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Posted at 10:40 PM ET, 02/ 3/2011

Window closing for evacuation from Egypt, CIA veteran warns

By Jeff Stein

A longtime CIA and military intelligence veteran warned companies doing business in Egypt Thursday that the country was on the brink of civil war and that outside help for foreigners seeking to evacuate will probably be “unavailable” after Friday’s mass demonstrations in Cairo.

“We believe that the situation is deteriorating to the point that Egypt will probably go the brink of or actually begin a civil war on 04 February 2011,” said Richard L. Palmer, a former CIA station chief who retired in 1998 and founded a private investigative and security company that he said has "80 persons on the street" in Egypt today.

”If that does happen, outside evacuation assistance will probably become unavailable for the near future. We believe that the planned demonstration for Friday afternoon in Cairo may be the closing of the window for secure escort from locations in Cairo and Alexandria to local airports,” Palmer said in an e-mail to companies with business in Egypt.

“Provocations and violence should be anticipated at that demonstration,” Palmer added. “Non-governmental evacuations after that time may become impossible for the foreseeable future.”

Palmer said he had several teams of two or three local operatives on the ground, one of which had already rescued foreign oil company workers “in the middle of the night”.

Pro-Mubarak mobs started attacking foreign and local journalists on Thursday, with several taken into detention.

“U.S. citizens seem to attracting the most attention,” Palmer said in his e-mail. "Kidnapping is the greatest single danger right now with many kidnappers being dressed like police."

“In one successful assisted evacuation on 02 February 2011, from a small city outside of Cairo," he added, "the vehicles came under directed small arms fire.”

Other U.S. private security companies could not be reached immediately for comment Thursday night.

Palmer said his company, Cachet International, can “provide secure transport from any location in Cairo and Alexandria to any airport in Cairo and Alexandria, which includes armed bodyguards, as well as the use of nondescript vehicles.”

"We use no Americans overseas," he added. "Only locals.  No retired former anything U.S.  That’s why we have such good contacts.  They are really locally connected."

By Jeff Stein  | February 3, 2011; 10:40 PM ET
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