Names are linked to allegations and photos, which are posted online. Anyone who has something to add can post a comment, much like users do on Wikipedia. What had been a dark world of prisons and abuse is slowly surfacing, even though state security made a practice of blindfolding prisoners while in custody so that they couldn’t see what was happening.
“The tables are turned,” said Hossam al-Hamalawy, 33, an activist and freelance journalist who is the main force behind the online work. “We will be doing investigations on you; we will be profiling you,” he said of the activists’ former nemeses.
The activists got a lucky break in March when they unearthed a trove of photographs inside state security headquarters that amount to a secret policemen’s yearbook: records of officers at work and play. In some, security officials smile arm in arm at weddings and parties. In others, they glower at the camera while at work.
The photos are being posted online, one by one, alongside allegations about what the officers did during the Mubarak years. The charges include cutting off Internet service across the country during the protests earlier this year, tapping phones, beating and electrocuting people while they were in prison.
And some people are shifting uncomfortably in their seats. Hamalawy said that when he first posted the photos on Flickr, the popular photo-sharing service, someone immediately alerted the company, and the pictures were deleted within 48 hours. Flickr e-mailed him saying he could post only photos that he had taken.
“I stayed in absolute living terror for two days after those pictures were taken down,” Hamalawy said. “I was worried that something would happen to me before we got them up again.” Ultimately he was fine, he said, and he hasn’t received blowback from other sources.
Neither Flickr nor Yahoo, its parent company, responded to requests for comment.
Some prominent Egyptian figures said they worried that the project could put innocent people at risk.
The State Security Investigations agency “deserves a lot of criticism,” said Nabil Fahmy, a former envoy to the United States who is now dean of the School of Public Affairs at the American University in Cairo and an ambassador at large in the Foreign Ministry. But it’s tricky when anyone can post allegations, he said. “You don’t want to be repeating something that’s untrue.”
The Egyptian Interior Ministry did not respond to requests for comment about Hamalawy’s project. Hamalawy said he was not aware of anyone who had been physically harmed as a result of being featured on the Web site. He drew comparisons to “Wanted” posters in the Old West. And he said that after some officers had been featured in an earlier iteration of the site, they had dropped out of sight.