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

4.4 43
by Ali H. Soufan
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

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.

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.

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:
266,406
File size:
923 KB

Meet the Author

Ali H. 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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Black Banners 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Manchops More than 1 year ago
I've made it a point to never pen a review immediately after finishing a book. I do this because, as a critic, I don't want to feel as if I'm unintentionally overrating or underrating any author's effort. I try to let the work sink in a bit, to have it seep through all the corners of my brain, to soak it across all my consciousness. I do this in hopes that I'll give a more cogent, a more salient, and a more respectful analysis of the work. The longer I allowed Ali Soufen's "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda" to float around in my head, the more frustrated I grew . frustrated with the tale . frustrated with the participants . and even frustrated a bit with the author. For starters, it's a tremendous and personal work. Clocking in at just over 600 pages, it's a wealth of history about al-Qaida and the terrorist organization's various major (and a few minor) players. And, as Mr. Soufen repeatedly suggests to those around him, "it all starts back in 1979 when ." He provides outstanding context for the background, and he allows the story to build reasonably from there. Consequently, the book is a comprehensive accounting of names, dates, and places, and, no doubt, it's penned by one committed and impressive mind that have synthesized a vast canvass of data into the effective conclusions that our narrator does. In his bid to tell the definitive insider's story of 9/11, Mr. Soufen clearly is the best-educated, best-prepared, and best-suited to enlighten all of us with where the mindset of such an act began, and the first half of his book goes to great pains to bring the reader up-to-speed on how a few decades of history climaxed with that seminal moment: the destruction of the two World Trade Center towers. For the reader, it's an at times frustrating experience in all of its 600 pages. This isn't intended as a slight toward Mr. Soufen - I think the very nature of exploring these events and the people who caused them strays into territory where some may fear to tread - but there may have been a better person to tell this story so that so much of it didn't appear so personal to him. Immersing oneself inside the story, by its very nature, brings the narrator to life, and that drags all the good, the bad, and the ugly into the spotlight and places it alongside the bad guys here. Whether he intended it this way or not, Soufen became the focus (for this reader, anyway) at key points in the narrative; as the story went on, I found myself mildly less-and-less interested in the war and more drawn to the narrator, in not a good way. For example, Soufen almost lovingly (and dangerously) narrates the backstory of al-Qaida's leadership, exploring the men's history, hopes, and dreams, underscoring to the reader that, perhaps at some point in their past, they were not different from you or I . and, well, yes, I suppose that's true except for that whole little 'jihad to bring down Western civilization,' that is. In his bid to extract information as a lead interrogator, Soufen laughs with them; he cries with them; and he even prays with them . so long as it will get them one step closer to sharing intel and a confession to aid the United States in stopping al-Qaida's mission of destruction. And, just maybe, therein rests the only real problem I had with the book: Ali Soufen and his 'band of Untouchables' can do no wrong here. Indeed, Soufen's own actions take on almost mythic proportions as he al
mermao More than 1 year ago
This is a highly personal account of one FBI agent/interrogator's intense involvement in the war on terror. It not only gives a lot of inside detail on Al Qaeda's conspiracies and the attempts to thwart them, but also gives a lot of interesting personal background on many of the terrorists interrogated and often "turned" by the author. The author is an Arab American Moslem of Lebanese background, which in my opinion gives him additional insights. The second half of the book shows how the introduction of torture by the CIA and its contractors was actually counterproductive in getting good intelligence out of captives and probably delayed the final attack on Bin Laden by several years. This half of the book has many annoying redactions by CIA censors who obviously would have preferred if word of their vicious incompetence didn't get out at all. Not withstanding reader irritation, I think the author was right to go ahead and publish with the redactions rather than fight the censors for years and end up with a highly sanitized account if anything at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you're wondering how we could've prevented the attacks, then read this book.
civiwarlibrarian More than 1 year ago
Ali H. Soufan, former Federal Bureau of Investigation interrogator and counter-terrorism operative, discloses the successes, failures, bureaucratic incompetence and turf protection of some federal agencies from al-Qaeda's declaration of war in 1996 through the death of Usama bin Ladin in 2012. Soufan is a Lebanese American who graduated in 1995 from Mansfield University, a institution in the Pennsylvania university system. On September 11, 2001, FBI Special Agent Ali H. Soufan was handed a secret file. Had he received it months earlier, when he had requested it, the 9/11 attacks may have been prevented. From his beginning employment in 1995 through his 2005 departure from the FBI, Soufan interrogated prisoners and elicited some of the most important confessions from terrorists in the war against al-Qaeda. His method of interrogation used conversation only and he never used violence. Soufan provides intimate firsthand knowledge of the investigation into the October 2000 attack on the USN Cole in Yemin. Al-Qaeda hideouts, CIA and FBI interrogation rooms, Guantanemo Bay and al-Qaeda in America are the environments are are revealed either by first hand observations or revealed in interrogations. Usama bin Laden's personal celebration of the 9/11 bombings, the mindset, personal lives of terrorists as well as their thought processes and operate style are each presented. The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 And The War Against Al-Qaeda essential and compelling reading. Words, phrases and paragraphs within the text have been blackened out by order of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I look at today's events in the MiddleEast with an entirely new perspective.  For me it was a gripping account of the behind the scenes operations of our counter terrorism activities and a powerful indictment of enhanced interrogation.  I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the way things are done in that very turbulent part of the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an excellent read.
WatchungSeymolur More than 1 year ago
Unquestionable expertise, detailed reporting, great insights and comprehensive review of Al Queda operations, but terrible indictment of CIA and Washington political hacks. Souifan's book is documentation of incompetence and immorality at highest levels of government without accountability. The too many redactions by the censor of the text is even more upsetting. This is an important book, but one I would rather never have to read.
BeirutVet83 More than 1 year ago
Ali Soufan is an incredible story teller and an advocate for the truth. A true patriot, he tells the story without pulling punches. I am embarrassed and saddened on how our own U.S. Government chose to handle the intelligence and insights that we were provided prior to 9/11... though I'm not surprised. In the early 1980's, I had the opportunity to be "around" our intelligence communities. They were brash and full-of-themselves them, obviously in the late 90's/early 2000's this continued. Ali Soufan is a warrior and a true credit to the storied history of the FBI.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Former Special Agent Soufan does an outstanding job of explaining how these events came to be and the investigations that followed. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the field of CounterTerrorism.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr Soufan does a tremendous service to our Nation and our children by publishing this book. It should be required reading for anyone who has to authority to restrict freedom of others, and who have the responsibility to protect the freedom of others. I cannot begin to explain all that I have learned about Islam, Cultural nuances and National Security in a single book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An easy fast read that shows the real inside story of how our inteligance agencies did not cooperate and it cost us in the long tun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago