Monday, March 7, 2011

Egyptian State Security: Reality Check

The Egyptian People Demand More

In the past few days, it has become clear that a segment of the Egyptian population is not satisfied with changes so far and intends to proceed until all demands are met. The one demand that has been particularly in focus in the past few days is about the dismantling of the Egyptian State Security (SS) apparatus. There is, of course good reason for this demand. The fear is that while this apparatus still breathes, the country will never entirely be free. People on Twitter are quick to mention examples like Eastern Europe, where "democracy" was obtained without the dismantling of State Security, and that the same people responsible for State Security were able to hijack the economy and are now among the wealthiest people in those nations.

Dismantling State Security is no small enterprise, however. In wanting to do so, there is reason to believe protesters are not only tugging at the limits of the Egyptian regime, but at the limits of democracy itself. Indeed, all "democratic" nations have State Security organs like the American FBI or French DCRI. Such agencies routinely conduct surveillance on their nation's own citizens and are frequently accused of abusive behavior. One might wonder what would occur in those nations if protesters wanted to storm the buildings and drag all the documents out for everyone and their dog to see. Personally, I'm pretty sure a person or two might get shot, but that's just me.

What Do We Really Want?

When wanting to take down the SS apparatus, some of the things Egyptians want are perfectly understandable. The release of political prisoners comes to mind. Evidence of abuse against the population also comes to mind. Evidence of corruption too. Perhaps more importantly, Egyptians are looking for assurances that past abuses will not be repeated or that SS are not somehow able to manipulate current events in Egypt. True freedom cannot exist when the population is being manipulated and arguably it cannot be fully achieved until the infernal machine is disassembled and laid open for all to see, as some on Twitter have said.

Careful What You Wish For

We must beware though, for ill-conceived dreams are swift to turn into nightmares. Just to be clear, I am not questioning the dream of freedom. I desire it for my country with extreme intensity. One must have the presence of mind to question individual steps on that path though, while never questioning one's commitment to reaching the destination.

There is no assurance whatsoever of what exactly might be found if all of SS documents are seized by the population and thrown out in the open. Some or all of the previously mentioned things are sure to be found, but that wouldn't be all, would it?

There might also be things which implicate Egypt's military in rather unpleasant matters. Because while we've been sitting around romanticizing the army's role in all this, there is no shortage of signs of the Army's complicity with various unfortunate behaviors, which we have conveniently been blaming solely on SS and various assorted groups of thugs. Is that what we want to find? Stuff to blame the Army for? What comes next? Once we find irrefutable evidence of distasteful behavior on the Army's part, what do we do? Go home? Confront it? Because the real question is: IS EVERYONE READY FOR THIS CONFRONTATION? What part of the population will follow? Will the few who dare take it a step beyond that red line simply wind up beaten and jailed by a military tribunal?

Other things we might find include things related to relationships with other nations, including the now infamous "Extraordinary Rendition" program, where the Bush Administration, in its infinite wisdom, set up a sort of torture tourism system not entirely dissimilar to dental or medical tourism. Are we prepared to seriously harm relationships with previously allied nations?

Is There Any Actual Planning Going On?

Everyday, I wonder if anyone is actually thinking about the above. Do people understand what they're going to find at the end of the rope they're tugging on? You don't have to take my word for it but I am pretty sure there is a tiger on the other end of that rope. I'm not saying don't pull. I'm just saying you better be ready. My greatest fear is the idea that the revolution is powered by a bunch of brilliant but emotional people who are doing it all one day at a time, with no contingency planning or backup solutions or even basic arithmetic calculations.

Are We Ready?

I'm not saying it is time to chicken out or give up on our freedom. We have gone too far. If we give up now we might as well just slit our wrists. I am just saying this might be the time to start working through legal and political channels to finish what was started, rather than continue taking the law into our own hands. Maybe we should let the past be and focus on being firm about what we want in our future (this excludes political prisoners, of course, which must be freed - no exceptions.)

If we want to keep tugging on that rope, are we ready for what comes next? Are we ready?

Think long and hard.


  1. What will come next what are the risks of the current approach? Please elaborate.

  2. Basically, if you are going to expose misbehavior, you are going to have to confront it. Parts of the population will definitely confront it. So if we keep taking secret documents which expose the military, are we prepared to confront the military? Is there a risk this turns into a civil war?