Lebanon News

STL witness details covert cellular network strategies

BEIRUT: Witness Gary Platt testified Monday on strategies allegedly used to maintain covert cellular networks by defendants at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. “To make sure of no accidental usage [of the phones], a mixture of handsets [was] used,” Platt said, explaining how the conspirators allegedly attempted to keep cellular activity clandestine. “SIM [cards] are ... taken out and put into other [devices] on Jan. 4, the activation [of the “red network”] on Jan. 14 [with] the first calls between the red network phones, and the next usage on Jan. 20 ... these are all examples of covert strategies.”

Platt is an expert in covert cellular networks and a former investigator with the Office of the Prosecution at the tribunal. He had previously used cell site analysis to identify a covert cellular network used to coordinate a series of suicide bombings on London’s public transport system on July 7, 2005.

Evidence from cellular data and cell site analysis has formed the foundation of the prosecution’s case against the four defendants being tried in absentia. The prosecution contends the conspirators orchestrated the plot through the use of several color-coded groups of phones.

The prosecution has alleged that the “red network” was tasked with surveillance of Hariri’s movements leading up to the attack, taking note of commonly used routes and places the former prime minister frequented. The red network has also been identified by the prosecution as including the members of the conspiracy who carried out the bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others.

Platt, who has been the sole witness over the past few weeks, referred to call records and cell data that the prosecution says show the locations and movements of various members in the conspiracy in the months leading up to the assassination.

In prosecutor Nigel Povoas’ examination of Platt, he attempted to delve further into specifics of certain calls, resulting in interjections from members of the defense.

Defense counselor Thomas Hannis, representing the interests of Salim Ayyash, has been vocal in questioning the prosecution’s examination of certain witnesses. Hannis accused Povoas of referring to new information without allotting the defense time to prepare.

“Only two of those calls were in Mr. Platt’s [agenda] this time,” Hannis said. “Concerning all the others ... they are not in his report. ... None of these [calls] are [addressed] in Mr. Platt’s report and they aren’t about networks [or] surveillance.”

Hannis voiced concerns to the judges that the defense was being blindsided by new information on a regular basis, and that the prosecution was abusing the investigator’s testimony, asking questions outside the parameters of Platt’s expertise.

Similar objections have been raised by the defense previously, and increasingly in the past few weeks of the tribunal.

The tribunal resumes Tuesday, Feb. 14, the 12th anniversary of Hariri’s assassination.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 14, 2017, on page 2.

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