Woodstock's Blog
Books and other stuff I feel like discussing

By education and experience - Accountant with a specialty in taxation. Formerly a CPA (license has lapsed). Masters degree in law of taxation from University of Denver. Now retired. Part time work during baseball season as receptionist & switchboard operator for the Colorado Rockies. This gig feeds my soul in ways I have trouble articulating. One daughter, and four grandchildren. I share the house with two cats; a big goof of a cat called Grinch (named as a joke for his easy going "whatever" disposition); and Lady, a shelter adoptee with a regal bearing and sweet little soprano voice. I would be very bereft if it ever becomes necessary to keep house without a cat.
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I just finished a very interesting and engrossing book - THE BLACK BANNERS by Ali Soufan.

Soufan is a former FBI agent. He joined the agency in the late 1990's - he applied for a job with the agency in response to a bet from a college friend. The application process took more than a year and Soufan had almost forgotten about it when he was called for an interview.

His family had emigrated from Lebanon, and Soufan was fluent in Arabic and an accomplished student of the Koran, so he applied for and was granted the assignment to work in the counter-terrorism section based in New York City.

He ended up working in the investigations of the embassy bombings in two African cities and also the attack on the USS Cole. Then came 9/11, and his work load and that of all the others working on those investigations increased exponentially. He left the FBI in 2005, in part because of the frustrations he and his co workers encountered when dealing with some of the persons in authority above them.

For those of you who are interested, I recommend the book highly. I often wished for an index, but that is the only lack I found as I read.

At the very start of the volume, Soufan includes a single page, printed in a different font from the rest of the text, in which he explains the process of submitting the manuscript for approval prior to publication. This was required of him since he had formerly worked for the FBI, and he states (and I believe him) that he would have submitted the book even if it had not been required, to prevent an inadvertent disclosure of details relating to an on going investigation.

What he didn't anticipate was that the FBI would send the document to the CIA. The results are at first comical, then distressing, and in the end, insulting. Heavy black lines crossing out text appear throughout - especially as Soufan begins to relate post 9/11 work done by him and his colleagues. According to him, at least two pages quote an exchange between Soufan and a U S Senator which was broadcast on nationwide television.

In paragraph after paragraph, what is clearly read as Soufan relating his experiences, "I", "my", "us", and "our" are blacked out, but the context of the rest can only be read as Soufan's retelling of his work.

What kind of idiots took care of labeling these redactions? Did any of them stop to read the results? Among other things, blacking out "I" with no other change to a paragraph - there is only one way to read a word that short. What other word could it be?

In his short one page discussion of the redactions, Soufan tells the reader that he decided to go ahead with publication, and has requested the FBI to review and dismiss the CIA concerns. If that fails, he plans to pursue legal action to have the redactions removed in future editions. As far as I can tell, he has yet to be successful.

You can read about the book, including comments about it in the press - lower left corner of the webpage - at http://theblackbanners.com/

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