Ali's groundbreaking book, The Black Banners, is a revelatory account of America's successes and failures against al-Qaeda, and is essential to an understanding of the terrorist group. The ingenious structure of the book allows the author, in his own words, "to take the reader with me as I learned things." We see what happens in hideouts and interrogation rooms. We have a ringside seat at Osama bin Laden's personal celebration of the 9/11 attacks. Most important, we watch Ali at work, using guile and knowledge to gain crucial evidence without ever resorting to morally compromising enhanced interrogation techniques. These riveting operational details show us not only how terrorists think and act but also how they can be beaten and brought to justice.
The book concludes with the death of bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs, an incident that underscores a crucial aspect of the narrative. U.S. intelligence agencies found bin Laden by tracking a courier whose importance was established through the use of traditional investigative techniques, the sort that Soufan employs so brilliantly. By contrast, even after being water-boarded 183 times, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, was still lying about the true identity of the courier.Ali, a former FBI special agent, served on the front lines against al-Qaeda and gained an international reputation as a top counterterrorism operative and interrogator. He is a frequent op-ed contributor to the New York Times, has been profiled in the New Yorker, and has been featured in books, newspaper articles, and documentaries across the globe.