Remarkable documents have emerged from Egypt from inside Alexandria’s State Security compound:
This past weekend, Egyptians lost their patience and simply started dismantling it themselves. After reports of documents being burned and moved out by the truckload, crowds converged on its offices in Alexandria, Cairo, and the southern city of Aswan.
Once they broke in, they found hallways knee-deep in shredded paper; empty cells and interrogation rooms; and torture devices. Despite the service’s efforts, not all documents had been destroyed. Activists—some of whom found their own or their friends’ files—picked up armfuls of papers, carried them home and yesterday started posting them online. (One of the main sites is a Twitter feed and Facebook group called SSLeaks.)
Egyptians can now browse through pages and pages of documentation of the daily activities of a secret service that controlled everything from university appointments to the guests on TV talk shows to the winners of the next elections to, allegedly, the drug trade. Created mostly to repress an Islamist insurgency in the 1990s, the service morphed into a shadow state that even other government ministries had to pay extortion money to.
Although it’s difficult to verify the authenticity of the documents, the size and timing of the dump and the details it contains suggest that most of them are genuine. A memo from February 2008 gives directions in chilling legalese to keep detainees long enough for them to heal from beatings and torture: “It’s been noticed recently that some of the elements transferred to the Special Operations Group from the administrations and branches of the [State Security] apparatus have injuries… a matter that leads us to request that you examine their state and extend their detention until they are on the way to recovery. Please pay careful attention to the cases that will be transferred to the Special Operations Group and ensure their healthy condition and the absence of any injuries.”
The documents also show the security services were drinking their own Kool-Aid. Another undated but apparently recent memo presenting an “analysis of the state of chaos that the country has witnessed recently” states that the protests against former President Hosni Mubarak were the work of “the United States, the European Union, and the Zionist entity,” which created a “plan aiming at tearing the Arab and Muslim world,” with the goal of “making the Arab world lose its national, Islamic identity and forcing the Arab people to normalize with Israel.”
The documents leaked so far also show the security services wire-tapping opposition figures, orchestrating media campaigns, and managing their vast network of informers.