On December 18 2001, American operatives participated in what amounted to the kidnapping of two Egyptians, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zery, who had sought asylum in Sweden. The Egyptians, believed by American intelligence to be linked to Islamic militant groups, were abruptly seized in the late afternoon and flown out of Sweden a few hours later on a US government-leased Gulfstream private jet to Cairo, where they underwent extensive and brutal interrogation. “Both were dirty,” a former senior intelligence official, who has extensive knowledge of special-access programmes, told me, “but it was pretty blatant.”
The seizure of Agiza and Zery attracted little attention outside of Sweden, despite repeated complaints by human-rights groups, until May 2004 when a Swedish television news magazine revealed that the Swedish government had cooperated after being assured that the exiles would not be tortured or otherwise harmed once they were sent to Egypt. Instead, according to a television report, entitled The Broken Promise, Agiza and Zery, in handcuffs and shackles, were driven to the airport by Swedish and, according to one witness, American agents and turned over at plane-side to a group of Americans wearing plain clothes whose faces were concealed. Once in Egypt, Agiza and Zery have reported through Swedish diplomats, family members and attorneys, that they were subjected to repeated torture by electrical shocks distributed by electrodes that were attached to the most sensitive parts of their bodies. Egyptian authorities eventually concluded, according to the documentary, that Zery had few ties to ongoing terrorism, and he was released from jail in October 2003, although he is still under surveillance. Agiza was acknowledged by his attorneys to have been a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group outlawed in Egypt, and also was once close to Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is outranked in al-Qaida only by Osama bin Laden. In April 2004, he was sentenced to 25 years in an Egyptian prison.
There are a number of other alleged Egyptian Islamists that are thought to have been kidnapped from whatever country they were in and flown to Cairo for torture and interrogation, including one who was apprehended in Syria and is thought to have died while in custody. We’re not likely to find much more about them, though, at least not if we don’t have the kind of contacts Hersh has in the US intelligence community.