The reconstruction of Egypt’s security state

The Associated Press reports: After a bombing hit a security headquarters in Egypt’s Nile Delta, calls flooded into a hotline run by security agencies as people reported suspected members of the Muslim Brotherhood in their neighborhoods. In the weeks that followed, hotline numbers have run in a scroll on the bottom of many TV news broadcasts.

It’s one sign of how Egypt’s National Security Agency — once widely hated as a pillar of the police state under ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak — is reclaiming a major role amid a wave of militant violence and a wide-scale government crackdown on the Brotherhood since the July coup that removed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Some activists fear that a Mubarak-style autocracy is returning under the new military-backed government, three years after the uprising that toppled Mubarak in hopes of creating a democracy. The emphasis on the hotlines, they warn, raises the likelihood that neighbor will turn against neighbor at a time when the government has accused the Brotherhood — its top political nemesis — of organizing the violence.

Officials from the agency say tips from citizens are helping it rebuild its intelligence sources. They depict the agency as deeply crippled by three years of turmoil — including, they say, security breaches during Morsi’s year in office, when the Brotherhood gained access to its files.

The hotline also aims to enlist the broader public on the agency’s side as it tries to rehabilitate its image. One agency official said the lines help change a “cultural norm” among Egyptians against cooperating with the police. [Continue reading…]

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