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The Black Banners

The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War against alQaeda
Narrated by: Neil Shah
Length: 19 hrs and 29 mins
Categories: Nonfiction, World Affairs
4.5 out of 5 stars (311 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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

On September 12, 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 alQaeda—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 alQaeda 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.

©2011 Ali H. Soufan (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Superb. An education. And the best book on alQaeda out there, bar none.” (Robert Baer, former CIA official and New York Times best-selling author)

What members say

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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great book if you are interested in terrorism

What made the experience of listening to The Black Banners the most enjoyable?

If you have any interest in the details of 9/11, buy this book now. Very well written. The only thing that was sub par was all the stuff the CIA forced him to remove from the book. The audio book has a lot of redactions, and depending on the part there can be quite a few of them back to back. This is not Ali Soufan's fault, blame the CIA/FBI if this bothers you.

What did you like best about this story?

Very well written. Lots of inside information that you will never get by reading the 9/11 commission report (which i have read twice)..

Which scene was your favorite?

Memories of Ali working with John O'Neil..

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • michael
  • poway, Ca, United States
  • 10-31-13

Terrorism, torture and the CIA

Where does The Black Banners rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the top five

What other book might you compare The Black Banners to and why?

A Legacy of Ashes/Enemies A History of the FBI both by Tim Weiner. Both books give you an look into the cultures of the Intelligence Agencies. I know many of the men and women of the CIA risked their lives daily but the CIA bureaucrats cannot continue to lie and coverup their incompetence. As the FBI Agent warned the CIA pre 9/11 that by not providing photos and information on known AQ terrorist in American they will be responsible for the attack. Outrageous behavior by the CIA. Add to that the CIA's torture of terror suspects was the "wrong thing to do" as recently stated by CIA Deputy Director on 60 minutes. Bravo!
Ali was vindicated......

Which scene was your favorite?

Ali's battle of wits with the terrorist suspects....also when the FBI stuck to their guns that there was no evidence/link between Saddam and AQ....even when pressured by the White House....

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The CIA's failure to provide information to the FBI on the 9/11 terrorist traveling to the US pre 9/11, their use of torture and their subsequent cover up. Very upsetting .

Any additional comments?

This is a book about those in the trenches including FBI, and CIA and the military who put their lives at risk in the most dangerous places. Ali stated his case clearly and I hope lessons are learned.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Outstanding

One of the most comprehensive books I have read on the rise of AQ. Soufan provides first hand insight into investigations starting with the 1998 embassy bombings, through the Cole investigation, and post 9/11. His insight into interrogations of key AQ detainees and how the intelligence was built and corroborated was astounding. He does go into great detail about the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs). His stance against them, and how he believes it cost key intelligence that could have prevented attacks (even 9/11) is at times difficult to read. However, he States that his intent of sharing is to learn, and ensure that it never happens against.

His work intertwines history with current events to provide a comprehensive look at what drove the circumstances. He stated himself that when asked when AQ started that "I would say 1979 with the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet forces and the Iranian Revolution". This statement is widely reinforced throughout his book with historical knowledge of Islam, and his ability to apply that knowledge to current events.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in current history. I will likely be listening to it a second time, as it was just that good.

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Lack of cooperation between two top agencies

This book comprehensively details about the lack of cooperation between two agencies in which the tragedy of nine elven could have been prevented. The audio quailty is great and the narrator narrates the story in many accents based on the characters’ backgrounds, which makes this book more interesting.

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Great details, hard to follow

Very good detail about the real story, but hard to follow with long names, aliases, blank/redacted parts, and parts of book jumping time frames.

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Great Book to help understand...

The book was very entertaining and educational Ali Soufan told an amazing story and had a great narrator.

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  • Ben
  • arizona
  • 07-02-18

Good story, but.....

This is a good story but so much of it is “redacted” or removed it makes it hard to follow near the end. One whole chapter is mainly “redacted passage” or “blank, told blank, blank” it gets very annoying. Overall it’s good but it definitely gets annoying.

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Great with one fault

An excellent book for anyone interested in the rise of Islamic militancy. However, I feel like I'm entitled to a roughly 50% reimbursement for all the ridiculous redactions.

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Blank and Blank go to blank. Redacted passage.

This is an excellent book, however some of the chapters are very annoying with all of the redacted passages and other things that are left “blank”
I get that some information is still classified, but seemed like a couple of chapters were mostly redacted, or the names of places or individuals were replaced with blank, which made it a little hard to follow. My opinion is that it would have been better to have left those out entirely and just printed a second edition at a later date.
However this is still a very good book and I would recommend it to anyone who’s interested in learning more about what actually happened on and around 9/11.

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excellent and enlightening

makes you think twice about supposed success of the sword over simple communication. Too many times I think we let our emotions cloud our judgement and maybe that's what happened with EITs. I do not know 100% the effectiveness of them or lack there of, but this book highlights proven interrogation methods that have been used successfully for decades without torture. just maybe we should have given them more of a chance before resorting to EITs and who knows what we may have learned and when.