ali H. Soufan
     
 

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A book that will change the way we think about al-Qaeda, intelligence, and the events that forever changed America.

On September 11, 2001, FBI Special Agent Ali H. Soufan was handed a secret file. Had he received it months earlier—when it was requested—the attacks on New York and Washington could have been prevented. During his time on the front

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Overview

A book that will change the way we think about al-Qaeda, intelligence, and the events that forever changed America.

On September 11, 2001, FBI Special Agent Ali H. Soufan was handed a secret file. Had he received it months earlier—when it was requested—the attacks on New York and Washington could have been prevented. During his time on the front lines, Soufan helped thwart plots around the world and elicited some of the most important confessions from terrorists in the war against al-Qaeda—without laying so much as a hand on them. Most of these stories have never been reported before, and never by anyone with such intimate firsthand knowledge.

This narrative account of America's successes and failures against al-Qaeda is essential to an understanding of the terrorist group. We are taken into hideouts and interrogation rooms. We have a ringside seat at bin Laden's personal celebration of the 9/11 bombings. Such riveting details show us not only how terrorists think and operate but also how they can be beaten and brought to justice.

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Editorial Reviews

Dina Temple-Raston
The book goes behind the scenes of some of the most important terrorism interrogations since 9/11…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 Soufan allows 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.
—The Washington Post
New Yorker
In its cynical decision to censor the memoir of former F.B.I. Special Agent Ali Soufan, the C.I.A. is seeking to punish a critic and to obscure history.— Lawrence Wright
Mother Jones
“Soufan describes many instances in which he uses his knowledge and a savvy rapport to exploit the personal foibles and intellectual weaknesses of his subjects ... The story of America's most famous Arab American FBI agent couldn't come at a more poignant time.”
New York Times
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
Booklist Online
“… the revelations uncovered are worth it; this is a story that had to be told.”
The Sunday Times
“... 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.”
The Economist
“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.”
Harpers Magazine
“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.”
Lawrence Wright
“Unfortunately, we only have one Ali Soufan. Had American intelligence listened to him, 9/11 might never have happened. No one did more to unravel the story of al-Qaeda than Ali Soufan. Thankfully, he's left another legacy in this book. Anyone who wants to know what really happened should read it. It's an inspiring but wrenching story told from the heart of a great American.”
New York Times - Scott Shane
“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.”
Robert Baer
“Superb. An education. And the best book on al Qaeda out there, bar none.”
Lawrence Wright - New Yorker
“In its cynical decision to censor the memoir of former F.B.I. Special Agent Ali Soufan, the C.I.A. is seeking to punish a critic and to obscure history.”
Scott Shane - New York Times
“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.”
Library Journal
This book stands out among the numerous books published on al-Qaeda because it provides information not found in other volumes; many have relied on Soufan's information, at times anonymously, but none has offered all that is here. Soufan was the FBI's most knowledgeable special agent dealing with al-Qaeda's activities and became the source of the most useful actionable intelligence on this terrorist organization. As an interrogator with unique skills, Soufan gained firsthand, reliable information about many al-Qaeda operatives. What has been remarkable about the valuable information provided by Soufan to the FBI is that he obtained all of his data without resorting to torture and objected to the prevalent use of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that were devised during the George W. Bush administration. This absorbing book details accounts of Soufan's treasure trove of data that he provided to the U.S. government well before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, some of which were ignored. VERDICT The best and most original book published in the West on al-Qaeda, this is highly recommended. (Although Soufan never worked for the CIA, the FBI submitted a draft of this book to the CIA, which redacted several sections. The CIA did not sign off on the index, which is why there is none.) [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/11.]—Nader Entessar, Univ. of South Alabama, Mobile
Kirkus Reviews
Could 9/11 have been prevented? By former FBI special agent Soufan's account, the answer is a resounding yes. In this heavily redacted memoir--some pages contain nothing but crossed-out lines--the author recounts a long career on the trail of al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups, a quest that sometimes seems to have begun before those groups were even up and running. There is not a whisper of self-promotion in his narrative, but it is clear that Soufan was on the case early and often. He writes, for instance, that on reading of a fatwa signed by Osama bin Laden and Muslim clerics in 1998, he wrote a memo to headquarters recommending that the FBI "focus on the threat he posed to the United States. Al-Qaeda came into focus even earlier on: "Al-Qaeda trainers were on the ground during the Battle of Mogadishu (also known as Black Hawk Down)"--a defeat of American forces that bin Laden declared not only a great victory but also proof that the American enemy was weak and lacked the stomach to fight back. Not so, insists Soufan, though given the ineptitude he portrays within FBI and other intelligence agencies, it seems amazing that the country managed to survive the last couple of decades; 9/11 was virtually foretold, and yet federal agencies did nothing. Fortunately, he writes, the enemy was also incompetent, particularly when it came to training operatives in how to use explosives. Remarked one prisoner of a training program in Afghanistan, "we're graduating more people to heaven than out of the class." The author concludes that al-Qaeda is on the decline, but more groups like it are on the rise. Soufan provides a sobering, sometimes maddening view from the front lines.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393083477
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
09/12/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
608
Sales rank:
172,844
File size:
1 MB

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