Cablegate: Fbi Deputy Director Meets with Head of State
DE RUEHEG #3348/01 3320930
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 280930Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7564
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC
S E C R E T CAIRO 003348
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/12/2027
TAGS: PREL PTER KJUS ECPS IZ EG
SUBJECT: FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR MEETS WITH HEAD OF STATE
REF: A. CAIRO 1638
B. CAIRO 3247
Classified By: Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) Summary: In a wide-ranging November 4 meeting, State Security Investigative Service (SSIS) head Hassan Abdul Rahman and visiting FBI Deputy Director John Pistole discussed increased fingerprint sharing, the GOE's views on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian concerns about terrorist returnees from Iraq, and the recent decision by the leadership of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad to embrace a new non-violent ideology. A discussion of the phenomenon of "virtual radicalization" was prompted by the Ambassador's comments about the concurrent visit to Egypt of Ambassador David Gross, U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, and his focus on freedom of expression vis-a-vis the internet, and how the U.S. is striking a balance between freedom of expression and the protection of citizens from terrorists and criminals. End summary.
2. (C) Repeatedly during the meeting, Abdul Rahman emphasized the "excellent and strong" cooperation between SSIS and the FBI, through Embassy Cairo's Legatt office, highlighting the "great benefit" that SSIS derives from training opportunities at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA. When Deputy Director Pistole raised the possibility of increasing information sharing of fingerprints - with the GOE to be granted access to the USG's fingerprint databases, in return for the GOE sharing fingerprints of extremists that it has on file - Abdel Rahman was largely unresponsive. Later in the meeting, he offered that, "if you have the fingerprints or DNA samples of anyone who conducted an attack against any American anywhere, please pass it to us, and we can check our databases for information on the individuals."
3. (C) Abdul Rahman spoke at length about the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB), terming the group "terrorists, not political oppositionists." During a lengthy heartfelt monologue, Abdul Rahman asserted that, "you just do not understand the MB like we do. It is an extremist group, from which all Islamic extremists have sprung, and even now, despite having changed tactics and not engaging in actual violent operations, it is still providing financial support to Hamas." Abdul Rahman opined that the MB's "weight in the Egyptian street" is actually negligible, noting that, "the strength of the MB is much less than implied by their success in the 2005 parliamentary elections." He did not provide any further information to bolster this assertion.
4. (S) When queried by Pistole regarding the large percentage of Egyptians among the senior ranks of Al Qaida (AQ), Abdul Rahman agreed that an inordinate amount of AQ cadres are Egyptian, noting that, "they are keen to undertake operations to destabilize the Egyptian government." He said that the GOE monitors the activities of Egyptian extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Gaza, and Libya, and that relevant information on these extremists is regularly passed to the U.S. through FBI and intelligence channels. Abdul Rahman flagged his concern about dealing with the "aftermath of Iraq," noting, "Iraq is an enormous terrorist training camp. We are very concerned about what will happen when those terrorists who are Egyptian return from Iraq .... We had a major problem in the past with mujahideen returnees from Afghanistan, and are concerned about a similar phenomenon post-Iraq."
5. (C) Abdel Rahman noted that the recent decision by the leadership of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad to embrace a non-violent ideology (see ref A and septel), is a "great blow to AQ .... which will have them in a state of panic." He noted also the 2001 "conceptual revisions" of another infamous Egyptian extremist organization, the Islamic Group (IG, or "Gamaat Islamiyya" in Arabic), in which the IG renounced its violent modus operandi. Abdul Rahman said that the Egyptian government has launched an IG website featuring the group's "corrected" ideology, and featuring "famed extremists" demonstrating that they now condemn violence, "which is a blow to AQ, because these condemnations are coming from people with credibility when it comes to violence." He asserted that, "we have recently witnessed an increased number of visitors to the website," and averred that one-quarter of the site's visitors are based in the U.S.
6. (C) The Ambassador raised the concurrent visit to Egypt of Ambassador David Gross, U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, noting that he was in Egypt to discuss not only technical issues related to information technology, but also freedom of expression vis-a-vis the internet, and how the U.S. is striking a balance between freedom of expression and the protection of citizens from terrorists and criminals (see ref B for further details on Ambassador Gross' visit). Abdul Rahman welcomed the Ambassador's offer to provide an Arabic-language version of Gross's public statements while in Egypt. He noted that "the internet is a very dangerous apparatus, and we need to understand how to address it in an effective way." Commenting that "many of the members of the two extremist cells we arrested recently were mainly dealing with each other on the internet," Abdul Rahman said, "we are concerned by extremist websites, but we would never infringe on freedom of expression." Referencing the challenges posed by the internet, he said, "a young Egyptian can become radicalized without even leaving his home - he just surfs various jihadi websites." He therefore engages in no actual activities in the proverbial street until he actually undertakes a terrorist operation, and "this makes it very difficult for any security agency to monitor." Pistole agreed that the phenomenon of "virtual radicalization" is challenging, and noted that in the U.S., the FBI prefers to monitor the continuing online conversations of extremists, so that the full scope of their activities can be uncovered, rather than disrupting the communications immediately. RICCIARDONE