Stephen J. Smith | March 8, 2011
As Jesse Walker reported on Saturday, angry protesters stormed various State Security buildings throughout Egypt over the weekend after hearing reports that officials were destroying files that could shed light on various abuses over the years. While Human Rights Watch yearns for a “procedure” for publishing the documents that were saved from State Security’s shredders, Egyptians opted for the WikiLeaks model. Scans of files have been appearing on Facebook and image hosting sites like Yfrog (“problematic,” says HRW), and the Twitter hashtag #AmnDawla has been flooded with discussions and links to the documents since Friday.
Documents published so far, assuming they’re real (and the Obama administration seems to be acting as if they are), have unearthed everything from Skype snooping to a whole room full of compromising sex tapes. But perhaps the most incendiary files posted have been those tying the Interior Ministry to attacks supposedly perpetrated by terrorists. Disgraced former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly had already been widely suspected of being involved in the New Year’s Eve Coptic church bombing, but the appearance of a file on “Mission No. 77” seems to confirm regime critics’ most damning accusations. McClatchy says that the document describes how State Security used a jailed Islamist to carry out the attack (which had been attributed to al-Qaeda), and, perhaps more ominously, they claim that there are at least seven more files on church attacks among the pilfered documents.
Aside from the New Year’s Eve attack, which was already under scrutiny before the storming of State Security offices, the documents also point to a similar conclusion with regards an earlier bombing in the seaside resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. The 2005 attack, which killed 88 and was initially blamed on Bedouin terrorists, was actually a plot by el-Adly and Gamal Mubarak to get back at one of Gamal’s business rivals, according to a leaked document (partial English translation here).
And beyond these two attacks documented in the leaked files, questions have been raised about the Nag Hammadi church attack in early 2010. The allegations were apparently serious enough that an Egyptian official felt the need to deny the rumors to American diplomats, while at the same time conceding that the official explanation for the attacks “doesn’t seem to fit.”
Up until now, claims of terrorism have been the most effective way for Arab dictators to get sympathy and support from the US. (The Yemeni regime, which is now teetering on the edge of collapse, saw its aid double after the Christmas 2009 attempted underwear bombing.) American policy in the region has been predicated on the Faustian bargain that we overlook Arab dictators’ shoddy human rights record and continue to prop them up in exchange for stability and a hard line on Islamic terrorism. But the Egyptian State Security archives suggest that not only were the Mubaraks not delivering an end to Islamic radicalism, but the regime itself may have been the source of much of Egypt’s terrorism and sectarian strife.