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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 02/10/2011

Egyptian police training giving FBI a black eye

By Jeff Stein

Like everything else in the close U.S.-Egyptian security relationship, Washington’s training program for Cairo's police and intelligence agencies is giving the U.S. a steadily darkening black eye.

A headline in Thursday’s London Telegraph shouted, “Egyptian 'torturers' trained by FBI.” The unmistakable insinuation, of course, was that FBI agents have been training Egyptian dungeon-dwellers in electric shocks and breaking arms.

Which is absurd, a blood libel, to coin a phrase, on FBI agents who, after all, famously objected to the CIA's waterboarding and tend to emote over “Fidelity, bravery, integrity” as their motto. Contrary to the Telegraph's headline, the bureau generally sees the program as a way to inject the trainees with traditional American notions of human rights (and, of course, make a few "friends" along the way).

[UPDATE: "The FBI does not utilize, condone or advocate torture," said Thomas V. Fuentes, head of the FBI’s office of international operations from 2004 until his retirement in November 2008. "My former colleagues still view torture as illegal. immoral, unreliable and ineffective. Also, the FBI cannot provide training in techniques it has no expertise."

["When I traveled throughout the world as head of international operations," Fuentes added, "I never wavered in promoting the rule of law."]

FBI spokesman Mike Kortan declined to throw back the Telegraph's mud ball, saying only that “The FBI regularly provides professional training in various areas of policing to law enforcement officers from around the world as part its international training program.”

Nevertheless, it is true that the FBI and State Department, through the AntiTerrorism Assistance Program, have for years been training the Mubarak regime’s notoriously ruthless security and intelligence agents.

Washington seems to have had two minds about it. In December 2008, for example, the embassy was hailing the regime as “a steadfast ally in the GWOT” and nearly gushing that “we maintain close cooperation on a broad range of counter-terrorism and law enforcement issues,” according to one of the cables disclosed by WikiLeaks.

So close, in fact, that the CIA had long been shipping terrorism suspects to Egypt for special handling.

“We have a long-standing and productive relationship with EGIS and SSIS, the two Egyptian agencies that cover internal and regional terrorism issues,” added the cable, signed by U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey.

“Through the Department of State's Anti-Terrorism Assistance program, we are working with SSIS to establish an anti-terror investigative unit, and also are in the beginning stages of a USG-funded community policing program that will include needed human rights training.”

“Needed human rights training,” indeed. In 2009 the American embassy (under new management) was noting in a cable home that Egypt’s “police and domestic security services continue to be dogged by persistent, credible allegations of abuse of detainees,” according to the WikiLeaks cable cited by The Telegraph.

The embassy also reported that “credible” human rights lawyers had “compiled accounts from several defendants of GOE [Government of Egypt] torture by electric shocks, sleep deprivation, and stripping them naked for extended periods.”

No matter. “Dozens” of Egyptians from various security offices--Central Security, Public Security, Civil Defense and Police Academy--were “cleared to take U.S.-sponsored anti-terrorism classes abroad,” according to another 2009 embassy cable analyzed by Pratap Chatterjee at “The Electronic Intifada” Web site.

“Another cable dated 13 January 2010 that has been made public by Wikileaks offered ‘Security Sector Central’ officers three-week courses in how to handle explosives,” Chatterjee added.

The SISS’s chief then, of course, was Omar Suleiman, suddenly elevated to the vice presidency last week. He thanked the U.S. for “training opportunities” at the FBI academy in Quantico, the cable cited by the Telegraph said.

Training in torture? The Egyptian agents hardly needed that. But to the Egyptians protesting in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, there’s not an ounce of difference.

State Department spokesmen did not respond to a request for comment.

By Jeff Stein  | February 10, 2011; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy, Intelligence, Media, Military  
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The accusation that the FBI trained Egyptian police in torture is laughable. The Egyptian police are world renowned for their use of rape, sodomy, and torture. The Telegraph is world renowned for lousy journalism.

On the subject you ought to be posting about, Mr Stein, that Leon Panetta looks even more out of touch than usual now that he opened his pathetically misinformed mouth and verified for the world how clueless he and his agency are. You're well on your way to the Medal of Freedom, Leon.

Posted by: veritasinmedium | February 10, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Where were you?

4 million innocent died at least in Iraq at 2003 while the Bush "operation" ;kids ahh kids ahh hearting my heart and babies,old women and men,they couldn't find the coffins for their deaths.

So now is America afraiding from the terrorists or muslims or what?They are crying their troops,what were they looking there?That was the big lie,to bring the democracy and defence the land and for freedom.

But someones covering the the truths because the 9/11 reason was the oil money that 600 billion $ in total 8 Trillion $ which was taken by Henri Kissinger from the Arabish.HAHAHAHA Now 137 Trillion $

You said Hitler and Stalin,etc maybe killed more than millions and millions but we can't show the bad exampels to the eachothers never and never,why?if the USA is representatives of the Rome,because the Rome was not imperial,though it's sit down on the Pagan Culture.

I'm sitting on the culture more than 7000 years,USA should exist the peace in by it self at first,now I'm asking you were an old soldier too,

What's USA looking for in Vietnam,Iraq,Japan,Europe,Asia,Midleast,etc

Do you know how many ground lines your country is in war?

I say,6 ground lines now.

Did you bring peace,democracy?

What did USA bring?

No No You just brought pain,violence, tears,scattered families and childrens without dad and mom to that country's nations.

Posted by: jonywaspuh | February 11, 2011 8:08 AM | Report abuse

The danger in such training is not in what we might teach them, but what our trainers might learn from them -- not in the sense of techniques (which are universally known), but in the culture of acceptance of the use such techniques. Regardless of how hard you try, exposure to the lack of of moral integrety does rub off over time.

Is it not a bit arrogant to think that when it comes to law enforcement, we newbies on the block have something to teach a society that has been in that business for 3000 years, and has a totally different legal system and culture?

Posted by: DCNative41 | February 11, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Mea culpa, Panetta.

Posted by: veritasinmedium | February 11, 2011 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Blood libel? REALLY, Stein? It wasn't cute when Sarah Palin said it, it's not cute when *you* say it. Besides, the FBI isn't really known as torturers - that's the CIA.

Posted by: fbutler1 | February 11, 2011 11:36 PM | Report abuse

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