Egyptian police training giving FBI a black eye
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.
| February 10, 2011; 10:30 AM ET
Categories: Foreign policy, Intelligence, Media, Military
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