Egypt’s parliament passes new legislation legalising the intelligence business

In no time, and secretly, the Egyptian parliament, two days ago, with a two-thirds majority of its members, passed amendments to the General Intelligence Law, granting the agency the right to establish commercial companies of all kinds, in addition to rearranging the agency’s functional structure. These legislative amendments legalise the intelligence’s illegal work in the various fields of business and confirm that the agency, under the control of Major General Abbas Kamel, has gained the confidence of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who has always questioned his loyalty to him.

Which modifications were passed?

According to the leaks, the legal amendments granted the General Intelligence the right to establish companies of all kinds or to contribute to existing or newly established companies. It also granted members of the apparatus the right to be chairmen of boards of directors or members of the boards of directors of those companies, after approval by the agency.

Parliament passed important legal amendments without giving MPs and journalists a copy, which is rare. At the same time, editorial officials in several newspapers told their representatives in the House of Representatives not to write down the details of the amendments or that they are approving it. This is confirmed by what happened in some websites that deleted the news of passing these amendments after they published them, such as Al-Ahram and Al-Bawaba News, in continuation of the policy of covering up the intelligence services as an apparatus above the law and accountability.

The legislative amendments came amid a chorus of broad praise for the intelligence service by representatives of parliamentary bodies, “valuing its role in preserving the capabilities of the state and the country’s national security,” as it was described as “in the public interest of the country and its national security, and keeps pace with the developments of the times, especially in light of the changes, so that this giant device can perform its role to the fullest.” Granting the intelligence the right to establish companies of all kinds was preceded President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issuing in July 2015 a law granting it, along with the Ministries of Defence and Interior and their affiliated agencies, the right to establish companies for guarding facilities and transferring funds.

Legitimisation of an existing situation

These legal amendments legitimise the status of the General Intelligence Service, which has already existed for many years, as the agency has repeatedly established front companies that control sectors considered “sensitive” by the regime. For example, for years, the agency has controlled most of the satellite channels and private newspapers through companies owned secretly, as well as controlling a large part of the drama production market. An intelligence affiliated company also buys gas from Israel, in a suspicious deal that provokes public anger in Egypt. These are just some examples of the agency’s well-known commercial activities, but what is hidden is even greater.

Sisi finally trusts the device

These legal amendments are an expression of Sisi’s personal satisfaction with the General Intelligence Service, which has always questioned its loyalty, after his honest man, Abbas Kamel, head of the agency since 2018, and his son Mahmoud Al-Sisi, who works as a brigadier general in the General Intelligence, succeeded in controlling the rebel elements inside it and adapting it to serve Sisi’s own interests.

The General Intelligence Service has always challenged Sisi since he took office in 2014, as it was believed that the elements of the apparatus associated with the Mubarak regime are not satisfied with Sisi and are secretly working to overthrow him, which prompted Sisi to refer dozens – if not hundreds – of agents and members of the apparatus to retire. In 2018, with the presidential elections approaching, Sisi saw that the General Intelligence Service had become a threat to his rule, after rumours spread about the attempts of the General Intelligence to cooperate with Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shafik, the former Prime Minister of Egypt, and Lieutenant-General Sami Anan, the former Egyptian Chief of Staff, to push them to confront Sisi in the presidential elections. Sisi removed Major General Khaled Fawzy from his role as president of the intelligence and appointed Abbas Kamel, the director of his personal office and an old friend, as head of the apparatus.