Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Egyptian State Security Documents

The Egyptian State Security documents which have started to leak out are a treasure trove for historians, lawyers, political scientists and anyone else interested in how power corrupts, especially when no one has challenged that power for almost 60 years. I very much hope that someone is collecting them as systematically as possible under the circumstances and that they will lead to some prosecutions. The overwhelming impression is of the banality of evil, as though the people who wrote these reports and orders were just going about their daily business, like shipping clerks or sales managers filing reports on their activities. Although many of them are marked 'secret', there's no sense that these police officers had any qualms about what they were doing, which was often diametrically opposite to the state's declared policy, for example on mistreating detainees, free elections or judicial independence. So even the hypocrisy is banalized.
    The ones I have seen on the Facebook page (all in Arabic), most of which come from Beheira province northwest of Cairo, contain evidence that:
    - State Security intervened in the judiciary, drawing up lists of judges who would be 'cooperative' as election supervisors (and presumably excluding those who were not from the electoral process
    - State Security, as we long suspected, excluded candidates associated with the Muslim Brotherhood from elections. State Security gave instructions that registry clerks keep two sets of books to record candidacies, one of them complete and one with all undesirable candidates excluded.
    - State Security gave orders that detainees should be held until they had recovered from injuries inflicted during questioning, presumably so that the injuries would not show when they came out.
    - State Security hacked its way into people's email accounts, though it seems to have faced some technical problems doing so.
    - State Security obtained lists of people who had not obtained voting cards and then had false identity cards issued so that people working for the state could vote on their behalf, presumably for favoured candidates.
    - State Security sometimes determined who could appear on which television talk show, even on privately owned channels, excluding those deemed hostile.
    - Some time during the last few weeks, State Security officials proposed that the government (presumably the Ahmed Shafik government) announce the dissolution of State Security, while in fact preserving the institution under a different name.
    - State Security drafted proposals it thought could 'strengthen the position of candidates from the (ruling) National Democratic Party'.
    - President Mubarak intervened in the parliamentary elections of 2005, telling Information Minister Anas el-Fiki to help Hossam Badrawi win in the Kasr el-Nil constituency. Fiki 'mobilised' the 4,000 employees of state radio and television to that end. (In fact, Badrawi lost to another NDP candidate - Hesham Mustafa Khalil!) Fiki also edited out part of an interview with Wafd Party presidential candidate Noman Gomaa because Mubarak was offended by some personal references to himself and to his son Gamal. State Security recorded these initiatives.
    - State Security ordered its branches to start shredding secret documents on February 26, for fear that protesters might attack police stations.

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