On April 21, the Hariri-owned Al-Mustaqbal newspaper carried the following report by Fadi Shamiyan: “There is enough evidence that the telephone network of Hezbollah has become a reality. This is not only the case in the towns that form "defensive lines" in the south where there are rocket emplacements that are connected with command posts in the southern suburb; it is also the case in more than one Lebanese district, including many areas that are not under the influence of Hezbollah.
“The new thing about this file is the discovery of this network in Sidon where Hezbollah tried to take advantage of a project to rehabilitate the infrastructure, which is being carried out in coordination with the concerned towns. The project is undertaken by the Arab Corporation for Civilian Works, with Japanese funding. It extends over 48 km and includes the neighbourhoods of Sidon, in addition to linking the city with the towns located east of it up to Jizzin. There is also another line that connects Sidon with the villages of Iqlim Al-Tuffah, and it is being implemented by another company.
“As for the internal networks in the towns and villages, they were left for the municipalities. Some night work conducted at the project site by fake employees raised the suspicions of some citizens, which made them contact the army and the security agencies. It turned out later that these were attempts to establish a telecommunication network for Hezbollah in the city, at least at two locations, one of them near Al-Qanaya Circle and the other on the eastern boulevard. This led to a halt in the work for sometime, but it is not known for sure what happened afterwards.
“Information indicates that the Ministry of Telecommunications is now aware of the issue, and that there is talk on a small scale on the existence of a network for Hezbollah in the old town of Sidon, which had been extended before. It is not known whether the previous extensions or the current attempts occurred secretly or in coordination with the municipality or some party in Sidon. A technical source at the Ogero company who refused to be named confirmed his knowledge of the news.
“He also confirmed that company workers saw with their own eyes lines for this network in several areas in the south and Al-Biqa while trying to conduct repairs on the lines. The elements of Hezbollah used to ask them to keep away. The Hezbollah network is using the lines of the state in many areas and has its own lines in other areas. Where it is easy to extend lines, they do that, and where it is possible to extend telecommunication lines, they use this technology. They also use the lines of the fixed network in many areas.
“A political side that is following this file revealed that the network is much larger than what has been announced and has different functions. The network includes most Lebanese areas, and not only the areas of influence of Hezbollah or the emplacements of its rockets. The same source said that the measures carried out by the state so far amount to just talk because Hezbollah has renewed and developed its network since the issue was raised in the media at a much faster pace than before. Hezbollah did not show any concern about the state and its measures.
“It also introduced highly sophisticated equipment for wiretapping. This equipment is now in the southern suburb and can penetrate most lines, including those that are used by the army and the security services. In fact, Hezbollah elements and those collaborating with it have infiltrated Ogero itself.
“The source adds that Hezbollah accessed the fixed telephone network of the Lebanese state and used underground cables that belong to the Ministry of Telecommunications. It can now listen in on fixed and mobile telephones at a rate that exceeds 80 per cent. There is a strong possibility that Hezbollah is listening in on the Grand Serail via the sit-in tents that enjoy security protection in downtown Beirut.
“It is worth mentioning that the Council of Ministers had formed a committed in July last year, including representatives from the Ministries of Telecommunications, National Defence, Interior, Municipalities, and Justice to follow up on this file in the wake of the discovery of the network in Zawtar al-Sharqiyah. It turned out later that the network was much wider than that.
“There are things that can be understood with regard to the resistance and its "defensive lines." However, the thing that cannot be understood is for this field network, to use a military term, to extend to civilian lines that are used by the citizens, which would enable a party to listen in on citizens or officials on the pretext of protecting the resistance.
“Add to this the fact that this party accuses a large segment of the Lebanese of treason, which makes it impossible to remain silent on this matter. This is because there is no guarantee that this network would not be used for purposes that have nothing to do with the resistance, let alone the fact that there is still no agreement on one defence strategy.
“Wiretapping operations and stealing lines, which had existed during the days of the Syrian presence in Lebanon with a direct cover by President Emile Lahhud, played a big role in knowing the calls of the martyred Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri and his moves, which made it possible to target him and target others afterward. Therefore, the sensitivity of this file, which is linked to national security, requires action at a different pace and through different mechanisms.
“As part of this, the government should inform the public of the information it has, especially in places where the security agencies are unable to act. For, in a state that is shackled to this extent, public pressure might be the strongest method.” - Al-Mustaqbal, Lebanon