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  September 13, 2011

Evidence that al-Qaeda Killed Hariri

Gareth Porter: UN inquiry ignored confessions and other facts in order to pin assassination on Hezbollah
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Gareth Porter is a historian and investigative journalist on US foreign and military policy analyst. He writes regularly for Inter Press Service on US policy towards Iraq and Iran. Author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.


PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Washington. In part one of our interview with Gareth Porter on the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon in 2005, we explored the case of the UN special tribunal that has come to the conclusion that Hezbollah was responsible for the assassination and in August issued an indictment. And I urge you to watch part one, because I'm not sure this part two will make a lot of sense if you haven't watched part one. So, assuming you have, here's part two. Thanks for joining us again.


JAY: So Gareth is an investigative journalist, works in Washington, writes for IPS, and is an often-contributor to The Real News Network. So you have explored and found through your research that there's a quite plausible alternative theory of who killed Prime Minister Hariri. And what is that?

PORTER: Well, what I'm saying in this second piece that I wrote is that there's a lot of evidence pointing to an al-Qaeda cell which had been organized in the period between 2001--started to be organized between 2001 and 2005, which was linked directly through the "emir", quote-unquote, of the al-Qaeda cell to bin Laden, because he had fought in Afghanistan and had pledged his allegiance, as all al-Qaeda people do, to bin Laden when he was there. And then, again, when he fought in Iraq, he pledged allegiance to al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq. So there's a long history here of this cell having direct links, through the emir of the cell, the head of the cell, to the top figures in al-Qaeda. And there's a very strong motive that becomes clear in the story that emerges from various evidence from the Lebanese government, from the publication of stories about the cell being arrested.

JAY: Yeah, let's make clear: this cell gets arrested some time--how long after the assassination?

PORTER: The cell gets arrested at the end of 2005 and the very beginning of 2006, in just a few days, because one of the key figures in the cell was arrested December 31. They used his cell phone--they captured his cell phone, waited for the calls to come in, and as people called him, then they found out where they were and arrested all the people who'd made calls.

JAY: And, again, just to give a little bit of context, at the beginning of part one you explain how Prime Minister Hariri had been on the warpath against al-Qaeda activity in Lebanon.

PORTER: Right. And so the motive--one of the motives which came out in the evidence that's been published for al-Qaeda to have killed Hariri was that he signed the order for the execution of several al-Qaeda people who had been involved in terrorist acts previously and had been captured and tried. So that's one thing. But then we also know that they believed that--they viewed Hariri as somebody who was really a tool of Saudi power, and therefore somebody who they tied in with the crimes of the Saudi regime.

JAY: And just, again, again, in part one I mentioned that we have a whole series of interviews called The Modern History of Lebanon, and one of the things that's talked about in that is the alliance between Hezbollah and Syria and Hariri in Saudi Arabia, and particularly banking interests. The Hariri banking interests are very, very closely connected with the Saudi banking--more than connected, Hariri banking interests are actually seen as a jumping-off platform for Saudi money to get to Europe, and many, many ties there.

PORTER: One of the other points in the evidence that involves al-Qaeda in this plot is that really the key figure who was--the one public name associated with the plot to kill Hariri was a guy named Abu Adas, who had appeared in a videotape that was actually made public or was discovered the day of the bombing. And Al Jazeera and Reuters were phoned about this videotape, and then it was immediately played on television.

JAY: And what's in the tape?

PORTER: And in the tape, he says we--and he names a group that had never been heard of before, something about a militant group in greater Syria was the name of the group that he gave, and--in Arabic, of course--and he said that we decided to do this, citing--

JAY: This being killing Hariri.

PORTER: --the killing of Hariri--because of our colleagues, our, basically, al-Qaeda people who were militants in Saudi Arabia who were executed there. And so this was retribution against the killing of the militants in Saudi Arabia because of Rafic Hariri being associated with Saudi Arabia. And so one of the things that the UN investigation, of course, was trying to do was to figure out who is this guy Abu Adas. But what Detlev Mehlis, the German prosecutor, did when he was in charge of the investigation was immediately to swallow this line that was given to him by these false witnesses, that this guy, Abu Adas, was working closely with Syrian intelligence, that he was put up to it by Syrian intelligence. And so he even issued a report, which in a very unusual manner talked about detailed witness testimony that he'd been given, which [crosstalk]

JAY: Just to remind--just for people, again, you've really got to watch part one to get all this. But these false witnesses are people that were later discredited who had supposedly had contacts with Syrian intelligence and were later discredited.

PORTER: Yes. They claimed they were in Syrian intelligence.

JAY: And UN and everybody did accept the fact these people were discredited.

PORTER: They were accepted at the time, except for the fact that, as I point out, French and American intelligence both said, uh-uh, this guy's--these people are not to be believed. So, essentially, that story which the UN investigation put forward as to who this guy was, Abu Adas was, fell apart very quickly.

JAY: And the point of your piece is the UN never goes back and picks up the trail of the possibility of an al-Qaeda involvement.

PORTER: Well, supposedly they were continuing to investigate, and they did mention in passing that, yes, Abu Adas did have contacts with Syrian--excuse me--with Lebanese and foreign militants who were Sunni extremists, but never mentioning al-Qaeda, not once [crosstalk]

JAY: Okay. So there's videotapes taking responsibility, and then there's some kind of confession.

PORTER: That's the other thing that happened. Very quickly, these people basically confessed to the bombing of Hariri, saying that they actually did the planning of it and carried it out, they did the surveillance of Hariri. And several of the members of this cell, separately, of course, made confessions.

JAY: Now, they--later they said these confessions took place under torture.

PORTER: Later they retracted--later they retracted the confessions.

JAY: But in your piece you point out that there's a--one of the investigators uses a trick question. And what was that?

PORTER: Well, specifically, on the other side of the equation, the evidence indicates--this was an interrogation, a full transcript of an interrogation of one of the key members of the al-Qaeda cell, who gave great details on how this was done and who was involved directly in Abu Adas's preparation of the videotape, according to his testimony. There's a four-part complete transcript of his testimony, which was published in Al Akhbar newspaper in Beirut in 2007. And this four-part transcript shows that the guy was clearly giving his testimony freely and not under duress, not under any kind of torture of any kind. You can see that--.

JAY: Assuming the transcript's not [crosstalk]

PORTER: Assuming the transcript is not a complete fake, which seems to me very unlikely. And in that transcript, very interestingly, the interrogator uses a technique to find out if the guy is really on the level, if he really knows what happened from inside the plot. And what he does is to hand the member of the al-Qaeda cell a list of 11 phone numbers, who--he says, we found these phone numbers associated with the cell, and we want to know which of these were used in the plot. If you can tell us [crosstalk]

JAY: Now, are these phone numbers that are supposed to be these red phone numbers? I mean--.

PORTER: Well, of course, he didn't say, but what he knew for a fact was that it was seven phone numbers which they associated with this red network of phones used in the plot, which were finished, which never transmitted a phone call after two minutes before the bomb went off. So what he found out by using that technique was that this al-Qaeda guy did in fact know that it was only seven, not 11. He corrected him immediately.

JAY: But doesn't that then give some credibility to the finding that there is a red network if they believe there are seven?

PORTER: Oh, I believe it does. I think that there was a red--.

JAY: But the question is: but whose phones are they?

PORTER: Whose phones are they? And what this suggests is that those phones were al-Qaeda phones.

JAY: Not Hezbollah.

PORTER: Not Hezbollah phones.

JAY: You got a tape where this group takes responsibility. You have a confession where they take responsibility. Does the UN in their report or indictment dismiss this in a thoroughgoing way? 'Cause if you've got a confession and tape, before you can move on to some other theory, don't you have to dismiss this one?

PORTER: The answer is no, of course, they don't deal with it. They've never dealt with it in any of their reports. They've never said, here's the evidence as to why we don't think that al-Qaeda was behind this. That's never been dealt with at any time during the course of the UN investigation. And in the indictment itself, of course, there's absolutely no suggestion [crosstalk]

JAY: Has anyone ever asked them how they didn't? Are they on the record explaining why they haven't followed up on this?

PORTER: They are not on the record, no. No one has asked them. This is a story still to be written.

JAY: So the main point here is their operating theory was it's Hezbollah. They seem to want to pin it on Hezbollah. And I guess as we know from other kinds of murder cases, if you want to pin it on someone, it ain't so hard to find a pattern to do it.

PORTER: Yeah. And, of course, I mean, this is part of the political agenda that has been associated with, first of all, the UN investigation, and then this special tribunal on Lebanon, from the beginning. I mean, they are reflecting a general orientation on the part of Western governments--France, of course, Germany, Canada, the United States, Israel--all very much convincing themselves that it has to be--the bad guys are Hezbollah, so they must be involved in this, and therefore really not interested in pursuing the al-Qaeda line of inquiry. It simply was not in their interest.

JAY: Or any other line of inquiry.

PORTER: Or any other line of inquiry.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us. So, below this player, video player, you will find Gareth's two articles, you will find the PDF of the report from the UN special tribunal, and you'll find a link to the CBC piece. And so thank you for joining us on Real News Network.

End of Transcript

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