Assertions by Wasat Party leader Abul-Ela Madi on Tuesday that parts of the Egyptian intelligence apparatus were engaged in activities aimed at destabilising the administration of President Mohamed Morsi have prompted controversy.
On Tuesday, Madi said at a Wasat Party meeting that Morsi had told him that, during the Mubarak era, Egypt's General Intelligence apparatus had established a secret group of 300,000 paid thugs. He went on to assert that these thugs had appeared during recent political violence.
"President Morsi told me that, several years ago, General Intelligence had formed a secret group of 300,000 thugs, including 80,000 in Cairo alone," Madi had said in statements that were captured on video and circulated online.
He added: "General Intelligence then handed responsibility for this group over to Egypt's General Security Directorate in the interior ministry, which, in turn, handed it over to the State Security apparatus."
The group, Madi went on, "resurfaced again during recent clashes at the presidential palace [between Morsi's supporters and opponents]; this is what President Morsi told me."
Following Madi's statement, former intelligence officer and security expert Sameh Seif El-Yazal demanded that the presidency explain itself.
'"Why would Madi lie about the source of the information – and reveal it like this – while the presidency doesn't comment on the claims?" Seif El-Yazal asked.
He added: "We have repeatedly stated that General Intelligence is a patriotic apparatus; it doesn't deal with thugs, who do not represent credible sources of intelligence."
Seif El-Yazal believes Madi's statements, along with others like them, were aimed at purging the General Intelligence apparatus of a perceived fifth column working against the presidency.
The Morsi administration, he said, "wants to restructure the intelligence apparatus, like the police force, by defaming it and replacing its leaders with new ones loyal to the new regime."
Former presidential candidate and retired intelligence officer Hossam Khairallah made similar assertions on Tuesday, saying that Madi's statements represented an attempt to bring down the intelligence apparatus.
On Wednesday, the Wasat Party asserted that Madi's statements had been taken out of context.
"The statements were [intentionally] taken out of context in order to make it look as if [Madi] was accusing an apparatus known for its patriotism," the statement asserted.
The party statement clarified that Madi had meant that the ousted regime was still using state apparatuses against its opponents.
The party went on to stress its respect for the General Intelligence apparatus.
"The Wasat Party declares its respect for Egyptian state agencies, including General Intelligence, and reiterates its longstanding position that all sovereign apparatuses – including the military, police and intelligence – should stay out of political conflicts and alliances," the statement read.
Madi, the statement added, "had been speaking about what the former regime use to do, namely, exploit state apparatuses to form gangs of thugs. What we suffer from now is the result of that ugly past, to which we will not return."