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This book was very educational for me. I learned so much about terrorist groups, from al Qaeda, Mujahideen, EIJ, etc. etc. I had no idea that they have been around as long as they have, since 1979. Soufan explains his theory of the happenings in the Middle East that precipitated terrorists. Americans just don't always get news of things that happen in other parts of the world. And Soufan takes pains to explain what motivates them, why they targeted the USA, and really explains what they have done, how they organize, how they recruit and travel all over the world. He also explains the art of interrogation and why "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" (EITs) don't work. He covers the bombings of two African Embassies, the Cole bombing, and of course, the "planes" that attacked the US. He personally worked these attacks as an FBI analyst. He is of Lebanese descent, speaks fluent Arabic, and is obviously extremely intelligent. He is also adept at reading people and figuring out how to relate to them which made him especially effective as an interrogator. This book is long but begins to move quickly once you get into it because it's just an incredible story. He doesn't have much good to say about the CIA and that's interesting as well. Highly recommend to anyone interested in the subject matter.
This work gives a whole different perspective to the US government's war on terrorists. Mr. Soufan provides context and demonstrates the value of real experience when dealing with issues of massive importance. It was also comforting for me personally since I thought that many of the CIA operatives I worked with just didn't want to share intel with me. As it turns out, they play "I've got a secret" with everyone.
I remember once during the debate on torture, two British philosophers debating, as if at a lawn party while drinking tea, the ethics of torture. While they balanced the theoretical saved lives vs broken bodies, they completely failed to address the poor foundation upon which their arguments were based: Can you get good accurate actionable intelligence from torture? Most of the world seems happy to accept this premise as a foregone conclusion. Ali Soufan puts this question to rest once and for all. Certainly not in the situations you might need it. Ali Soufan was, during this period, a gifted FBI interrogator who, with a few colleagues, extracted most of the good intelligence from Al Qaeda suspects, starting long before 9/11. Most of what we know about Al Qaeda comes from them. It was unfortunate at this time President Bush (or maybe Cheney) were enamored with the idea sold to them by two incompetent psychologists (getting paid a thousand dollars a day), backed by top brass in the CIA that they could magically break suspects by using enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) and extract all they knew. This book takes you right through this time. It takes you into the interrogation room with Ali, you will see exactly how he works, and that it is an art and a mind game, there is no set formula, but you must start with cards in your hand ad play them carefully. Ali's interrogations are one of the most interesting parts of the book, and he is hugely successful (that he comes from the Middle East and is Muslim who speaks Arabic, is of course helpful). You will be present when the CIA turn up authorized to take over the interrogations. He asks the one in charge, who he calls Boris in the book, "Have you ever done an interrogation before" "No Boris said, but I know what makes people talk". Once the CIA take over, the flow of useful information dries up, for torture will get people to say whatever they think the torturer wants to hear, not the truth. (If you are very cynical, you might get the idea this is the point, as when they get false intelligence linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda, something that suited Bush on the eve of the Iraq war). It is sad, that two competing ideas, standard FBI interrogation, which is valid, gets rejected and displaced by the CIA and their failed EITs. As a result, those supporting EITs lied and also smeared Ali, but worse, did not allow him or the FBI access to suspects, with the inevitable result that plots are not stopped when they could have been, Bin Laden is free a lot longer than he need have been, and people died unnecessarily. There are no two sides to this story, truth is self-evidently on the side of Ali, and his testimony had much to do with the senate intelligence committee report on torture, which pointed out torture had revealed no useful information, despite its proponents lies. Along the way you will learn just about everything there is learn about Al Qaeda and all their plots. It is a fascinating read that takes you into the heart of intelligence. I first bought this book when about 50% of it was blacked out having been censored by the CIA. It was good then. It is even better now since a court case led to the removal of the censorship.
Reviewed in the United States on December 10, 2020
After watching the miniseries "The Looming Tower" I came away with a strong admiration and sense of gratitude for this courageous and effective Muslim FBI agent. We need many more like him, and good for the FBI that they hired him. The story of just how he came to be hired is too detailed to relate but it is hilarious. So when I saw the news of this book I got it thru my library. I liked it but there are just so many Arabic names and aliases that I couldn't keep track. I quit about half-way thru. I think that even if they had been familiar-sounding English names it would still be overwhelming. He relates many stories of the now-familiar bureaucratic turf wars and infighting that sabotaged the investigations and very likely helped the 9-ll attackers to succeed.
Ali Soufan traces his detailed interrogation work tracking Al Qaeda for the FBI from the Cole bombing through the period that included the CIA torture program. This is what we should have been reading in the news during the time but instead was not adequately relayed to the public due to political infighting between our intelligence agencies. Ali was clearly one of the most important intelligence experts keeping the US safe both physically and morally.
Insiders look at the war on terror. Although the subtitle in the Amazon post is how torture affected the war, there is much more to the book than that teasing phrase. Well written and highly recommended.
This book has so many wrongs i do not know where to start. Binyam mohamed is named as an Al-Qaeda operative.. What it doesnt tell you is that he was tortured by the CIA in morocco and pakistan. Ultimately there was NO evidence whatsoever against him and he was given millions in compensation from the USA. The UK said there was no proof of the UKs involvement in his false arrest. The author also repeats the same rhetoric about 9/11 when much information says he is wrong. He also writes things like AND HE MEMORISED THE QUR'AN. All muslims do. The Qur'an is in no way a bad book. Its much the same as the bible. Meaning islamophobic propaganda.