Omar Suleiman and the U.S. Rendition and Torture ProgramPosted: January 30, 2011
Omar Suleiman was recently appointed Vice President of Egypt by desperate dictator Hosni Mubarak. There has also been talk that Suleiman could become Mubarak’s successor now that Mubarak’s son Gamal is seemingly out of the picture.
It will be interesting to see how the Obama administration responds to this appointment, since the U.S. has had very close relations with Suleiman. Some basic background on Suleiman from Reuters:
* He has been the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services (EGIS) since 1993, a role in which he has played a prominent public role in diplomacy, including in Egypt’s relations with Israel and with key aid donor the United States.
* He was born on July 2, 1936 in Qena, in southern Egypt. He later enrolled in Egypt’s premier Military Academy in 1954, after which he received additional military training in the then Soviet Union at Moscow’s Frunze Military Academy.
* He also studied political science at Cairo University and Ain Shams University. In 1992 he headed the General Operations Authority in the Armed Forces and then became the director of the military intelligence unit before taking over EGIS.
* Suleiman took part in the war in Yemen in 1962 and the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel.
* As Egypt’s intelligence chief, Suleiman was in charge of the country’s most important political security files, and was the mastermind behind the fragmentation of Islamist groups who led the uprising against the state in the 1990s.
While he has shown little political ambition, General Suleiman has often been mentioned as a possible successor to the 82-year-old Mr Mubarak.
He would continue in the trend of military strongmen who have led Egypt since the 1952 revolution.
And perhaps more ominously, based on what you’re about to read about Suleiman’s activities,
Even if he is not the next president, even in a transitional capacity, some experts believe that Omar Suleiman is likely to be a kingmaker.
Suleiman is a well-known quantity in Washington. Suave, sophisticated, and fluent in English, he has served for years as the main conduit between the United States and Mubarak. While he has a reputation for loyalty and effectiveness, he also carries some controversial baggage from the standpoint of those looking for a clean slate on human rights. As I described in my book “The Dark Side,” since 1993 Suleiman has headed the feared Egyptian general intelligence service. In that capacity, he was the C.I.A.’s point man in Egypt for renditions—the covert program in which the C.I.A. snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances.
I happen to have a copy of a book mentioned in Mayer’s post–Stephen Grey’s “Ghost Plane”–so I checked the index. During his investigation of the U.S. rendition program, Grey went to Egypt first, because he had heard that that is where we were sending prisoners to be
interrogated tortured. He had heard rumors of a secret prison “in Upper Egypt, near the Aswan dam,” although this was never confirmed.
Montasser al-Zayat, an Egyptian attorney who represented U.S. prisoners, told Grey:
“We have heard of full airplanes arriving at night, but these prisoners are kept very isolated. It’s really difficult to learn more….When a prisoner is sent back to Egypt, he basically disappears for up to three months. That’s when he is interrogated and tortured, and when he is allowed no visitors. Only after that when his wounds are healing, does he see the prosecutor and have visitors.” Some, he explained, never reached that stage and simply remained disappeared.
al-Zayat’s story was confirmed by other attorneys, many of whom had been imprisoned themselves and spoke from personal experience.
Since 1993, the ruler of this shadowy world of Egyptian intelligence–”a close friend of the West and the spy agency that had the closest links with America and the CIA”–had been none other than Omar Suleiman, the man now being talked about as the future ruler of Egypt. Something tells me he is not the type of leader the Egyption protesters are seeking.
According to Stephen Grey, the approval for the secret CIA program to carry out renditions of al Qaeda figures originally came from Bill Clinton in 1995, “if [renditions] would assist U.S. national security.” Clinton had to sign a “finding,” or executive order, for each of these CIA operations. Before the transfer of a captured prisoner, the CIA was to receive “assurances” from Egypt that the person would not be tortured and would receive a fair trial. As we know, the secret CIA renditions continued under George W. Bush.
…Michael Scheuer, a former C.I.A. officer who helped set up the practice of rendition, later testified before Congress, even if such “assurances” were written in indelible ink, “they weren’t worth a bucket of warm spit.”
More from Stephen Grey’s “Ghost Plane”:
To negotiate those assurances the CIA dealt principally in Egypt through Omar Suleiman, the chief of the Egyptian general intelligence service (EGIS) since 1993. It was he who arranged the meetings with the Egyptian interior ministry…. Suleiman, who understood English well, was an urbane and sophisticated man. Others told me that for years Suleiman was America’s chief interlocutor with the Egyptian regime–the main channel to President Hosni Mubarak himself, even on matters far removed from intelligence and security. “He was a very bright guy, very realistic,” according to Edward S. Walker, Jr., [then U.S. ambassador to Egypt,]….”He understood the consequences of some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way.”
Sounds like a real nice guy, doesn’t he?
Here’s a little more on the way Eqypt’s government operates, from Wikileaks:
As described by Cable 10CAIRO64 sent from the Embassy of Cairo on 12January, 2010, “Egypt’s State of Emergency, in effect almost continuously since 1967, allows for the application of the 1958 Emergency Law, which grants the GOE broad powers to arrest individuals without charge and to detain them indefinitely”. The cable also describes how “The GOE has also used the Emergency Law in some recent cases to target bloggers and labor demonstrators”.
In the aftermath of protest started on Monday January 25th, many citizens, including activists and Journalists were attacked. People were detained, brutally wounded and even killed as a result of excessive use of force by Police, a situation that is known and acknowledged in the past by U.S. diplomats based in Egypt.
In a Cable sent from Cairo Embassy on 2009, Cable 09CAIRO79 the reality of the police force is described: “Torture and police brutality in Egypt are endemic and widespread. The police use brutal methods mostly against common criminals to extract confessions, but also against demonstrators.” It was 2009 when the Government of the United States of America acknowledged the lack of concrete actions of the Egyptian government to improve the situation of police in Egypt. This same document points out how bloggers described the severe torture with electric shocks inflicted on a blogger, and how security forces stopped the torture when he began cooperating.
For me, Omar Suleiman being appointed VP means that he’s in charge. This means the old regime is trying to salvage the situation. Chafiq’s appointment as PM also confirms a military in charge. These people are part of the way Egypt was run for decades and are responsible for the current situation. I suspect more and more people, especially among the activists, are realizing this.
So if representatives of the Obama administration (including SOS Hillary Clinton) begin touting Suleiman as a good replacement for Mubarak, we should be very very suspicious.