Egypt, Intelligence and Security
Egypt's primary intelligence agency is the General Directorate for State Security Investigations (GDSSI). The Ministry of the Interior administers the GDSSI. The agency collects both foreign and domestic intelligence, using civilian and military operatives and resources. The GDSSI maintains several operational departments and partner agencies, including the Counterintelligence Branch, the Department for Combating Religious Activity, Directorate of State Security Investigations, and a security action unit. The agency cooperates with military and foreign intelligence services in operations intended to protect national interests, especially relating to shipping, oil production, and refinement, and regional anti-terrorism measures. The organization has received criticism from human rights groups and members of the international community for its employment of harsh coercion techniques and conducting espionage on Egyptian citizens.
The government and the individual branches of service coordinate military intelligence. The organization assesses threats to national targets and actively protects military instillations. Operations of the Intelligence Agency are classified.
While Egypt has cooperated with European and American anti-terrorist operations in the past, a recent political shift has prompted Egyptian authorities to withdraw from many Western intelligence and security efforts in North Africa and the Middle East. The rise of Islamist sects and terrorist groups in the region, as well as Egypt's close ties to neighboring Arab states, creates further diplomatic tensions with Europe and the United States. Although Egyptian intelligence agencies aided the United States intelligence community by providing information about the Al-Qaeda terrorist network, many in the Egyptian government opposed the United States led war in Afghanistan in 2001. Regardless, Egypt continues a liberal-use policy of its territorial waters for international shipping, including access to the Suez Canal.
The Egyptian Constitution prohibits religious political parties, but over the past decade, a few Islamist militant organizations have gained some political ground. In the 1990s, Egyptian and United States intelligence forces conducted operations to locate and capture Egyptian militants who had fled the country and were basing possible anti-government and terrorist operations abroad. The two nations successfully captured several suspects, but the Egyptian government garnered international criticism for human rights abuses, including poor treatment of the prisoners and the use of secretive military tribunals.