With Egypt yet again hitting the 24 hour news cycle, one issue that has received little attention is the nation's secret police, the Mabahith Amn ad-Dawla or the State Security Investigations Service (SSIS), newly rejuvenated as Egyptian Homeland Security, and the connection between the nation's secret police and the FBI.
Egypt has several intelligence agencies as follows:
1.) Mukhabarat al-Aama: the General Intelligence and Security Service which is attached to the Presidency.
2.) Mukhabarat el-Khabeya: the Military Intelligence Service which is attached to the Ministry of Defense.
3.) Mabahith Amn ad-Dawla also known as Mubahath el-Dawla: the State Security Investigations Service which is attached to the Ministry of the Interior.
4.) Jihaz Amn al Daoula: the State Security Service.
All of these agencies have the capability to investigate issues that are related to national security, however, the SSIS took the lead when it comes to investigating matters of domestic/internal security.
The SSIS was founded in 1913 as part of the National Police and was designed to protect Egypt's security and protect the ruling political party's interests. In the Nasser era (1956 to 1970) the SSIS developed into an oppressive internal security apparatus that is alleged to have detained up to 20,000 political prisoners at a time. The security police recruited local informants throughout Egypt that were used to spy on the political leanings and actions of their neighbours. Over its long history, the SSIS has had agents trained in the Soviet Union and East Germany. Despite these efforts to control and intimidate Egyptians, the SSIS totally missed the plot to assassinate Anwar Sadat in 1981.
The actual size of the SSIS is unknown although some estimates put the number of employees at up to 100,000. The SSIS has a long history of being accused of using torture to control detainees and extract confessions. Here is a quote from a 2002 statement from the United Nations Committee against Torture (Egypt):
"The Committee expresses particular concern at the widespread evidence of torture and ill-treatment in administrative premises under the control of the State Security Investigation Department, the infliction of which is reported to be facilitated by the lack of any mandatory inspection by an independent body of such premises..."
Even the United States Department of State and former Ambassador Margaret Scobey expressed concerns about the use of torture on Muslim Brotherhood detainees and even judges as shown in this WikiLeaks cable:
"Police brutality in Egypt against common criminals is routine and pervasive. Contacts describe the police using force to extract confessions from criminals as a daily event, resulting from poor training and understaffing. Brutality against Islamist detainees has reportedly decreased overall, but security forces still resort to torturing Muslim Brotherhood activists who are deemed to pose a political threat. Over the past five years, the government has stopped denying that torture exists, and since late 2007 courts have sentenced approximately 15 police officers to prison terms for torture and killings."
"Contacts agree that in the past five years, the government has stopped denying that torture exists and has taken some steps to address the problem. However, contacts believe that the Interior Ministry lacks the political will to take substantive action to change the culture of police brutality. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that following alleged standing orders from the Interior Ministry between 2000 and 2006 for the police to shoot, beat and humiliate judges in order to undermine judicial independence, the GOE made a political decision in 2007 to allow the courts to sentence police officers to short prison terms. XXXXXXXXXXXX described the 2007 Imad El-Kebir case as a turning point in influencing the government to permit the sentencing of police officers."
Another cable outlines concerns about the use of electrical shocks and sleep deprivation to reduce detainees to a "zombie state".
There is a history of co-operation between the FBI and the SSI as shown on this secret cable released by WikiLeaks dating from November 2007:
According to the head of the SSIS, Hassan Abdul Rahman, there was "excellent and strong co-operation" between the SSIS and the FBI"; he also states that the SSIS derives a "great benefit" from training at the FBI's Academy at Quantico. The Director of the FBI, John Pistole (now the head of the Transportation Security Administration) even went so far as to suggest that the FBI and the Egyptian government (GOE) trade fingerprint databases, a prospect that is slightly more than frightening. You'll also notice that the head of the SSIS made it quite clear that the Muslim Brotherhood was a group of extremists who were "terrorists, not political oppositionists". He also stated that the political strength of the Muslim Brotherhood among Egyptians was "negligible". It looks like he was wrong, doesn't it?
The SSIS was dissolved in March 2011 after President Mubarak was tossed out of office. At that time, forty-one officers were accused of destroying state documents in an alleged attempt to cover up evidence of corruption and torture. All were acquitted in June of this year and former chief Abdul Rahman was sent into early retirement. Unfortunately, the agency was rejuvenated in July 2013 by the military junta that replaced Morsi as the Egyptian Homeland Security (EHS) agency under the Ministry of Interior. To add insult to injury, fifteen of the previously accused SSIS officers were hired by the newly minted EHS.
I found it most interesting to see the connection between the FBI and Egypt's dreaded Mubarak-era secret police force despite the long-term assertions regarding the use of torture. As in the case of the military of both nations, the international connections between Egypt and the United States are long-term and very deep. Again, this makes it difficult for the current administration to take an unbiased stand on the "coup" since the United States has a vested interest in Egypt's affairs.
Oh what a tangled foreign policy web we weave....