It didn’t take long for OTV and al-Akhbar to point out the same inconsistencies that I noticed in Okab Sakr’s testimony last week, and release responses comparing the segments “added” by Sakr to the original clips that they had published. (See here for the OTV clip; al-Akhbar‘s most recent response can be found here.)
Even if there is much about OTV and al-Akhbar‘s sensationalistic treatment of OkabGate that I find distasteful and petty, there’s no doubt that Sakr made it worse by employing an uncharacteristically naive political strategy to counter it.
When faced with such media scandals in Lebanon — and they are becoming increasingly common — you generally have two choices: (1) Deny everything and produce evidence of a massive conspiracy against you; (2) Own up to the charges but change the narrative.
The Hariri camp’s approach to OkabGate has been a mix of the two strategies. As acknowledged in the Friday press conference, they tried to own up to certain aspects of the narrative by publishing a picture of Sakr with the Free Syrian Army spokesperson Luay al-Miqdad on Facebook, once it became clear that their opponents had gotten a copy of the image.
On the other hand, Sakr also felt that he could play the conspiracy card by presenting new “evidence,” much as Nasrallah did with his similarly epic “Israeli drone footage” press conference back in 2010. I don’t know anyone who takes Nasrallah’s evidence seriously today, but it was well produced enough not to be terribly damaging to the party. The problem with Sakr’s evidence is that it is: (a) inconsistent; (b) shows signs of shoddy tampering; and (c) raises more questions than it answers. This wouldn’t be so bad if Okab didn’t also spend the entire press conference railing against his opponents as fabricators, liars, and forgers and advising them to “stop digging” now that they have found themselves in a hole.
Indeed, what makes Sakr’s current predicament all the more delicious to his opponents is that he was hoisted by his own petard. The problematic tapes he presented are acting as a mirror, reflecting all of the vivid colors he painted his opponents in back upon himself.
What’s puzzling to me is that Sakr had a different option all along but didn’t use it. Why not simply own up to the allegations but try to change the narrative? Why not release more recordings showing evidence of coordinating humanitarian supplies and trying to secure the release of the hostages, without splicing them into the ones about weapons transfers? Why not admit to one’s role in supporting the Syrian revolution, in both word and deed? Everyone had already assumed this to be the case, so why deny it?
I suspect the next wave of tapes will probably answer that question.
hoisted by his own retard?
… you’re missing the point.
The point is not that his team can doctor the tapes as well (they can). Nor is it that they’re not supplying weapons (they may be and most likely are). It is also probably true that they are supplying non-military goods such as food, if for nothing else (i.e. saving babies), then for the nourishment of the fighters.
It’s that the next time OTV or Al-Akhbar think to go down that route, they will think twice. Every conversation tape they hear, they will ask: Is this some show that Uqab and co are putting for us, waiting to ensnare us with? Every time that Jamil Sayyed (or someone like Jamil Sayyed) thinks to go onto the TV to say that “voice experts” have identified a voice to be Saad Hariri, they’d think twice about it.
I think you’re giving far too much credit to the OTV/Akhbar analysis. In my view, they are the ones seen defending their position, and one recording notwithstanding (the same recording you commented on), they have already been- in my view- successfully been painted as part and parcel of the propaganda machine (as opposed to just being grossly biased one way).
Of course, I don’t watch hours of OTV or read much Akhbar: all I read are the snippets you put here. The question is, how have they defended themselves against the other allegations? In your update in the last post, you suggest simply that: “On the other hand, it seems that they’ve quietly admitted that the unknown interlocutor is not Saad…”. So why are they not being held more accountable?
You ask a good question though- why not own up to involvement in weapons transfer? And I think the answer to that is that it is still not a fashionable position to take. It’s one thing to “support” the opposition. But another to be seen fueling a civil war in nearby Syria, and I’m sure Uqab and co will be walking a fine line, and want to be seen as more the humanitarian interventionist than a peddler of arms. Surely, if they follow the latter strategy, what sets them apart from the Syrian regime which did precisely that in places like Lebanon/Iraq.
“I don’t know anyone who takes Nasrallah’s evidence seriously today”
Dr, you may not know anyone who takes Nasrallah’s evidence seriously, but the fact is 99.99% of his followers do, there is no argument about it. Similarly nothing Okab or Saad will say, would seem so farfetched to their followers. The majority on both sides is what matters in Lebanon.
Unfortunately the few like you, with objectivity or bipartisanship are considered extinct species over there.
Boys, Dont discount the fear factor behind Okab and Saad not owning up to it. its amazing what the fear of being blown up can do to you.
spot on vulcan
Okab Sakr on al jadeed now
Better in monologues…
Isn’t the fear of being blown up there… whether or not they’re arming rebels in Syria?
You guys are not waiting for Mr. Eagle to finish his production. I support gabby in his assertion about OTV & Akhbar…Have they proved that they were not being malicious and slanderous by cutting; snipping and pasting…?? wallaw QN…How could you just jump over that? Unless you think as the majority of us do here. All the factual evidence in the world wold not way either camp!!
Let’s get the details of New TV.
Gabriel and Danny
Even before OTV and al-Akhbar responded to Okab’s presentation, it was clear that there were things problematic about it.
Take the first clip, in which he is speaking to the person later identified as “Abu al-Nu`man”. Does it make any sense that he would be speaking with the guy and telling him that he doesn’t have access to weapons, and then suddenly take a weapons order from him? Everything about the flow of the conversation seems phony. One moment he’s denying his access to weapons, and the next moment the guy says: “Al-salamu 3alaykum,” and Okab responds: “Wa-3alaykum al-salam, tfaddal.” It doesn’t make sense. There’s clearly something screwy about it.
Or take the other tape where he’s speaking to Luay al-Miqdad and they’re joking about the calls that Okab has been getting from people. Then suddenly al-Miqdad says “Allo? Eh khayyeh, shoo al-matloob?” This was obviously a different conversation.
It seems increasingly clear that Sakr has dug himself into his own hole, and he’s hoping that the aggressiveness of his presentation is going to scare OTV and al-Akhbar away (because they also committed questionable cuts with the material). I think it was a bad call to try to frame these damaging clips with segments from conversations that they were not part of. He should have released the other material to provide context, but without claiming that they were the same discussions.
QN try to catch the second half of the al jadeed interview, that is where they tackle the issue of the tapes, and Okab threatens to sue pretty much everyone.
The war of words is escalating
The drama will continue
Let me begin by saying that I for one do believe that Uqab was likely involved in weapons transfer.
It ends there though. I disagree with your assessment, and your analysis.
He has already cast doubt on OTV and Al-Akhbar, and leveled serious allegations against their conduct: That they willfully altered/doctored evidence they received.
Now you say that it is clear he did the same. But this does not negate the far more serious allegation against OTV and Al-Akhbar.
He’s already given some rather plausible explanations for the conversations. Your question “does it make sense” is not actually very relevant. Sure, it may. If he was really trying to free those prisoners. Anything is possible, and anything can be sensible. But really, who cares? There may have been 10 tapes between the tapes that have been played. We don’t know, and frankly, it is not relevant. Only the fact that he has cast a shadow of a doubt is relevant in this case.
In your update in the previous post, you put a link to OTV’s rebuttal of Uqab. But that rebuttal is actually worse for them. The video clip where they show how easy it is to tamper audio recordings is a double edged sword. Easy to alter? Of course it is. I do it routinely. But easy for them as well, and without a solid explanation on their part against the allegations leveled against them on tampering of evidence, then it’s their credibility that’s on the dock.
They can issue 100 more tapes. And that same question on their credibility will still exist.
Until they answer properly those allegations, and they haven’t done so yet.
The obfuscation that Uqab and team can also alter tapes is just that. An obfuscation, and an irrelevant one at that. There may be many reasons why he altered some of the tapes. Hiding something else, for example, that he/his team doesn’t want shared, but may not be related to weapons peddling…
Ultimately the tapes alone don’t prove complicity. Only that a conversation was had that discussed weapons. There is no proof he was ultimately a middle man, or that the transaction occurred. He has- in my mind- successfully, for now, thrown a good amount of dust in the narrative, and in so doing, dealt a damaging blow to OTV and Al-Akhbar’s credibility. Unfortunately for them, the blow was so large, that they won’t be able to wiggle out of it using more audio tapes. They’ll need something a lot bigger.
Gabriel is all over this. 🙂
‘Al Ikhbar’ seem to have believed that they have things wrapped up;
so much as to warrant a mockingly scathing attack on the Eagle. But they still haven’t explained the doctoring. Weird….It’s like they’ve been dragged to a place they don’t want to go but making it seem like they are in control at all times.
“dealt a damaging blow to OTV and Al-Akhbar’s credibility.”
I disagree, fans of OTV and Al Akhbar will wake up tomorrow and still be fans of those news outlets.
Why doesn’t Okab attack Time Magazine and the NYTIMES with the same veracity?
This has nothing to do with Okab and has everything to do the the “statesman” Hariri; he’s protecting his boss who can’t have “blood on his hands”
Okab can careless
Because Tamer, Time and NYT developed an article upon a tip off and a source. OTV and Akhbar have actually doctored audiotapes. A total fabrication is a lot worse than just bad journalism.
Two: OTV and Akhbar are part of a ‘local’ political machine that try smearing at every corner the likes of Harriri and Co.
Again, it’s ok for Hezbollah to support the regime with actual fighters, that’s just honour and loyalty as usual, but anyone else, they are supporting terrorism.
At the end of the day there are two things that cannot be overlooked.
1) Aoun and Al-Akhbar fabricated a story
2) The hypocrisy is astounding in accusing someone of something he might have done when the same thing is done by your closest allies. Unbelievable!
OTV is a partisan and biased news source, everyone knows this. There is no credibility in the first place to lose, it is only believed by its partisans, just as al manar is a propaganda piece, just like future TV. Everyone spins the story the way they see fit. Future TV and other stations smear M8 at every possible turn. But that is not the point.
As far as doctoring audiotapes, the technology is available to splice audio any way you see fit, there is no chain of custody for the audio and until/if a forensic computer scientist can establish the authenticity of the original audio, its a moot point as each side is going to believe what it wants to believe.
It’s clear he took an order for weapons (i believe it was arms/hostages type of deal which is appropriate)
I think Sakr is trying to remove any connection to Hariri, he doesn’t want his boss’ reputation tarnished.
It is like the muslim kid who doesn’t want his friends to know that he drinks alcohol, only to go to the bar to see those people he is trying to hide his secret from at the bar. No one cares if Hariri is involved in supplying arms or fueling the bloodshed that is going on in Syria.
Hariri believes the killers of his father and all of the other martyrs are in Damascus, he is being handed the opportunity of a lifetime to help topple down his mortal enemy. The Syrian regime is obviously more powerful than most pundits think, as its supposed demise was predicted a long time ago.
At this point, his reputation doesn’t matter, if the regime survives in any way shape or form, that would be a failure. Time to start funding the rebels with more than milk, if he hasn’t done so already.
No one cares about arming the rebels, it wasn’t that big of a splash. It only became a story after the media circus that Okab created.
Samy’s twitter says it best
6 Dec Samy Gemayel @samygemayel
Don’t blame anyone okab you’re the one who acknowledged that the recordings are true. Now you are saying that the tapes are forged.
Samy Gemayel @samygemayel
You should have done this press conference since the beginning and not confirm anything prior to that. Even us misinterpreted you.
and when i say no one cares, i really mean to say it wasn’t a surprise.
Tamer, I think you’re confusing the issue here.
There is an ocean that separates partisan, biased on the one hand, and criminal behavior on the other.
Everyone knows that in Canada, the national post is a right-wing newspaper, and that the Toronto star is a left wing paper.
The surprise is not that alakhbar turned out not to be fans of uqab.
The surprise is that they allegedly doctored evidence. And that moves the issue from a question of bias to a question of criminality.
Now no-one yet knows the pedigree of the tapes. Put aside the question of doctoring… isn’t it possible the fellow Abu numan doesn’t even exist? That this was a completely set up and rehearsed conversation that uqab had.
Maybe his team has thousands of conversations and they litter then with 50 pct garbage conversations knowing fully well there are moles, and there are people who will leak information.
This is very plausible.
Do we don’t know the pedigree of any of the tapes.
Maybe, as Elias suggested some posts ago… the hariri camp leaked them.
Maybe they leaked already tampered tapes, or tapes of made up conversations.
Maybe some of the conversations were authentic weapons transfer conversations. We don’t know.
The hariri camp can always argue that such deceptive measures are necessary to protect the identities of their contacts working in a hostile environment.
Otv may be a partisan station. It may be biased.. but what’s its excuse for doctoring information. Why didn’t they present the tapes in their entirety fun the get go? What were they hiding, or attempting to hide?
Also, I agree with you… hardcore fans of otv won’t be swayed. But that’s not saying much. I think there’s a lot of people in the center who will look at this incident in far more critical terms than what you and Elias are presenting here.
Thank you for the clear headed response! It is all so fascinating that people (on the civilized side) would just brush off the criminality and utter BS spewed by HA and its cronies but attack Uqab for not revealing the colour of underwear he wore the day of the tapes!
Tamer, if OTV & Akhbar were such crap; QN would not have quoted them…I have stated that nothing changes even if he sells the damned weapons. People in Lebanon will follow their Zaims like sheep. The problem is why YOU seem to think that OTV/Akhbar or HA should have a free ride?
Sending weapons from Lebanon to a foreign entity does not jeopardize Lebanese security.
Meanwhile, weapons are flooding into Lebanon from a foreign government.
Seems to me this is more of a problem than the former. Get real.
Today’s BBC is reporting 6 dead in clashes today in Tripoli. That’s in Lebanon…
Why isn’t this being discussed?
There are two different kinds of accusations about “tazwir” (forgery) going on here.
Okab has accused OTV and al-Akhbar of taking clips out of context and of claiming that certain voices belong to certain individuals when in fact they belong to others. He never claimed that the OTV clips were doctored or corrupted, and in fact his press conference authenticated the material when he replayed it. What he said was: You guys obviously have the complete tapes since you identified certain people in them who never identify themselves, so then why did you only publish certain segments and take them out of context? This (along with the al-Miqdad/Hariri mixup) is the extent of Okab’s argument about OTV/Al-Akhbar’s tazwir.
What OTV/Al-Akhbar are saying is that Okab is the one guilty of tazwir because he actually DID cut and paste the audio material and move it around to provide a false context for the original clip. This is actually more serious when you think about it, ESPECIALLY if you are accusing your opponents of tazwir. Taking words out of context and selling exaggerated narratives is cheap propaganda that doesn’t merit the term “journalism” but responding to that by cutting and splicing your own words to make up new conversations is, in fact, forgery.
I watched the entire al-Jadeed interview last night and didn’t find anything compelling in it. The questions were lousy and Sakr basically had his way with the interviewer.
I agree, they are sheep that is why nothing changes. Like I said anyone can splice the audio any way they want, so both sides will continue to accuse each other of the same thing.
This is Lebanon everyone gets a free ride, and a free beach.
Let’s make this simple. Let’s play a pretend game. Let’s pretend there was only one recording (say the one with Abu N3man). But let’s not concern ourselves for the moment with the actual content of the tape.
So what’s the premise?
A recording exists between Abu Nu3man and Uqab.
We know as a matter of historical fact that OTV and Al-Akhbar had access to some part of this recording.
So what are the possible scenarios?
Scenario 1: Team Hariri leaked only a snippet of the recording (or an altered version) to Al-Akhbar, with the intent of entrapping them.
Scenario 2: Al-Akhbar/OTV received the full recording (again: don’t focus on content, it could have been a forged tape they received, or a prank conversation, or an actual conversation), and they willfully snipped out portions of the tape and pretended that it was the tape they received.
What Uqab did, in his press conference, is make allegations:- allegations that what transpired is Scenario 2. So I disagree strongly with your characterization. Taking clips out of context, in the manner of Scenario 2 is actually a form of Tazwir. It involves, after all, a “Cut” operation of an original audio recording.
What OTV has done (and what you continue to stress) is that Uqab and his team are also guilty of Tazwir. My contention is that their tazwir is actually irrelevant. (See post to Tamer above).
OTV/Al-Akhbar put themselves on the spot when they released that tape.
By doing so, now the onus on them is to demonstrate believably that what in fact they received in the first place was not the entire tape. Anything short of that is an admission that they have engaged in Tazwir- and tazwir is exactly what it is.
In my view, by redirecting and stressing Uqab’s own Tazwir, is demonstration that they are in fact guilty of the charges in the first place.
Response Part Deux:
Once we move beyond the question of “Tazwir”, then and only then can we start assessing the actual content of the tapes.
This is where your question comes in: “Does it make sense that after denying any role in dealing with arms, that Uqab would then start talking specifics”. The intent there is clearly to say that there is something fishy going on.
But the world of intelligence and politics is always fishy and murky. And your question pre-supposes that the conversation should make sense.
The reality is that the content doesn’t have to make sense at all- not stand alone at least.
As I wrote to Tamer above… it is entirely plausible that in the murky world of intelligence and arms dealings. In the hostile environment, where all the parties know fully well they are being watched and monitored. In a world where intelligence agents are blown up willy nilly… it is entirely possible that the data-points that we part time sleuths receive are awash with lies, obfuscations, confusions.
So if it were a matter of justifying their own Tazwir, Camp Hariri can always quite easily, and credibly point to that reality.
It makes your questions of sensibility moot and irrelevant.
And the best we can say- for now- is that well- obviously something is going on. Team Hariri is involved in some capacity with what’s going on in Syria, but the exact nature and extent of their dealings is still a big Question mark.
Quoting someone does not, in and of itself, constitute forgery or distortion. I can’t claim that someone attributed something to me that I did not say, if in fact I did say it.
Let’s make this even simpler than you have made it.
Suppose I publish an audio clip of you saying: “I support slavery and see nothing wrong with it in this day and age.”
I come along and say: Gabriel is a supporter of slavery, as evidenced by this audio clip.
You come back and say: “But hold on a second. You are engaging in willful distortion and tazwir, because you had access to the entire clip and so you know that what I actually said was:
“If the Lebanese government is not going to put in place stricter labor laws, then it is in fact justifying slavery. For the Minister of Labor to allow the status quo to persist, he is in effect saying: “I support slavery and see nothing wrong with it in this day and age.” This is what it all comes down to, plain and simple.”
In such a case I would be guilty of tazwir, and that is the argument that Okab Sakr is making about OTV. He is claiming that they took a quote of his out of context and thereby defamed his character through an outright fabrication, since they had the entire tape and knew what the context was.
This would be fine if Okab could provide us with such a paragraph, but he hasn’t done so. The question of sensibility is not irrelevant to this issue; it is totally central.
Let’s go back to the previous example. Suppose you responded to my original audio clip by claiming that the following clip was the complete recording:
“I am disgusted by people who support slavery. Absolutely disgusted. Oh man am I disgusted by them. I just hate people who say … [sudden change in audio quality] … “I support slavery and see nothing wrong with it in this day and age.”… [sudden change in audio quality] … Yeah, those people are really screwed up.”
Wouldn’t we be right to be suspicious of this argument?
Similarly, Sakr is arguing that he’s not coordinating weapons transfers by trying to frame a discussion about weapons transfers with two other discussions in which he comes across as not knowing anything about weapons. The problem is that these clearly were not part of the same discussion! At some point, the guy says to him: “al-Salamu 3alaykum” in the middle of the conversation, and Okab responds saying: “Wa-3alaykum al-salam tfaddal.” Give me a break! This was not part of the previous discussion.
I am not disputing the point that OTV very likely took things out of context. But you can’t say that Sakr’s response is irrelevant. His recordings sound phony, and therefore they don’t provide the context that he says is missing. Until he can provide that context, we don’t have any reason to cast doubt on the fundamentals of OTV’s narrative.
Elias, I understand what you are trying to say. I disagree with it.
The problem is your premise.
Your premise is that every conversation is actually had in good faith.
Let’s stick to your (superb) example, and pretend that is what the audio tape was. What did OTV/Al-Akhbar receive in the first place? Did they receive Sentence 1, or apparently doctored Sentence 2?
Already, you can begin seeing the issues of framing the incident in the terms you are doing, and the central flaw you are making in the analysis:- that the central recording itself had a relevant discussion going on in it in the first place.
As I wrote above, there may well be good reason for Uqab to “accidentally leak” a “forged” tape. For example, the conversation may have happened, and contained information he did not want leaked. So he altered it, prior to leaking.
So we’re back to Square 1 (and why the onus is on OTV to explain itself). What precisely did OTV receive? And why their position is precarious.
Back to your example:
If what they received was the forged tape, then why did they bother altering it at all. Why not play it all from the get go and note the sudden changes in audio quality? Why not stress this and point out the games being played by Uqab, and let the readers/viewers decide? Why did they instead willfully modify it?
If what they received was not the forged tape, but the real tape, why not play it, in its entirety?
My point is simple Elias. Obviously, Team Hariri is up to something. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be tapes at all, forged, or truthful. Clearly Uqab is in Turkey- doing something. The debate is not whether or not something is going on. That something is going on is patently obvious.
But going to the original point of your post: Is this a questionable strategy?
My answer is No. I think Team Hariri played it right- precisely because something is going on. As I wrote before, they have successfully thrown a lot of dust in the situation, and called into question the journalistic integrity of Al-Akhbar and OTV.
Here’s a question for you. Let’s say that tomorrow OTV releases a new recording. And let’s say that the recording is actually complete, it is non-doctored, and it is incriminating against Hariri (but that you can’t know that for sure).
Are you- part time sleuth that you are-
a) Equally as likely to question OTV/Akhbar on their sources, or veracity of their claim?
b) Less Likely to question them?
c) More Likely to question them?
It is my humble opinion (not least because I fall into that category) that the answer is (c) for most people who are not ideologically wed one way or the other.
In that sense, Team Hariri has in essence given itself some license to get away with more.
Gaby is channeling Okab Sakr’s technique of flooding the zone with baffling bullpucky.
Gabriel said: “My point is simple Elias.”
More later. Gotta prepare for class now.
Your premise is that every conversation is actually had in good faith.
I don’t see what this has to do with anything. If the conversation was not had in good faith, then Okab could have simply said that and provided contextual (but not necessarily contiguous) material instead of tacking on bits at either end that obviously were not part of the real conversation.
Let’s stick to your (superb) example, and pretend that is what the audio tape was. What did OTV/Al-Akhbar receive in the first place? Did they receive Sentence 1, or apparently doctored Sentence 2?
I don’t know what they received. But what they played us was Sentence 1 (i.e. “I support slavery, etc.”) If you listen to those clips, they don’t sound at all like they were part of a larger conversation. They begin and end, contrary to what Okab is claiming. (With the exception of the Abu Nu3man clip, which does not end… But it does clearly begin).
As I wrote above, there may well be good reason for Uqab to “accidentally leak” a “forged” tape. For example, the conversation may have happened, and contained information he did not want leaked. So he altered it, prior to leaking.
I don’t buy this. I had originally proposed that perhaps Team Hariri leaked the tapes but that was before Sakr went on TV and presented all of this unconvincing material. If he presented material that looked much more like the first example I gave you (about the labor laws) and less like the second one, then the possibility of a leak would be more likely. As is, it looks much more like a cover up to me than a concerted leak.
Lally: Sois gentille!
You are setting high and unreasonable expectations.
To prove the point, consider this.
Let’s say that Uqab was being truthful, that Abu Nu3man is a real fellow, and that Abu Nu3man was indeed the kidnapper of the Lebanese and that the whole conversation really was about negotiating a release of the Lebanese.
Let that be the starting premise.
If Uqab was in fact tasked with negotiating with the kidnappers, this recorded conversation alone does not paint the full picture. The pathway to Abu Nu3man would probably have taken many conversations and would have been spread through many days. It would be absurd to suggest that something different happened.
In that context, it is most likely true that the conversation played by OTV was in fact complete. But decontextualized only in the way that other recordings provide further context. They would be guilty of the sin of omission and nothing more, and who could blame them:- why would one pre-suppose that OTV should string together a narrative, based on the recordings alone, that is favorable to Uqab?
But let’s say- hypothetically speaking, that Uqab’s intentions were “correct” in this case, and that is to seek the release of the prisoners, and that he was open- as he seems to have implied in the conference- to the idea of discussing provision of weaponry.
For the purpose of the press conference, full of zingers, and a staged show, it makes sense that Uqab would stitch the narrative (literally by stitching audio tapes that took place in different days).
In that context, it is in fact impossible for Uqab to fulfill the type of conversation you propose would make him look more truthful (first example of labor laws). Because context here can only be deduced from multiple conversations, for which you would need to know the exact and proper sequence.
And taking that back to the following:
I would suggest that no, that kind of splicing is not in fact worse or more serious.
I am being nice, Gaby.
I assume that you would find the comparison to the Sakr modus operandi to be a great compliment to your own rhetorical skills of obfuscation and silliness!
Addendum to the above:
All of it is predicated on the initial premise: that Uqab is being truthful. What we don’t know is whether the “introduction” blurb denying his capacity to provide weapons was not in fact recorded only last week, and was only conveniently stitched in for the purpose of the press conference and to sneakily undermine OTV. There are readily/freely available programs that let you modify the creation date of digital content. And Uqab would certainly have the means to pull such a trick.
The salient point here though is that it is in fact OTV/Al-Akhbar that have done the J’accuse. So the onus really is on them to present all the tapes they have in their possession, unedited and unfiltered, and to explain how they came to possess them. Clearly, they knew more than they presented from the get-go, which makes it more crucial that they are upfront. [It is not clear to me for example, if they had ever even received the tape where Uqab insists he does not peddle in arms. And if they did then case closed:- their intentions were nefarious. If not, then it gets more interesting]. But make no mistake about it, the benefit of the doubt does rest with Uqab, who remains innocent until such time that he is proven guilty.
As I’ve suggested before, the problem is that as far as I’ve read to date, OTV/Al-Akhbar have not made any case regarding the extent of the recordings they have in their possession. That is not to say that they didn’t, but it certainly isn’t something I’ve come across yet. The defense employed to date is weak at best: Saqr and team modified recordings, a demonstration of how easy it is to cut and paste tracks, or an article such as the following:
which begs the questions:
1) What did Al-Akhbar use as the recording baselines? Were they copies?
2) Who did they get the copies from? Who did the recordings?
3) Were the recordings leaked by Team Hariri (as you initially speculated) before changing your mind (based on the fickle evidence given by Uqab)?
4) Or were they stolen from Team Hariri? And if so, what precisely was stolen? .wav computer files? A recording device? And why at this stage in the game can’t al-Akhbar/OTV tell us more short of snippets of “Hacking for Dummies” as they’ve done?
LoL. I would have liked to think of myself not as rhetorical, but methodical and analytical, and most certainly not obfuscatory.
But how I do sincerely love your deliveries, critical though they may be.
QN et al. You guys are missing the fact that the burden of proof is not on Okab Sakr here. He’s a citizen (MP or not). What edits he chooses to do on his home PC to audio clips he may or may have not recorded is completely irrelevant.
A news media organization, on the other hand, is at the very least liable from a legal standpoint for airing certain claims and doctoring certain recordings in public.
After all, I am fully entitled to play around with audio or video software, at home, on my personal PC, with non-copyrighted private audio/video recordings of, let’s say, my kid’s birthday party. Right? There’s no crime in that.
A news organization has a completely different legal and ethical obligation towards the public, on the other hand with whatever news it chooses to present (at least in the western world). Even the most biased of media outlets in the west have to do a modicum of vetting or confirming before spewing out stories on the air in the US. Splicing audio or video footage is a big no-no (CNN and Fox News would have all kinds of field days if that wasn’t the case).
reminds me of the Samaha case and when the biggest concern M8 media had was the broken door to Samaha’s house.
Always fishing for inconsistencies in the other side’s arguments. Okab’s only flaw was his execution, childish and unprofessional, otherwise questions should be directed at OTV/Akhbar’s manipulation.
Point: Even if they did not doctor it, by manipulating hours of audio that had a general theme and squeezing it into a small time frame picking out parts to make it sound like Okab is transferring weapons. Isn’t there some form of malicious intent?
I have yet to understand Elias’s reading of events. It seems that, as per my last post, that he does not believe fundamentally that OTV and Al-Akhbar ever received as part of the “recordings” they managed to somehow get their hands on some of the content that Uqab subsequently aired in the press release. For example, the bit about him insisting to the shady Abu Nu3man that he doesn’t deal in weapons.
As such, his position seems to be that OTV hasn’t done anything wrong. They received audio tapes. They aired them as they are. And the audio tapes, as they are incriminate Uqab in weapons dealings. They did not cut/alter any of the tapes. Nor did they receive other recordings that paint a different picture.
In that context, OTV and Al-Akhbar haven’t actually doctored anything, and therefore would not really be liable for tazwir.
That is a valid argument. We have no way of knowing whether OTV received the full tapes or pre-doctored tapes. Nor do we know if they were aware that they received pre-doctored tapes. We really don’t know.
My point is that we don’t care. My biggest beef here, regardless of how idiotic Sakr may or may not seem with his theatricals, is actually with the news media organization.
No matter what happened (and i repeat, we really don’t know), there is just no scenario where the media organizations in question are not guilty of at the very least breaking journalistic ethics and standards, or at the worst, being guilty of slander and falsifying evidence. There is no scenario where these news orgs are not guilty.
Regardless of Sakr’s shenanigans. Regardless of the contents of the tapes. The following 2 options hold true (no matter what else you change in the equation).
1) OTV/Al-Akhbar received tapes that were already made to incriminate Sakr (by a third party, whoever..) and did not realize the tapes were doctored. They aired the tapes in question. In this scenario, the news outlets are guilty of journalistic/criminal negligence (you NEVER air a bit of news and make claims of the content without double or triple confirmation of the your source material’s authenticity. EVER. At least not in the “real world” journalism).
Can you imagine if CNN or Fox or whoever aired every sensationalist photoshopped shot out there of any given celebrity/politician/natural disaster/whathaveyou before authenticating it? Can you imagine if scandals like Abu Ghraib or the Marines desecrating the Taliban bodies had turned out to be photoshopped? You don’t think there are tons of such hoaxes floating around? The onus is on the media outlet to make damn sure what they are publishing is authentic. And once they do, THEY are responsible for the impact that news has (slander, etc.)
2) OTV/Al Akhbar knew the tapes were doctored, or doctored them themselves to suit their purposes. In this case, they are more directly guilty of slander/fraud. Again, completely unacceptable for a news organization (no matter how biased).
Either way, there is no possible scenario in which these 2 media orgs should retain any kind of credibility. This kind of fiasco completely brings down media organizations in the civilized world (Dan Rather’s resignation after those infamous fake letters that couldn’t be authenticated comes to mind…).
BV… there is a third option, and it involves the following:
a) The tapes were NOT doctored
b) They are legitimate conversations that Uqab had with various people
c) OTV and Al-Akhbar DID NOT gloss over some of the recordings (all genuine) and presented EXACTLY what they had.
d) Uqab was in fact in the middle of an arms deal, when his conversation was recorded, either by his team (and subsequently the tapes were stolen), or by a yet-to-be-identified third party.
Elias contends that when caught in the act, Team Hariri chose to address the problem by covering up the situation:
a) They defined a new context for the genuine conversations that were taking place.
b) They did so by recording new clips (not made available to Al-Akhbar or OTV, and hence you can’t fault them for the omissions)
c) They created new forged tapes that aim to show that the true context of the conversation was not an arms deal, but humanitarian activities- such as sending milk to dying Syrian babies, and feigning an attempt to negotiate a release of Lebanese prisoners.
d) The fact that Uqab aired a “new” tape which shows this timeline, but for which the conversation does not flow correctly (i.e. Tape 1: after spending some time insisting he doesn’t peddle arms, we have suddenly, Uqab and Abu Nu3man saying hello once again to each other, and proceeding to talk about specifics of the arms transfer- the original tape aired by OTV and Al-Akhbar)
e) The fact that Uqab chose to splice two conversations together and create a new tape, precludes him from the right to accuse OTV of forgery. After all, OTV only aired what it had, and it didn’t have the full clip that Uqab himself just prepared days ago. That is- what Uqab aired WAS NOT what was leaked to OTV and Al-Akhbar.
This is the timeline and storyline that Al-Akhbar, OTV and our gracious host are sticking with.
and the number one reason why nothing ever gets solved in the magical land of the Levant is…………………………
Analysis/Paralysis. ( Akh ya Rassi).
Guys you are forgetting the “testimonial” by Jameel Sayyed as to the “sound fingerprint”…Come on now; we are trying to accuse the victim of being complacent. They stole personal recordings of Saqr (despite the musings of QN of them being leaked which he has no proof of)…
Why is that we have to believe what OTV/Akhbar said. For your info Manar had this “news” in early October…Now follow the breadcrumbs boys and girls.
I still can’t believe why Sakr or any victim of crime should justify themselves.
Good to see symbiosis between otv and syrian tv
The poor Milkman Okab is the victim of war crimes! Off with their heads! On to the ICC! QN supports the terrorists!
Where’s Anderson Cooper?
This is a few days old (older than the press conference)… but Radwan promises video evidence. I wonder when that’s coming out…
You got it all wrong :). Uqab and Hariri support the terrorists. QN only supports dictators. At this rate poor Uqab won’t find himself before Syria’s kangaroo courts, or Lebanon’s! It’s off with their heads, or off to the ICC they go!
Now we definitely need AC to Keep ‘Em Honest.
” You guys are missing the fact that the burden of proof is not on Okab Sakr here. He’s a citizen (MP or not). What edits he chooses to do on his home PC to audio clips he may or may have not recorded is completely irrelevant. A news media organization, on the other hand, is at the very least liable from a legal standpoint for airing certain claims and doctoring certain recordings in public. After all, I am fully entitled to play around with audio or video software, at home, on my personal PC, with non-copyrighted private audio/video recordings of, let’s say, my kid’s birthday party. Right? There’s no crime in that.”
We’re not talking about birthday party recordings, BV, and you know that.
We’re talking about audio recordings that are being used to support a public accusation of defamation, and a future lawsuit. When you start making accusations and supplying “evidence” of your claims, then yes: there is a burden of proof on you to produce reliable evidence that you haven’t tampered with. (If you want to be taken seriously).
“No matter what happened (and i repeat, we really don’t know), there is just no scenario where the media organizations in question are not guilty of at the very least breaking journalistic ethics and standards, or at the worst, being guilty of slander and falsifying evidence. There is no scenario where these news orgs are not guilty.”
I have been saying since this scandal broke that OTV and al-Akhbar have acted in unprofessional ways. But I don’t think that just because they did, we can let Sakr off the hook. He could have held a press conference and contextualized the recordings with more recordings, explaining what those conversations were about, without making things worse for himself by apparently splicing together conversations that had nothing to do with each other.
There’s a basic principle of credibility at stake here. If someone steals $10 from me and I can prove it, doesn’t it make me look terrible if I try to claim (in a shoddy way) that he actually stole $100 from me?
At this point you don’t even know what was stolen. And unless you properly define what you believe to be true, what you are saying is meaningless.
If Uqab spliced the audio before it was stolen or leaked to OTV, it is his right. It is his property. And you are NOT in a position to question the act of “tazwir”, because in fact it is NOT tazwir.
The problem is that to date, it seems neither you, nor anyone else is able to tell us what exactly was stolen.
You are questioning the recording based on the fact that it was “altered”. And at the risk of repeating myself, yet again, that fact actually is irrelevant. It is irrelevant that the recording was altered if what was stolen or handed to OTV was the same altered recording.
Sakr denied that he leaked the tapes to OTV. So why do you keep returning to that? I am assuming that they got the tapes via the informant that Radwan Murtada talks about in the clip posted above. In other words, someone else leaked the clips that OTV eventually published, along with other material that they haven’t published yet.
My contention is that the conversations aired by Sakr do not make sense as real conversations, and that they were doctored for the sake of the press conference. That’s my hypothesis.
That means that OTV could not have received the recordings that Sakr aired at the press conference, in the form that he aired them. Maybe they were broken up in different files corresponding to the different ORIGINAL conversations that they were part of.
The only way that your argument about him NOT committing tazwir makes sense is if he spliced together these bizarre conversations all by himself WAY before anyone at OTV or al-Akhbar had heard of them, and then leaked them to OTV knowing that they would only play portions of them… just so that he could catch them in the act.
Totally bizarre and implausible in my view.
What makes much more sense is that someone sent al-Akhbar a bunch of recordings of different conversations with Sakr, conducted over a period of time. Some of them were about the Lebanese hostages; some were about humanitarian supplies; some were about weapons. Al-Akhbar listened to all of them and chose to release the ones that were about weapons, but added some context drawn from the other clips (like the identity of Abu Nu`man, for example).
Sakr’s response was to take some of the other material that he assumed al-Akhbar had heard, and splice it into the clips that they published, in order to make it seem like they were all part of one conversation.
That, in my view, is tazwir.
Not implausible if the intent was to entrap OTV and Al-Akhbar. Very dirty from the part of Uqab, no doubt, but certainly a possibility.
What is the alternative? You hint at one possible alternative here, when you say: Maybe they were broken up in different files corresponding to the different ORIGINAL conversations they were part of.
My contention is that THAT scenario is bizarre and implausible.
Reason: If Al-Akhbar/OTV had those original recordings, they would have just aired them, the next day and made Uqab look like a moronic fool and a liar instead of showing a clip of how easy it is to alter audio files.
The passage of time does not work in Al-Akhbar’s favor. The more time that they spend saying “we will in time publish more things” is more time that they are dithering and looking more suspect in their intentions.
The ONLY other reasonable explanation is that these files were in fact new and different and ONLY recorded recently in what is a a blatant attempt at a cover up.
My view ya Elias is that if that were the case, then it is Al-Akhbar and OTV that still look like lying buffoons.
Because as I explained above, it is only natural that those kinds of conversations would have happened over many days.
It is not reasonable to expect otherwise. (hence I asked you why you were setting high and unreasonable expectations on Uqab)
And if all Uqab did was to string together recordings held in different days, for the purpose of the press conference, then I don’t think what he did was that terrible, and certainly NOT worse than Al-Akhbar’s willful ignoring of the body of recordings they received, and their willful distortion of the basic events that were happening.
The only way that Al-Akhbar come out of this smelling like roses is if they had never received those recordings in the first place, and they were only recently recorded by team Hariri in a blatant attempt to redefine the narrative.
Ultimately, and I’ll repeat this once again. We live in open and civilized societies. And we should expect more.
It is Al-Akhbar and OTV that have done the J’accuse.
The onus is on them to immediately hand over all the material they have, and to share it. Holding on to it, waiting for opportune moments, etc, does NOT work in their favor. Certainly not when they’ve just finished explaining to us how easy it is to alter and fabricate audio files.
They should have put all the files with a link on their website, and let the reader/viewer make up their own mind (if as per the clip above from Murtada where he says- they just wanted to have a “little fun” with it).
Gabriel said: “If Al-Akhbar/OTV had those original recordings, they would have just aired them, the next day and made Uqab look like a moronic fool and a liar instead of showing a clip of how easy it is to alter audio files.”
But they are claiming that they DID air the original recordings. Those ARE the original recordings. It’s Okab who is claiming that they were cut out of larger ones. How is al-Akhbar supposed to prove that theirs were the original recordings besides presenting what they’ve already presented?
We’re not getting anywhere in this conversation. Gotta move on.
And before you wrote:
When I wrote, if Al-Akhbar had the original recordings, they would have just aired them, the next day…. I meant just that. They would have played ALL the original recordings, INCLUDING the ones talking about Lebanese hostages and humanitarian supplies.
Why did they hold back?
Were they worried that if they played those tapes, that the readers would not be directed to the final conclusion they were trying to lead the readers to?
Certainly, I can’t think of any honest reason why OTV and Al-Akhbar would NOT air those tapes unless their intentions were nefarious OR they didn’t have them in the first place.
Okab has the original recordings, if he wants to sue, he not only needs to hand over the recordings, he has to hand over the computer/hard drive on which those recordings were stored in order to have that hard drive forensically examined, secured, verified, and copied. The recordings on their own won’t suffice, at least in a western court of law.
For example let us say you use a messenger service that records your chat logs in a *.txt format. And someone hacked into your computer and gave those chat logs to me and I published part of those chat logs. You respond by claiming that I pieced part of the chat logs together to make up my own story.
GREAT, don’t ask me to release what logs I have if you want to sue me.
If you want to sue, if you want to claim “tazwir” in a court, than establish a clear chain of custody, hand over the computer to a licensed trained Computer Forensic Scientist.
It’s ridiculous to ask al akhbar to breach journalistic ethics to reveal their source and if they did splice the audio in their favor ie take things out of context, its nothing that NBC, NY TIMES or other major news publication doesn’t do on a daily basis (see George Zimmerman and NBC).
Bottom line no one faked his voice, his words, his choice to record the conversations, and since he wants to sue the burden of proof is on him to provide the “original evidence”.
At this point whatever data/information al akhbar/otv has is potential evidence. I am not a lawyer, but it would be silly for them to reveal their sources, their audio files in the face of a lawsuit. Why would I release data to the side that wants to sue me, giving them a chance to alter their data to counter what I have, to present in the court of public opinion.
If he has a problem he can sue them just like George Zimmerman is suing NBC news, it doesn’t and has never worked the other way to the best of my medical knowledge.
Tamer ya Tamer, ya A7la Tamer.
Let me flip it back on you. Today, there is an on-going investigation against member of HA on their alleged role in the assassination of Hariri Snr.
Hizballah- the accused- won’t even submit those suspects for questioning. Let alone their treasure trove of computers, and records for analysis.
The day you stand on top of the Podium and insist that Hassan Nasrallah hand over that material, as this is the proper course of action, is the day that I will say that you are not a hypocrite.
My simple proposition should not be damaging to Al-Akhbar. All they have to do is release ALL the recordings they received and do it NOW. That way, we can all hear what they heard, and we can all decide whether they engaged in Tazwir.
The onus is NOT on Uqab to submit his computers which may well- and likely do- have lots of information NOT related to this case.
It is a simple way out for Al-Akhbar, and a simple mechanism by which AL-Akhbar can easily prove that Uqab is a liar. And they would not be revealing any more than what they’ve been revealing to date, except it would be unfiltered, so that we, the readers and viewers can decide.
Is that really too much to ask?
You missed my point in yesterday’s comment. The 3rd alternative/option you listed is actually already covered in my 2 options:
1) OTV/Akhbar acted in good faith but were ultimately negligent to the point of incompetence in not having the data they obtained authenticated (your scenario falls under this).
2) OTV/Akhbar committed fraud and slander.
I’m not arguing the fact that Okab may or may not have acted shadily (trying to convince us that $100 were stolen from him when in truth, only $10 were stolen). That may very well be true.
Is that wrong? Sure.
But ultimately, it is still the matter that $10 ($100) was stolen from him that disturbs me more. The amount that was stolen, and the fact that the victim is screaming bloody murder does NOT excuse or exonerate the original crime. That’s my point.
And the original crime is of a far more serious nature, IMO.
It’s one thing to exaggerate your victimization (not that I’m giving Okab a pass here). It’s another thing altogether for a news organization to willfully (or negligently) conspire against an individual (as shady as he may be).
And Tamer, just to be clear, because it may be forgotten between all the bullpucky I’m spreading around the QN zone…
I for one do believe that Uqab is involved in all sorts of logistics with the Syrian opposition, including weapons transfer.
My arguments don’t relate to whether he is complicit in this activity or not. My argument relates to the conduct of Al-Akhbar and OTV, on whether they breached proper journalistic standards, and whether they willfully distorted whatever evidence they did actually have to drive their own political agenda.
That is NOT to say that there is not other evidence that would easily tie Uqab in with the weapons trade in Syria.
Those two issues are in fact independent. One- a question of Uqab’s involvement in the weapons trade, the other on the activities of OTV and Al-Akhbar.
While I don’t entirely disagree with your comments above regarding chain of custody, etc….this portion of your comment made me laugh:
It’s ridiculous to ask al akhbar to breach journalistic ethics to reveal their source
What journalistic ethics? LOL!
I have stated that regardless of who did what in this affair, there is NO scenario where OTV/Akhbar have not AT THE VERY LEAST compromised the most basic journalistic standards and ethics (and perhaps done much more than that: fraud and criminal conspiracy).
My scenario is NOT covered under your options. For example, Al-Akhbar may well have done their due diligence.
But let’s say Uqab called Abu Nu3man the day before his press conference, and said: “Dude, I’m in a little bit of a pickle, let’s record another blurb where I pretend I don’t deal with weapons. This way I can stitch it into the other conversations and make it APPEAR as though we were negotiating for the release of the prisoners”.
In that case, you can’t actually fault Al-Akhbar for not vetting their sources. They did vet their sources, but Team Hariri covered up their actions by creating more data points that Al-Akhbar good not, even in the best of scenarios, gotten.
The bit of a pickle scenario works for me.
Al-Akhbar overvetted their source in their zeal to prove up bonefides. They revealed so much detail about their informant that one wonders if he made it back to the ground in Syria. The source’s description of “Triple Sakr” as a deranged martinet does not seem far-fetched after viewing his performance set in Istanbul. Such supreme confidence in his audience’s willing refusal to believe their lying eyes. I’ve seen cult leaders with a similar cut to their jib. Okab is a piece of work. Something about him reminds me of Ahmed Chalabi.
There are dark mutterings about Okab linkage to Wissam al_Hassan’s death on the Syrian/Turk border. Who wants to examine the official tales of the vaporized corpse yielding no DNA? Didn’t think so. Some forks in the road are better not taken, I suppose.
At any rate, veracity truly is beside the point and we do have the judicial proceedings to look forward to…..
Why didn’t you keep my post
Don’t get ahead of yourself. Let’s not go so far as to discuss lawsuits.
I didn’t ask Al-Akhbar to “reveal” their sources. This is NOT the question posed here, not yet at least.
Here’s the gist of Uqab’s press conference in a nutshell: There are many audio tapes, around 100 minutes or so contain his voice. Those recordings were stolen, and somehow, managed to find their way to the offices of Al-Akhbar.
His assertion is that they must have heard ALL the recordings he had on his computer, otherwise, some of the clips they aired would not have made sense, as context or identities can only be found in some of the other clips. There is no question that what Uqab stated in the press conference was true to some extent.
We here- part time sleuths that we are- are trying to piece together the rest.
As part of this press conference, Uqab aired some clips that we, the audience have never heard before, and that throw the recordings we heard into a completely new light.
Elias got all worked up about details: Was the “First True Recording” that Uqab played really true? If so, it made no sense that the conversation happened the way it did. I agree. But those are details. It could have been a series of recordings done over a number of days. For the purpose of the press conference, maybe Uqab didn’t modify the recordings, only throw them into a Playlist on his computer, and they were played sequentially. For example. Again, those are details, and we have a habit of getting worked up on details, and not looking at the big picture.
So what is the central allegation here? The allegation is that Al-Akhbar stole ALL the recordings, and had access to them. That they must have been aware of the context of what was stolen, and that they chose to twist this context to serve a political purpose.
We can never know what Al-Akhbar has/had, unless their own computers are forensically investigated. To suggest that it is Uqab’s computers that will reveal the truth is absurd. Here’s a thought experiment to prove the point: Let’s say that Uqab did hand over his computer, that it was forensically investigated by a lab of your choice, and that the result came out in Uqab’s favor: Yes all the recordings are genuine, they took place when he said they did, yadda yadda…. Are we any wiser on the central question of what Al-Akhbar had?
The answer of course is No.
So to suggest that the correct course of action is what you propose, or Al-Akhbar proposes is just really a means to send everyone on a wild goose chase.
I am not interested in Uqab’s lawsuit when it does happen.
I am interested to know what did Al-Akhbar actually know before they aired these videos, and to what extent did they actually willfully massage the message.
And they don’t need to reveal their sources to answer that question.
What baffles me is that it seems not more people are interested to answer that question.
Lally, you really ought to set your bar higher. Have you already resigned yourself that veracity is “beside the point”?
Meanwhile in Syria … children continue to die, mums continue to weep and men are out fighting for their freedoms while a brutal pack of thugs wreak havoc in a cannibalistic manner.
Seriously, have you ever stopped to think that all this pointless debate about who said what, where and when is purely immoral (even on a Kantian level)? And that is putting it lightly.