Guest Post: Is the Egyptian Government Using Agents Provocateur to Justify a Crack Down On the Protesters?

Washington’s Blog

Al Jazeera reported today:

[Al Jazeera reporter] Ayman Mohyeldin reports that eyewitnesses have said “party thugs” associated with the Egyptian regime’s Central Security Services – in plainclothes but bearing government-issued weapons – have been looting in Cairo. Ayman says the reports started off as isolated accounts but are now growing in number.

The Telegraph reports:

“Thugs” going around on motorcycles looting shops and houses, according to Al Jazeera. They say they are getting more and more reports of looting. More worryingly, one group of looters who were captured by citizens in the upmarket Cairo district of Heliopolis turned out to have ID cards identifying them as members of the regime security forces.

Similarly, Egyptian newspaper Al MasryAlyoum provides several eyewitness accounts of agents provacateur:

Thugs looting residential neighborhoods and intimidating civilians are government-hires, say eyewitnesses.

In Nasr City, an Eastern Cairo neighborhood, residents attempting to restore security told Al-Masry Al-Youm that looters were caught yesterday.

“They were sent by the government. The government got them out of prison and told them to rob us,” says Nameer Nashaat, a resident working alongside other youths to preserve order in the district. “When we caught them, they said that the Ministry of Interior has sent them.”

In Masr al-Qadeema, another district, scrap metal dealer Khaled Barouma, confirmed the same account. “The government let loose convicts. They let them out of prisons. We all know them in this neighborhood,” he said, adding that the neighborhood’s youth is trying to put the place in order by patrolling its streets with batons.

“The government wants people to believe that this is an uprising of convicts, which is not the case. The government is the one that is a criminal,” Khalil Fathy, a local journalist covering the events closely, said.

In Rehab City, a wealthy gated community in New Cairo, masked thugs broke through a civilian barricade in a truck and were caught by a neighborhood watch that has been guarding the city this evening.

“Even though we caught the ones we saw, now that they’re in, we know that more will be coming and we’re all running to protect our families and houses,” said Karim el-Dib, one of the men guarding the community.
Meanwhile, protestors caught two police informants attempting to rob a bank in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

Ayman Nour, opposition leader and head of the Ghad Party, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that his fellow party members have caught several thugs who work forthe Interior Ministry. After capturing them in downtown Cairo and Heliopolis, Nour’s followers found ministry of interior IDs on them, Nour said.

“The regime is trying to project the worst image possible to make it clear to people that they have only one of two alternatives: either the existing order or chaos,” he said.

Scores of looting incidents have been reported since yesterday. Many residential neighborhoods have been attacked by thugs and ex-convicts, despite military presence.

Bikyamasr reports:

Eyewitnesses reported that one plain clothed man attempted to loot and destroy private property, and when confronted he was shot. Bystanders then took his identification out and revealed that he was a police officer, leaving a number of demonstrators to argue that the government has told police to instigate looting and unrest.

And American intelligence service Stratfor provides the following unconfirmed report today:

Security forces in plainclothes are engaged in destroying public property in order to give the impression that many protesters represent a public menace.

As I noted in 2008:

When agents provocateur commit violence or destroy property at peaceful protests, they are carrying out false flag terrorism.

Wikipedia defines false flag terror as follows:

False flag operations are covert operations conducted by governments, corporations, or other organizations, which are designed to appear as if they are being carried out by other entities. The name is derived from the military concept of flying false colors; that is, flying the flag of a country other than one’s own. False flag operations are not limited to war and counter-insurgency operations, and have been used in peace-time; for example, during Italy’s strategy of tension.

If intelligence agencies or federal, state or local police themselves commit acts of violence against people or property, and then blame it on peaceful protesters, that is – by definition – false flag terror.


Read this to see how eagerly the mainstream media are to pin acts of violence on peaceful protesters, instead of the thugs who actually committed them.

And if you don’t know about agents provocateur, read this statement about Burma:

“They’ve ordered some soldiers in the military to shave their heads, so that they could pose as monks, and then those fake monks would attack soldiers to incite a military crackdown. The regime has done this before in Burma, and we believe they would do so again.”

And see this news from Canada, and this Wikipedia discussion.

And as I pointed out last year:

  • United Press International reported in June 2005:

    U.S. intelligence officers are reporting that some of the insurgents in Iraq are using recent-model Beretta 92 pistols, but the pistols seem to have had their serial numbers erased. The numbers do not appear to have been physically removed; the pistols seem to have come off a production line without any serial numbers. Analysts suggest the lack of serial numbers indicates that the weapons were intended for intelligence operations or terrorist cells with substantial government backing. Analysts speculate that these guns are probably from either Mossad or the CIA. Analysts speculate that agent provocateurs may be using the untraceable weapons even as U.S. authorities use insurgent attacks against civilians as evidence of the illegitimacy of the resistance.

  • Quebec police admitted that, in 2007, thugs carrying rocks to a peaceful protest were actually undercover Quebec police officers
  • At the G20 protests in London in 2009, a British member of parliament saw plain clothes police officers attempting to incite the crowd to violence

Similarly, an Indonesian fact-finding team investigated violent riots which occurred in 1998, and determined that “elements of the military had been involved in the riots, some of which were deliberately provoked”.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post on by .

About George Washington

George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander…


  1. Glenn Condell

    The news tonight said that ‘looters’ had beheaded two mummies in the Cairo Museum.

    We are also told that the US is quietly supporting protest groups.

    I don’t believe either story.

    Apparently Israeli govt figures have been told to remain silent on the Egypt protests. The govt is ‘worried the violence could threaten ties’ between the two countries.

    I believe that one.

  2. Campbeln

    If you want to follow Egypt protests, here are some of the twitter feeds

    H/T: Inez,

    Also, watch live feed via:

    With all this, I just shake my head… traditional media is DEAD as anyone now can get live feeds from the ground at least as non-BS as an NBC, CNN or other networks reporters.


  3. Richard Kline

    I’ve strongly suspected that the sudden wave of ‘looters’ were at their core a false flag maneuver. As background, false flag property destruction closely linked with conniving media coverage has become a standard operating procedure used against mass demonstrations by Western government security forces as a means of both clouding the message and delegitimising the protest. Anti-globalization protestors have documented repeated false flag incitement _and property destruction_ of this kind. As one example, at the Group of Ten conference in Summit, a police vehicle ‘burst into flames’ when no protestors were anywhere near it, an incident widely covered for the stigma of a ‘violent demonstration’ where the violence was overwhelmingly of riot police against demonstrators.

    Mubarak is reported to have told the King of Saudi Arabia that ‘he had a plan.’ He goes on the TV after days of silence and stays that ‘the nation needs him to ward of looters and chaos.’ Right on schedule we get some rather strange looting; at the Museum of Antiquities? (one of the few Egyptian places Western foreigners would know, but where no valuable artifact was stolen); a high-end shopping center, but only one (when state media reported many); gated communities of the wealthy (who are likely to have guards). All the while, the state media in Egypt is harping on ‘looting,’ which is picked up right on schedule by major American media as ‘The Story,’ when it’s a minor filip initially. And then these rather strange ‘mass escapes from prisons’ we are hearing today. Some might be expected, but the state has complete control of these facilities. And now we see _multiple_ instances of individual looters who are caught having police identification on them. Mubarak has a real probelm in that he thought the small affluent sector would back him, and he could stigmatize demostrators as radical hicks with a few naive college kids, and justify leathal force. But everybody is against him, so he needs to scare the affluent to crawl back to his heel.

    In the kind of situation there is in Egypt presently, some looting is to be expected. Roving groups hijacking cars and shaking down likely prospects for cash are unsavory but not necessarily surprising. There have been reports of intense focused looting of specific facilities in Suez which are not surprising: ‘free enterprise zone’ sweatshops were numerous there which cheated and were hated by the locals, many of them desperately poor migrants from the South, and it is the offices of these facilities which were mentioned as looted, likely not a regiime-driven act. The main point here is that ‘looting’ is NOT the story of this revolutionary uprising. And who _are_ the real looters: the clique which has stolen billions from the citizenry there, of a handful of desperate addicts and petty muggers? The people of Egypt know where to put the blame, just listen to their take on this as we see in the cited text and elsewhere on the web.

    I’m glad for the detail you provide here, George.

    1. wendy davis

      I agree, richard; the same thought had struck me. It’s a mixed blessing having it confirmed, and yet sites like Huffpo are trumpeting the looting (anarchy) in huge red font.

      Meanwhile, Wolf Blitzer is on CNN proclaiming what a good thing it is that Mubarak appointed Omar Suleiman (dark prison coordinator, according to Jane Mayer) as Veep. “Friends of Israel and the US’ he maintained. Yup; nice job, Wolfie.

      The Guardian says Al Jazeera’s Cairo desk and feed have been shut down now. Just as Wired reports that Susan Collins, are about to reintroduce the Internet Kill Switch bill. People who understand tech say it’s a useless endeavor, and that no one can ‘kill’ the internet, but look at the ease with which Mubarak shut down servers.

    2. LeeAnne

      The new vice president. Omar Suleiman, is described as America’s man, and ‘”one of the world’s most powerful spy chiefs”. Foreign Policy magazine ranked him the Middle East’s most powerful intelligence chief, ahead of Mossad chief Meir Dagan.

      and the recent history of the Egyptian people includes this
      It’s well documented that the Egyptian government engages in a pattern of gross and systematic human rights abuses against perceived opponents of the regime, including massive detentions without due process, torture on an administrative basis and extrajudicial killings. Targets of government repression have included not just radical Islamists, but leftists, liberal democrats, feminists, gay men, independent-minded scholars, students, trade unionists, Coptic Christians and human rights activists.

      In an interview with the BBC in 2009 just prior to Obama’s visit to Egypt, Justin Webb asked the president, “Do you regard President Mubarak as an authoritarian ruler?” Obama’s reply was “No,” insisting that, “I tend not to use labels for folks.” truth-out

      and as for statements from Ms. Clinton and Obama on ‘orderly transition’ one thing is certain, and that is that the United States can be counted on to back the winner in a ‘winner takes all’ and survival of the fittest. The fittest are carefully selected for loyalty to the gangsters.


  4. DownSouth

    This is pretty standard fare for police states like the United States, Great Britain and Canada. So why not Egypt?

    Here is an article with a collection of videos that document the use of such government-sponsored provocateurs in London, Quebec and Seattle.

    And yes, Obama too has his fascist tendencies, because the same tactic was used at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, as is documented in the piece.

    1. LeeAnne


      and please don’t forget New York City where more than 1200 peaceful demonstrators were held in jail illegally during the Republican National Convention for Bush 2004 by Mayor Bloomberg who had holding facilities built in advance for that purpose while false orange terror alerts boosted Bush’s ratings 1.7% per event, and there were many.

      Of course, 4 years after refusing to investigate 9/11 while having escorted Saudis out of the country immediately by jet (All hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, with the exception of Fayez Banihammad, who was from the United Arab Emirates), not only was crucial evidence shipped across the ocean and the committee sworn to uphold rules for the 9/11 report to guarantee only the official version would be permitted to pass, the US population could be considered by US terror experts to be sufficiently traumatized to accept anything.

  5. DownSouth

    To place all of this in a larger philosophical framework, the larger goal is to brand every revolution as being like the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Nazi Revolution, the Maoist Revolution, the Iranian Revolution, etc. Defenders of authoritarian states go to untold lengths to promote and sustain this fiction.

    But, as Hannah Arendt points out in On Revolution, there is an entirely different strain of revolutions that the defenders of status quo police states want us to forget, including the American Revolution:

    What appeared to be most manifest in this spectacle [the French Revolution] was that none of its actors could control the course of events, that this course took a direction which had little if anything to do with the willful aims and purposes of the anonymous force of the revolution if they wanted to survive at all. This sounds commonplace to us today, and we probably find it hard to understand that anything but banalities could have been derived from it. Yet we need only remember the course of the American Revolution, where the exact opposite took place, and recall how strongly the sentiment that man is master of his destiny, at least with respect to political government, permeated all its actors…

    In an attempt to salvage the reputation of revolution, Arendt redfined it when she wrote:

    But violence is no more adequate to describe the phenomenon of revolution than change; only where change occurs in the sense of a new beginning, where violence is used to constitute an altogether different form of government, to bring about the formation of a new body politic, where the liberation from oppression aims at least at the constitution of freedom can we speak of revolution.

    Arendt has largely been vindicated by history, as an entire series of nonviolent Arendtian revolutions over the last 60 years testify. It began in 1956 with the Hungarian Revolution. It continued in 1974 with the overthrow of the Greek junta, of the autocracy in Portugal that same year, and the transition to democracy in Spain in 1975. The long parade of peaceful revolutions that followed included many others, the Solidarity movement in Poland in the 1980s, the ouster of the Argentinean junta in 1982, the fall of the military dictatorship I neighboring Brazil in 1985, the expulsion of the dictator Fernando Marcos in the Philippines in 1986, in the revolution by “people power,” the fall of the autocrat Chun Doo Hwan in South Korea, the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, the replacement of the apartheid regime of South Africa with majority rule in the early nineties, the fall of Slobodan Milosevicz in 2003, the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia in 2003, and the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine in 2005.

    In the face of all this history, the defenders of police states have now staked out a smaller piece of ground. While Westerners are indeed capable of Arendtian revolutions, they argue, Arabs/Muslims are not. This is the party line, as is discussed in this article by John Quiggin from yesterday’s “Links.” The peoples of the Middle East are an “exception.” They are incapable of pulling off an Arendtian revolution.

    The outcome in Egypt is of course anything but certain. My most sincere wish for the Egyptian people, however, is that they will be successful in pulling off an Arendtian revolution, and forever laying to rest the doctrine of the “Arab exception” that is being promoted so vehemently by American authoritarians.

    1. wendy davis

      DownSouth, I hope it’s alright with you that I clip your great comment to add to my post at My.firedoglake.

      If you object, I will certainly edit it out. You bring up what should be an important part of the discussion.

        1. DownSouth

          Also, if you’re going to elevate these ideas to the level of a post, you might want to give appropriate credit to Jonathan Schell, who wrote the introduction to the 2006 Penguin Classics edition of On Revolution, as well as his outstanding book on this topic: The Uncounquerable World. The ideas I express are not mine, but Schell’s.

          1. wendy davis

            I may, DownSouth. I’m jammed for time, but I did link to both Washington’s site and this, and pointed an arrow at the comments section.

            Many thanks; in my haste, I forgot to come back and check.

            You might like Jack Shenker’s piece from the 2009 Guardian about Egypt and neo-Liberal economics, too.


            My diary is here; just keeping track of news spin, plus thoughts we need for understanding events. The front page is live-blogging on a few threads.


      1. DownSouth

        And if you want the really big philosophical framework, all this falls within the freedom vs. nature paradox.

        The idea of individual human freedom became prevalent in modern Western thought as a result of the Nominalist Revolution unleashed by William of Ockham in the first part of the 14th century. This initial spark was to eventually inspire the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

        Hobbes’ philosophies came in reaction to this, Hobbes perhaps being the most strident, and certainly the best known, opponent to individual human freedom.

        On the other extreme was the late 18th- early 19th-century philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fitche (1762-1814), who is without a doubt the forefather of modern libertarianism. In his philosophy we see individual freedom pushed to such an extreme that it comes full circle: the pursuit of human freedom is now used to justify oppression and authoritarianism. We saw Fitche’s philosophy in practice when Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek traipsed down to Chile and gave their unbridled support to the murdering dictator Augusto Pinochet.

        The linchpin of authoritarianism is the belief that human beings cannot learn from trial and error, much less that they have any capability for creative or original thought. Genetic or, as was the case with Tolstoy, religious determinism is the only predictor of human behavior. Cultural evolution is heresy, or as David Sloan Wilson put it in Darwin’s Cathedral, “everything that has taken place since the advent of agriculture [about 10,000 years ago] counts for nothing.”

        1. Elliot X

          DownSouth said: “On the other extreme was the late 18th- early 19th-century philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fitche (1762-1814), who is without a doubt the forefather of modern libertarianism.”

          I read all of your posts and always find something interesting in them, such as the connection between Fitche and modern libertarianism, noted above.

          And I’ve noticed that often, when commenters disagree with you, they almost never try to refute the subtance of your arguments, rather they either turn it into an ad hominem attack, or they take one or two passages from your comment out of context, thereby creating a straw man argument which they then try to refute, but which never bothers to address your actual position.

          I suspect this is because they know they would lose any honest debate based on the substance of whatever issue is being discussed.

          All I can say is bravo, and please keep up the good work!

          1. DownSouth

            Fitche provides the only philosophical and moral framework that I have come across that can explain the contradictory behavior of libertarians like Friedman and Hayek, preaching freedom out of one side of their mouth and murder and torture out of the other. It also explains how a single individual might come to embrace the totally incompatible and contradictory doctrines of neoliberalism and neoconservatism.

            Fitche’s philosophy seems to me to be a secular version of the ancient Jewish and much more recent Protestant belief in a “select.” As Michael Allen Gillespie explains in Nihilism before Nietzsche, according to Fitche

            Not all men…are capable of freedom, for many remain determined by the not-I of natural desire. Already in the first introduction to the “Science of Knowledge,” Fitche argued that there were two types of human beings, those who had raised themselves to the consciousness of freedom and those who had not. Only the former act uniformly according to their moral will. The others must be constrained to act morally. Kant argues that we are morally obligated to treat all men as ends in themselves. Fitche qualifies this position. He believes that we are morally obligated to treat all men as ends in themselves who are indeed ends in themselves, that is, who are free beings, as that we are also obligated to help others become free by liberating them from the tyranny of the not-I. Thus, coercion may be employed to modify the behavior of individuals who are driven by caprice rather than by moral will.


            On the surface, this extensive reliance on coercion seems to undermine Fitche’s goal of universal human emancipation, but from Fitche’s point of view this conclusion is mistaken, for coercion is employed against only the not-I, against only unfreedom, not freedom. Primarily, this is the coercion of brute nature by technology. Secondarily, it is the use of coercion against nature as it manifests itself as it manifests itself as caprice or desire within the individual human being. Our humanity is thereby not constrained, but set free. In Rousseauian fashion we are forced to be free.

            According to Fitche, those “capable of freedom” hail from the educated upper classes: “the ruling class will be a noble cadre of scholars virtuously devoted to the cause of freedom.” They also hail from certain nations and races: the “totalitarian element is more apparent in his later nationalistic thought with its emphasis on superior peoples whose sacred duty it is to save humanity.”

            Gillespie concludes his chapter on Fitche as follows:

            The history of Fitche’s influence has generally remained unperceived. In what follows we will try to make apparent his importance for the development of nihilism. Modernity began with Descartes’ attempt to construct a bastion against an utterly omnipotent and thus transrational God. To build such a bastion, however, Descartes had to posit a similar omnipotence and irrationality in man. This was the essential freedom the human will. Rousseau and Kant made this element in man explicit and fundamental. With Fitche, however, it first becomes philosophically revolutionary and turns against all actuality in the name of absolute freedom and omnipotence. This philosophical revolution both heralds and informs the social and political revolutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. At the end of modernity, man awakens from his long dream of freedom and reason to discover he has become the monster he sought to slay.

            I would argue that the Arendtian revolutions of the second half of the 20th century are not informed by Fitche’s philosophy, and that humankind is already in the process of evolving beyond it.

          2. Elliot X

            DownSouth said: “Fitche provides the only philosophical and moral framework that I have come across that can explain the contradictory behavior of libertarians like Friedman and Hayek, preaching freedom out of one side of their mouth and murder and torture out of the other…”

            Thanks, DownSouth, there’s a lot to think about here.

            Btw, going back to Reinhold Neibuhr for a moment (from an earlier post), today I came across an article which appeared in the NY Times in 2005, called “Forgetting Reinhold Neibuhr”, which might be of interest to you if you haven’t already seen it.

            First a brief excerpt: “Why, in an age of religiosity, has Niebuhr, the supreme American theologian of the 20th century, dropped out of 21st-century religious discourse?……maybe Niebuhr has fallen out of fashion because (he) was a critic of national innocence, which he regarded as a delusion…..”


        2. wendy davis

          Thank you for the references. I also liked most of the Quiggen piece, save for the fact that he thinks Obama has been more supportive of Democracy in Egypt. Turns out it’s not so, especially financially. I might have read it at Huffpo this morning…

          The ‘Arab Exceptionalism’ argument. Let’s hope this Democracy births itself well and with justice for all the people.

          Freedom Domino Theory! ;o)

  6. Walter Westcot

    I think push has come to shove on the Budget.

    And I think we’ll be treated to revolutions by ‘icky’ foreigners every week – until Congress agrees to fund the Defense Department at 2010 levels.

    And if a revolt a week doesn’t scare the bejesus out of all those retiring boomers who want SS – then maybe a suitcase nuke – JUST before it goes off –

    The goon squads prescribed 9/11 – with refills when necessary.

    1. Milly Swidge

      “Those 33 terrorist groups in Ramsey County? It was a “very big lie”; the latest on the
      peaceful protest crackdown during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN.

      The story certainly creates the impression that Sheriff Fletcher’s actions were independent and politically self-serving, but don’t forget who the Governor was at that time: Tim Pawlenty, up and coming Republican Presidential candidate.

  7. Eureka Springs

    Any U.S. citizen who has participated in demonstrations knows agents provocateurs are inherent in the system we live *under*. IN San francisco the night Desert Storm broke out.. hundreds of thousands of very peaceful people marched.. eventually ending up in front of the Federal Building… After the police pulled in with buses and box trucks and surround the people… one guy threw a single stone into a glass window of a closed military recruiting center. Thus giving the police all the justification they wanted to arrest over 30,000 of us in the next couple of hours… literally filling every jail and turning entire outdoor piers into giant holding cells.

    For this… the people and provocateurs turned rather restless across theentire Bay Area for a week. Because of the single provocateur on the first night. That is the only conviction on my permanent record.. on rare occasions a policeman will ask me about it… and I always ask for a copy of it so I can frame it and put it on my wall.

    The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce purchased a full page ad in the NYT apologizing for the peaceful protesters before weeks end,

    And we are still there 20 yrs. later.

  8. razzz

    When they cut out part of the web then you know that they can paint any picture any color they want.

    The unknown is the military but you can guess, being heavily staged by the US, how this turns out since we feed them our wheat.

  9. David Morrison

    Hi there,
    I’ve been a reader for probably five years. I have never said anything to date.
    And I consider you to be one of the best sources on the web
    This is a question..
    “At the G20 protests in London in 2009, a British member of parliament saw plain clothes police officers attempting to incite the crowd to violence”
    Where does this fact come from. I’m English, I haven’t noted it in extensive readings. Would you be so kind to provide the source.

    I’d like to to use this opportunity to say one other thing.
    I noted in your commentary of the FCIC report a real weariness with the, lets say duplicity, of the committee.
    I understand your weariness. I personally consider your efforts admirable, if not heroic. I don’t want to be sycophantic, I’m not sycophantic, but in that moment I felt your weariness and what I wanted to say was that your
    drive to analyse correctly serves us all (and me) and i wanted to put on record that I have appreciated your efforts for a significant number of years now.
    My message is: Don’t give up.
    kindest regards

  10. glenn condell

    David Morrison

    In answer to the question in your first paragraph, see this:

    Of course there has just been a major scandal in the UK with undercover police being found to have infiltrated various protest groups (green, anti-fascist etc)and to work as corporate spies in their spare time:

    And I second wholeheartedly the sentiments in para number two.

Comments are closed.