Categories
All Things DC Books

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

[Book Review] Leaves the reader angry, frustrated, and fed up. Not however, because the book is bad, precisely because it is so clear, detailed, and powerful, making the best case I’ve seen yet for why torture doesn’t work and the U.S. shouldn’t be doing it.



The book was written by Ali Soufan, one of the FBI’s former top Arabic interrogators, one seemingly involved in every investigation from the East African embassy bombings and the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, to 9/11, Gitmo, and beyond. As the book progresses, you can feel the steady increase in the author’s frustration and tension with the bureaucratic, DC way of doing things, including torture, versus being allowed to use his experience, training, linguistic, and cultural knowledge. In the end, completely frustrated and only days after being referred to as, “the future of the FBI,” by the FBI director, the author resigned and left the government.







While the DC bureaucracy in general comes out looking pretty bad, between the author’s reporting and the CIA-mandated redactions (left in the book as black lines through sentence after sentence, page after page of text, including through publicly available Congressional testimony), the CIA comes out looking like bumbling, arrogant, bureaucratic assholes (admittedly, not that hard, but still). State, at least in Yemen, doesn’t come out looking too good either, but the main beating is laid on Langley.




The book has some errors that detract from its credibility, mainly the Soviets invading Pakistan, instead of Afghanistan, on page 26, and the occasional confusion of the words “dessert” and “desert.” Still, overall, and in spite of the anger and frustration the reporting causes in the reader, well worth your time.


Share

2 replies on “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda”

Thanks for clearing up that the Soviets did not invade Pakistan. I didn’t remember that they did, and was searching all over to verify. I am surprised how that would happen, and it does take credibility away from the story.

Leave a Reply to Tracy Gray Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.