Lebanon News

Unknown parties wipe evidence of third GSM network activity

Sehnaoui speaks at a news conference.

BEIRUT: Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui said Monday that records for a network of more than 26 phone lines operating independently of the country’s two GSM networks were deleted by unknown individuals on the second floor of the Ogero telecom company.

Speaking at the ministry on the progress made by a ministerial committee looking into the country’s third GSM network, Sehnaoui said the committee had evidence that individuals with access to state-run Ogero in the Beirut neighborhood of Adlieh had deleted information about the country’s third GSM network’s activity in the past year.

The third GSM network, which was mainly used by the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch, set off a heated confrontation between the March 8 and March 14 camps earlier this year when Sehnaoui’s predecessor at the ministry, Charbel Nahhas, was prevented from accessing Ogero’s second floor where the network’s equipment was stored.

In September, Sehnaoui entered the second floor of the Telecoms building, arguing that the state-run company falls under the ministry’s jurisdiction.

But in the course of its review, the committee found that key intelligence information related to the third GSM network was deleted before Sehnaoui’s visit to the second floor.

“During its study of the network, the committee discovered that information related to the network’s activity from June 2010 to the time of the investigation [in October] was deleted,” said Sehnaoui.

The minister said that after receiving credible information from the country’s two telecom networks, Alfa and mtc touch, “the committee confirmed that there were calls made from the third GSM network and to it, even after June 2010.”

According to Sehnaoui, the information found on Ogero’s second floor conflicted with the information provided by Alfa and mtc touch as there was no evidence of calls being made or received by the third GSM network.

“The information given to the committee [from Alfa] was in conflict with what was found in the records of the third GSM network [on the second floor],” he said.

The ministerial committee, which according to Sehnaoui will file the final report later this week, is only a technical committee and cannot place blame on any individual or group for deleting the information.

“There is information that couldn’t be accessed by the committee … but we don’t know who erased the telecoms data,” said Sehnaoui, adding that he will place the final ministerial committee’s report on the Cabinet’s agenda.

“The committee also discovered that [someone] accessed the central server on the second floor on July 18, 2010 for seven minutes,” said Sehnaoui who claimed that the IBM-built central server of the network was jammed and is no longer accessible.

“More information is expected to be sent to the committee and after that I will hand in a full report to President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Speaker Nabih Berri and the Cabinet,” Sehnaoui added.

He was critical of Ogero’s director-general Abdel-Menhem Youssef for refusing to cooperate with the committee. “If there were good intentions [in Ogero], I don’t see any reason why would they hide that information.”

Although Sehnaoui said that his ministry and Ogero should work as one body, no representatives from the Ogero were present at the conference.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 06, 2011, on page 2.




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