Robert Baer, the old CIA Middle East hand and author of See No Evil and, more recently, Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Oil, once told the New Statesman:
If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear - never to see them again - you send them to Egypt.
Perhaps the most famous alumnus of the system is Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two. He spent the first ten years of his life in the wealthy Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, the same stomping ground of a young Gamal Mubarak, the former heir to Cairo now believed to be hiding in London.
Zawahiri, a physician, was the son of two of the cities most prominent families. In 1981, following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, Zawahiri was arrested. He had been plotting to topple the regime since he was 15. He opposed the assassination, instead suggesting a coup was the best method of attaining power, but played a small role in the plot, nonetheless.
Lawrence Wright, in his Pulitzer Prize winning The Looming Tower, describes a famous scene from the ensuing mass trial, which dragged on for three years: