We can't say she didn't warn us. On Dec. 21, state mouthpiece Al-Ahram reported that Abol Naga sent a report detailing foreign funding of local groups. Two of the groups supposedly named in the report -- the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) -- were among those targeted in Thursday's raids.
I was among those gathered outside NDI's Cairo office on Thursday, where a tall CSF soldier dressed in a bulletproof vest carrying a shotgun stood sentry at the gate while behind him other armed men and men in suits occasionally appeared in the office's garden.
NDI employees drank coffee and smoked cigarettes in balconies, but were forbidden by CSF troops from talking to journalists. Nor were they allowed to leave the office for the duration of the search.
The tall soldier endured the journalists clustered at the gate. A young photographer asked his permission him to take a photo. The soldier replied that this is not allowed, and the two then engaged in a dreary, never-ending Mubarak-era type bartering session about where exactly on the pavement police control ends and public space and freedom begins. Luckily, this was interrupted by the soldier's mobile phone ringing. His ringtone was No Doubt's "Don't Speak" -- a fitting message on a day Egyptian civil society was being silenced.
The search went on for hours, until dusk. Gradually a collection of laptops, boxes full of files, video equipment, flip charts, and a safe accumulated behind the gate. Men in jeans and leather jackets gathered around it smoking. A friendly cat joined them.
A brief moment of drama was provided when a bad-tempered looking man in a suit, possibly a public prosecution office lawyer, slipped down the marble steps. He got up and turned around to remonstrate with the step, running his shoe over it in an attempt to identify slippery matter, possibly foreign-funded.
As this was happening, Egyptian activists resorted to their old standby: humor.
Hossam Bahgat, director of rights group the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights -- which itself is at risk -- tweeted, "All my life I've said that it's better that they take us from our offices with dignity than from our houses in sheets."
Later, he added that in addition to computers and files, the police had seized a kettle from one of the NGOs targeted, prompting a Twitter campaign for its release. (One joker suggested that the kettle had confessed that it is the "third party" in the military's conspiracy theory.)
Eventually, NDI's staff were permitted to leave. None would talk. The contents of the office were loaded onto the back of two police pick-up trucks and they disappeared into the night.
The CSF soldiers took rather longer to leave, as their truck wouldn't start and had to be pushed away. It was a fitting end to this shoddy and poorly disguised attempt to intimidate civil society, overseen by the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) -- itself funded by the United States to the tune of $1.3 billion per year, an irony that seemed to be lost on state television, which lapped up the SCAF's narrative of stopping the unseen foreign hand.