Text size

Two operational methods - hallmarks of modern intelligence gathering - were the basis of the success of the United Nations tribunal's investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

According to a Canadian news probe, the UN commission is about to state that Hezbollah was behind Hariri's murder in 2005.

The first intelligence method involves tracking phone calls, notably cellular telephone calls, and eavesdropping on the conversations. The second, more basic method, even in the age of technology, is human intelligence gathering.

The combination of the two, along with slack security on Hezbollah's part, has had catastrophic consequences for the Lebanese Shi'ite organization.

Through a British company that specializes in telephone tracking, the UN tribunal managed to reconstruct every phone call made in Lebanon on the day Hariri was killed by an explosives charge that went off next to his motorcade.

The commission was able to isolate the calls made from the vicinity of the blast and narrow their data to the relevant suspect cell phone numbers.

None of this would have been possible were it not for a Lebanese police officer, Wissam Eid, who zeroed in on the suspect mobile phones and researched the web of individuals who had been talking to one another. He agreed to cooperate with the UN tribunal and provided the commission every bit of the information he had.

Ultimately, this cost Eid his life after someone realized he was too close to getting at the truth. Undoubtedly, this "someone" was from Hezbollah.

The two intelligence methods alone would not have been enough were it not for the carelessness of a Hezbollah logistics staffer who used one of the suspect cell phones to call his girlfriend.

It is also unlikely that Eid's work, and that of the Lebanese police along with the British company hired by the UN commission, were sufficient to break the case open.

The UN commission's resources have been relatively limited, and it is hard to imagine that it did not receive the assistance of other espionage agencies.

The potential countries that have spy agencies with the necessary technology is also limited and includes the National Security Agency in the United States, British and French intelligence and, undoubtedly, Israeli intelligence.