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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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

by Ali Soufan, Daniel Freedman
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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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393079425
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/12/2011
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 320,839
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Ali Soufan is the author of Anatomy of Terror and the New York Times bestseller The Black Banners. A former FBI special agent, he has 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.

Table of Contents

Important Note Concerning The Text xi

Map xii

Prologue xv

Note To Readers xxv

Part 1 The Early Years

1 The Fatwa and the Bet 3

2 Osama Air 33

3 The Northern Group 56

Part 2 Declaration of War

4 The al-Qaeda Switchboard 75

5 Operation Challenge and the Manchester Manual 97

6 "You'll Be Singing Like a Canary" 121

7 Millennium Plot 131

Part 3 Uss Cole

8 A Naval Destroyer inYemen? 149

9 The Hall of Death 168

10 "We're Stubborn, but We're Not Crazy" 185

11 The Human Polygraph Machine 209

12 "What Is al-Qaeda Doing in Malaysia?" 228

13 Bin Laden's Errand Boy 254

Part 4 The Attack That Changed The World

14 The Binalshibh Riddle 271

15 "What Dots?" 284

16 The Father of Death 306

Part 5 A New World Order

17 Bin Laden's Escape 343

18 DocEx 350

19 Black Magic 356

Part 6 The First High-Value Detainee

20 Abu Zubaydah 373

21 The Contractors Take Over 393

22 "We Don't Do That" 411

Part 7 Successes And Failures

23 Guantánamo Bay 439

24 45 Minutes 484

25 The Crystal Ball Memo 502

Part 8 Final Missions

26 Leaving the FBI 511

27 Undercover 518

Postscript 525

Conclusion 531

Acknowledgments 539

Principal Characters 545

Key Documents And Articles Cited 569

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