[Der Spiegel] "... And then there is Wissam al-Hassan, who is currently the main protagonist in this great game.
Al-Hassan was born in 1965 near Tripoli, Lebanon, into a Sunni clan that has enjoyed close ties with the Hariris. He became a member of Rafik Hariri's security detail, eventually advancing to become his head bodyguard. Al-Hassan had taken off Feb. 14, 2005, the day that a massive car bomb exploded while Rafik Hariri's motorcade was driving by, claiming at the time that he needed to study for a university exam. But this did not harm his career, and Saad Hariri would eventually elevate al-Hassan to the rank of brigadier general and a position as the country's intelligence chief.
On Oct. 19, al-Hassan died in a car bomb attack that bore many similarities with the one that killed his boss seven years earlier: Both were in Beirut, both were in broad daylight, and both were carried out by professionals. Both attacks involved a huge amount of explosives that claimed the lives of many more people than just the intended targets.
Al-Hassan was given a hero's burial and interred only a few steps from the grave of Rafik Hariri ...
Whatever the answers might be, the terrorist attack of Oct. 19 continues to grow more and more mysterious, and the STL may consider investigating it. Responding to written questions, the International Criminal Tribunal says that one first needs to determine whether the attack was related to the Hariri bombing. Moreover, it adds that launching such an investigation would also require an expansion of the STL's mandate by the United Nations and the Lebanese government, which covers 49 percent of the tribunal's costs.
Sources close to the tribunal say that al-Hassan originally stood at the top of the list of suspects in the Hariri attack. Indeed, investigators found it rather odd that Hariri's head bodyguard would go missing in action on the day he died. What's more, they established that al-Hassan spoke on the phone 24 times on the morning of Hariri's death even though he claimed he had to study for the university exam. An internal STL document says that al-Hassan's statements are "not very convincing" and have led to doubts about his alibi.
Still, the fact that he was far away when the attack occurred and that Saad Hariri believed his oath of loyalty was somehow enough to get al-Hassan out of the line of fire. Likewise, before long, he became the special tribunal's most important informant, providing investigators with details about the type of explosive used and recordings from mobile phones at the scene of the attack. The phone calls would eventually be matched to four members of Hezbollah -- and spell the downfall of them all.
In June 2011, the STL brought indictments against these four men ....
However, such investigations weren't enough for al-Hassan. He soon became one of the most important political players in the region, forging some astonishing alliances along the way. For example, he arranged a meeting between Saad Hariri and Syrian President Bashar Assad. After the meeting, the former refrained from making any more vehement accusations that Syria was behind his father's murder. What's more, in a move that was highly unusual in terms of protocol, al-Hassan himself had a private conversation with Assad in Damascus.
At the same time, al-Hassan maintained extremely close ties with top-level officials in the intelligence apparatus of Saudi Arabia, which holds a critical stance toward the Syrian regime. Likewise, some Middle East insiders have even claimed that al-Hassan had ties to the Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence agency....
In recent months, the restless Lebanese intelligence chief had turned his attention to rebel forces in Syria. Just last summer, he apparently set a trap for Ali Mamlouk, who would be promoted in July from chief of Assad's general intelligence directorate to head of his national security council. Via intermediaries, al-Hassan encouraged Mamlouk to supply Michel Samaha, a former minister of information in Lebanon and staunch ally of the Syrian regime, with explosives to be used in attacks. Samaha was arrested in early August and reportedly confessed. It was a serious loss of face for Assad -- and a plausible reason for taking out the supposed turncoat al-Hassan.
Hezbollah might have also had a hand in the terrorist attack on al-Hassan, whose cooperation with the tribunal had made him a sworn enemy of the "Party of God."...."
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Der Spiegel: "Was Murdered Intelligence Chief a Hero or Double Agent?"
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 8:09 PM