Ali Soufan Wins the Ridenhour Book Prize for: The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al Qaeda
Truth-Telling Prize Honors "The Black Banners," Definitive History of Al-Qaeda Proving Dangers and Folly of Torture
$10,000 Prize Will Be Awarded April 25th
New York, NY (March 28, 2012): The Fertel Foundation and The Nation Institute today announced the recipient of the ninth annual Ridenhour Book Prize, which honors acts of truth-telling and outstanding works of social significance in publishing. The Ridenhour Prizes are the only DC-based awards that celebrate courage in American life.
This year, Ali H. Soufan has been awarded the 2012 Ridenhour Book Prize for The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda. Soufan is one of America's leading counterterrorism investigators; with The Black Banners, he has written the definitive history of al-Qaeda, and provides irrefutable evidence that torture is not only antithetical to American values, but produces false and dangerous information.
"For almost a decade, these awards have made Ron Ridenhour's legacy of courage and fidelity to the truth a living one," said Randy Fertel, Founder of the Fertel Foundation, which co-sponsors the prizes. "The Black Banners" and Ali Soufan's writing have reframed the debate around torture and intelligence in America, saving lives and making us all more safe. Ali Soufan inspires us, and renews our faith that brave words spoken in challenging times are the most powerful antidote to evil. "
The Black Banners is Soufan's extraordinary account of this time at the FBI and his investigations into al-Qaeda, starting with the beginnings of the group during the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamic militants of 1979 and ending with the death of Osama bin Laden in 2010. Alongside vivid descriptions of field operations on both the frontlines and in the interrogation rooms, Soufan also reveals, in painful detail, the intelligence sharing failures of the US government. In an unforgettable scene, he describes being handed a secret file from the CIA on September 12, 2001, one day after the attacks that had killed thousands, including his friend and mentor O'Neill. Upon seeing its contents he ran from the room and was physically sick. The file contained photos and information pertaining to specific al-Qaeda operatives. Had he received the information months earlier when he requestedit on multiple occasions, 9/11 might have been prevented.
"At a time when our nation hungers for integrity in public life, The Ridenhour Book Prize shines a bright light on a man who is dedicated to the hard, often lonely work of truth-telling," said Andy Breslau, President of The Nation Institute, which co-sponsors the Prizes. "Ali Soudan is a tonic against easy cynicism and a call to all of us to do better. "
The Black Banners demonstrate time and again that it is intelligent questioning, not torture, that yields valuable information from suspects. Soufan's questioning of Abu Jandal, bin Laden's former personal bodyguard, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks remains one of the most successful interrogations of any al-Qaeda operative. He refused to participate in any "enhanced interrogation techniques," arguing that they are not only immoral but produce bad and faulty intelligence.
The prizes memorialize Ron Ridenhour, who blew the whistle on the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War and went on to become an award-winning investigative journalist. He died in 1998 at the age of 52.
Last year's Ridenhour Book Prize went to Wendell Potter. Past winners include New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid, who will be remembered at this years event.
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Interviews are available with the Ali Soufan. Limited seating at the event is available for media at the April 25th award ceremony, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the National Press Club. Past winners and more information is at www.ridenhour.org, and at www.twitter.com/nationinstitute, under the "#ridenhour" tag.
About The Ridenhour Prizes: The Ridenhour Prizes recognize and encourage those who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society. The prizes are named after investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour, to commemorate his lifetime of fearless truth-telling and to inspire others to do the same. The Ridenhour Prizes were established by The Nation Institute and The Fertel Foundation in partnership with The Fund for Constitutional Government, Government Accountability Project, and The Project on Government Oversight. For more information visit www.ridenhour.org .
About The Nation Institute: A nonprofit media center, The Nation Institute was established to extend the reach of progressive ideas and strengthen the independent press. Our dynamic range of programs include a bestselling book publishing imprint, Nation Books; our award-winning Investigative Fund, which supports groundbreaking investigative journalism; the widely read and syndicated website TomDispatch; our internship program at the Nation magazine; and Journalism Fellowships that fund up to 20 high-profile reporters every year. Work produced by The Nation Institute has sparked Congressional hearings, new legislation, FBI investigations and the resignation of government officials, has changed the debate and has a regular impact on the most urgent social and political issues of our day. For more information visit www.nationinstitute.org.
About the Fertel Foundation: Energized by a passion for weaving ideas and people together, the Fertel Foundation, based in New York and New Orleans, has a special interest in initiatives from which new communities and new insights may emerge and those that challenge entrenched communities of power. For more information, visit www.fertel.com.