Early years[ edit ] Soufan was born in Lebanon. He is an admirer of the poet Khalil Gibran. A in political science. He comes from a Sunni Muslim family. Here he discovered a box of documents delivered by Jordanian intelligence officials prior to the investigation, sitting on the floor of the CIA station, which contained maps showing the bomb sites. According to The New Yorker, "Soufan received the fourth photograph of the Malaysia meeting—the picture of Khallad, the mastermind of the Cole operation.
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Born in Lebanon, Soufan is an Arabic-speaker that gave him more immediate access to informants and materials collected as a result of raids on plot suspects. This is his story of how the investigation into the U. Cole bombing and the World Trade Center attacks unfolded. Soufan comes across as insightful, meticulous, and fiercely devoted to his task. Through his telling we see the culture of suited and pressed buttoned-up FBI contrast sharply with the looser, intuitive unbuttoned CIA, with whom it had to work closely.
The FBI was meant to focus internally in the U. This is one of the ultimate crime stories, not without its moments of ludicrous missteps and the sudden discovery of important clues. For those insights, it is an indispensable document.
What specifically struck me was the nature of the folk we have come to call our enemy. Shock, dismay, and what could we have done differently? The other thing I learned was how interrogations can be conducted. In many cases, interrogations are like the blind man and the elephant. The information might be false, but there are ways of circling back to clarify inconsistencies. What Soufan shows us is that a painstaking and agonizingly slow process by knowledgeable and respectful interrogators can yield results that more aggressive methods like Enhanced Interrogation Techniques do not.
Long after the interrogations were finished, detainees admitted lying during EIT sessions in order to end the torture. One thing should have been glaringly obvious to those involved in these interrogations: Going to the dark side negates everything we are, and fear is our greatest enemy.
The CIA had no institutional experience or expertise in this area and were making it up as they went along. They hired a psychologist, Boris, with no experience and used EIT of his devising on high value detainees. The curious and revelatory thing about this book is that it was published September 12, and yet it is written as though it were a diary: at the beginning we do not see the end, even though we already know the history.
Because of his language skills and his experience growing up in Lebanon and the U. Some were high level operatives and many were mere conduits. He could get information from all of them without inflating their respective roles. Respect and patience and behind the scenes research did more for information recovery than any EIT devised. The transformation of a new FBI recruit to one of the most respected names in terrorist interrogation is one Soufan allows us to trace.
If we did not have enough evidence of incompetence, hubris, and the pernicious nature of covert activities run amok , the evidence presented here should suffice to close the CIA down. Instead we learn that some of the most egregious acts were made by folks now seeded throughout congress oversight committees. I understand mistakes, but I cannot understand why the mistakes are not taken to heart. Some mistakes are too big to forgive. A article profiling Soufan by Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker covers much of the material in this book in a much shorter format, but it did not yield the insights that I gleaned from this lengthier account.
We know Soufan visited Guantanamo and probably interviewed Slahi because at one point Slahi was thought to be the highest value detainee in the facility. Soufan does not mention Slahi in his chapter on Guantanamo. If he did not consider him a high-value detainee then, he may have some kind of moral obligation to speak out now about that case because Slahi is still being held.
I listened to the Blackstone Audio production of this book, ready by Neil Shah. Shah did a terrific job with pronunciation and pacing. The book was heavily redacted towards the end, so this provided some discontinuity, but it was comprehensible enough.
The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda