The Black Banners by Ali Soufan

The Black Banners by Ali Soufan **** out of ****

By the end of 2002, I was nervous. I feared what the United States was doing to captured al-Qaeda sympathizers and terrorists. Still, I wanted to believe that our country would not stoop to torture.
Rumors of harsh treatment of suspects at Guantanamo Bay began leaking out relatively early on and my dis-ease grew.
Then we were told that yes, we used Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (which, if they happened to our people, we would have called torture) on have valued terrorists. But, the trade off was that we gained life saving intelligence that prevented terrorist attacks.
Then, in 2004, Abu Grhaib was splattered all over the news. We were torturing Iraqi detainees. But we were told that it was a few rogue soldiers. They took the fall.
Yes, there was some opposition voices claiming we had gone too far. They were dismissed because, after all, we wanted to be safe, didn’t we?
Now, after reading Ali Soufan’s The Black Banners my worst fears are realized. What caused me discomfort is now a full blown disgust. Soufan was not some outsider piecing together what happened, he was the FBI Agent responsible for interrogating many high valued terrorists. He did his job without torture. He simply outsmarted those he interrogated. As a result, the USA got the information it needed to stop real terror threats. We read of how he outsmarted Abu Jandal and confirmed that 9-11 was perpetrated by al-Qaeda.
Yet (and here is the most disheartening part of the book), he was brushed aside so that CIA interrogators could come in and ‘get the truth’ out of the high valued terrorists. They did this by torturing them again and again.
Waterboarding, stick them in small boxes with insects in them, and forcing them to go as long as 48 hours with no sleep were among the tactics used.
The result? Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zabaydah, and others made up stories in order to ease the torture they were experiencing. The terrorists themselves confess to the fact that they would say anything the interrogators wanted to hear in order to ease their torment.
The intelligence that Ali Soufan gained was real and saved lives. Torture was unnecessary.
The stories Soufan tells are fascinating and worthy of reading all on their own. The book is a fascinating look into the battle to keep America safe before and after 9-11.
But it is also a revelation that we lost something in the battle to be secure. We lost more than convenience at airports, more than freedom from being spied on by our own government. As our government made the conscious decision to torture, we lost our soul. We were willing to do anything to be safe, no matter what we gave up. After reading this book, I am convinced that the 10 years after 9-11 will be seen as a dark decade because of how much we gave up in order to feel safe.
Soufan’s book reveals that anytime we give in to fear, we lose.

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