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General Intelligence Service (GIS) Mukhabarat

Egypt has the largest and arguably most effective intelligence community in the Arab world. The General Intelligence Service (GIS) (Gihaz al-Mukhabarat al-Amma), often called the Mukhabarat, is an Egyptian intelligence agency responsible for providing domestic and foreign national security intelligence. The GIS is part of the Egyptian intelligence community, together with the Office of Military Intelligence Services and Reconnaissance (Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-Harbyya wa al-Istitla) and the State Security Investigations Service (SSIS) (Gihaz Mabahith Amn al-Dawla).

Starting in 1910, when the modern Egyptian intelligence system was created to deal with militant nationalists and Islamists, the security services were subsequently reorganized, augmented and centralized to meet an increasingly sophisticated array of challenges, including fascism, communism, army unrest, Israel, France, the United Kingdom, conservative Arab states, the Muslim Brotherhood and others. President Gamal Abdel Nasser decided in 1954 to establish the Egyptian intelligence service, which was placed under the command of Zakaria Mohieddin. The agency rose in importance after Nasser assigned named Salah Nasr as director, a post he held from 1957 to 1967. Under Nasr's directorate, the GIS relocated to its own building and established separate divisions for Radio, Computer, Forgery and Black Operations. To cover the agency's expenses, Nasr set up Al Nasr Company, ostensibly an import-export firm, as a front.

In the late 1940's a group of young intellectuals at the American University in Beirut organized the Arab National Movement [ANM], the first of the Palestinian organizations. During the period of the Egyptian-Syrian union, the ANM came under the aegis of Egyptian intelligence, and many ANM members became UAR intelligence personnel. For many years the UAR was the major souorce of funds of the ANM, and many ANM officials were in fact UAR intelligence agents.

Following Egyptian acceptance of the U.S. peace proposal in July 1970 and Palestinian criticismof that move, President Nassrr halted the Palestinians' use of radio facilities and reportedly put fedayeen in the UAR underclose surveillance, even deporting some extremists. Nasser also indicated he had ceased aid to the fedayeenand would not resume it until he had reached an agreement with them. Even before this, Fatah had never received more than limited and sporadic aid from the UAR. Thus in early 1969 President Nasser had conveyed to Arafat his dismay over certain anti-Soviet views being publicized in fedayeen circles. As a result the next shipment of arms was less than had been promised. Arafat indicated that he felt obliged to take the hint in order not to lose more aid. The UAR had provided Fatah with considerable training, conducted in Lebanon emphasizing intelligence and security services. The UAR also trained Fatah members as frogmen and pilots, though they reportedly stopped the latter in July 1970.

For several years the name of GIS director was a secret, known only to high officials and government Newspapers chief editors [the later presumably to keep this name out of the papers]. Lieutenant General Omar Soliman, who became the Chief of the GIS in 1993, was the first to break this taboo. His name was published before he himself became a known face in media, after being envoyed by the Egyptian president Mubarak to Israel, USA and Ghaza on many occasions.

Although Egypt has suffered a series ofdeadly terrorist attacks, its strong opposition to terrorism and its effective intelligenceand security services have made Egypt unattractive to terrorist groups. Nevertheless, the northern Sinai region is a haven for criminal networks that smuggle weapons and funds among Egypt, Gaza, and Israel. Egypt and the US are friends and allies, and there is no evidence that Egyptian intelligence services target the US.

Pursuant to the extraordinary rendition program, foreign nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism have been apprehended and transported to detention and interrogation facilities in Morocco, Egypt, Afghanistan, Syria, Jordan, Guantánamo, and elsewhere. Of the foreign countries involved, Egypt, in particular, has played a leading role in the extraordinary rendition program. On May 15, 2005, the Egyptian Prime Minister stated publicly that Egypt had assisted the United States in the rendition of sixty to seventy terrorist suspects since the September 11 attacks.

On November 20, 2001, the Wall Street Journal published a detailed, front-page investigative story on earlier CIA-orchestrated renditions to torture in Egypt. The article described the 1998 arrests of several Egyptian terrorism suspects in Albania by local authorities at the behest of the CIA, and the use of unmarked "CIA-chartered plane[s]" to send them to Egypt, where they were detained and interrogated undertorture. Two of the men were hanged in 2000. The article's authors were explicit about the incident's relevance, arguing that it "illuminates some of the tactical and moral questions that lie ahead in the global war on terrorism. Taking this fight to the enemy will mean teaming up with foreign security services that engage in political repression and pay little heed to human rights."

In the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's decision to pursue a unilateral Israel withdrawal from Gaza, Egypt signaled a new readiness to play a constructive role in making the region secure. Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman became the point man in discussions with the Palestinians, delivering the message of the United States and the Quartet that the Palestinians must consolidate and reform their security forces and empower their prime minister rather than Chairman Arafat. Egypt took actions that were supportive of what Israel has determined is in its best security interests. Egypt was prepared to take on the Herculean task of consolidating and training the Palestinian security services.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:52:38 ZULU