Drew’s #5 — The Black Banners:

Ok, I know it’s only January, but feel comfortable calling this my “Book of the Year”.  Ali Soufan was an FBI agent specializing in what was, at the time, an obscure group of Muslim militants known as al-Quaeda.  Smart on the organization from the ground up, Soufan recounts his work with the FBI from the earliest days of al-Quaeda’s activities.  He outlines in fascinating detail the events surrounding, most notably, the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, the USS Cole, and the World Trade Center.  The book provides an eye-opening look at the depth and intricacies of the now well-known terrorist group as well as a first-hand account of some of the most successful operations and tactics in the years leading up to and following the tragedies of 9/11 on the civilian side of the DoD–particularly Soufan’s work as a tenacious investigator and interrogator.  His accounts of meetings with high-value terrorists are almost surreal in their humanity.  What’s especially fascinating is Soufan’s brilliant handling and manipulation of the detainees.  Equally shocking but chokingly sinister are the number of people within other government agencies that worked against the author and his team.  His accounts of the FBI’s treatment by the American ambassador to Yemen following the USS Cole bombing are sickening, for instance.  Similarly, the handling of various situations and suspects by CIA officials are chilling in their ineptitude.  Still, Soufan is quick to separate the integrity and capability of most of the agency, condemning a relatively small but decidedly dangerous element.  Anyhow, the book is fantastic from cover to cover; I highly recommend it!

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