Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Intelligence collection in its most visceral form.

Interrogation represents intelligence collection in its most visceral form. Sitting in “the box” with one’s enemy, maintaining composure and decorum, all while outwitting them to the point that they provide valuable information against their will requires the skills of a chess master combined with a thespian.  It is clear after reading The Black Banners that former FBI Agent Ali Soufan embodies this ability and more.

A Lebanese-American assigned to the FBI’s counterterrorism office in New York
City,  Soufan was pivotal as an interrogator for many investigations in the
war with al Qaeda to include the East Africa Embassy bombings, the attack on USS Cole, and 9/11. In fact, Soufan was in Yemen on 9/11 conducting the Cole investigation, and collected the first intelligence that proved al Qaeda was responsible for 9/11.

The Black Banners describes many interrogations that are reminiscent of other great books on the subject such as The Interrogators by Chris Mackey and Greg Miller and How to Break a Terrorist by Matthew Alexander. Like Alexander, Soufan provides detailed and convincing commentary on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (read: waterboarding and the like) versus The Informed Interrogation Approach. This alone makes his work an important book for all who work in the intelligence field.
Soufan’s book is equally valuable for its study of Al Qaeda itself. While it is not as informative as other examples that focus primarily on the terror group, like The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, it serves as a great companion to such works.

The Black Banners is an important study of an American patriot and his invaluable service to our nation. It should serve as an addition to any student of modern history, and of course, military and intelligence enthusiasts. 

Thank you, Mr. Soufan.