STL: De­fense ques­tions ex­pert on co-lo­cated phones

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Rhys Du­bin

BEIRUT: Dur­ing cross-ex­am­i­na­tion at the Special Tri­bunal for Le­banon Wed­nes­day, de­fense coun­selor Chad Mair ques­tioned ex­pert wit­ness John Ed­ward Philips about his anal­y­sis of so-called co-lo­cated phones.

The term, used through­out the trial, de­notes in­stances in which multiple cell­phones at­trib­uted to a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual made calls from the same area of cel­lu­lar net­work cov­er­age within a short time pe­riod.

Through­out Philips’ tes­ti­mony, in­stances of co-lo­ca­tion have been used to sup­port his “sin­gle user anal­y­sis” the­ory. This hy­poth­e­sis, put for­ward by the pros­e­cu­tion, has been used by in­ves­ti­ga­tors through­out the case to demon­strate that multiple phones were likely used by the same per­son.

Cel­lu­lar data, like the in­for­ma­tion an­a­lyzed by Philips over the course of the past week, has been in­te­gral to the pros­e­cu­tion’s case against the five defendants ac­cused of plan­ning and ex­e­cut­ing the 2005 bomb­ing that as­sas­si­nated former Prime Min­is­ter Rafik Hariri and killed 21 oth­ers.

Pros­e­cu­tors have used the move­ment and co­or­di­na­tion be­tween var­i­ous cell­phones at­trib­uted to in­di­vid­u­als and color-coded cell net­works to track the al­leged con­spir­acy lead­ing up to the at­tack, as well as to iden­tify the defendants in the case.

Con­sis­tent with pre­vi­ous cros­sex­am­i­na­tions by de­fense coun­selors, Mair’s line of ques­tion­ing Wed­nes­day at­tempted to com­pro­mise the in­tegrity of Philips’ tes­ti­mony.

Ref­er­enc­ing anal­y­sis con­ducted by Philips that counted the num­ber of times two phones at­trib­uted to the un­named Sub­ject 7 were co-lo­cated, Mair noted that over the course of a pe­riod of sev­eral months, co-lo­ca­tion be­tween the phones in ques­tion oc­curred only once.

“This would seem to run con­trary to your state­ment that you need more than one ex­am­ple of po­ten­tial co-lo­ca­tion to con­clude that there is a sin­gle user,” Mair said, ad­dress­ing Philips.

The ex­pert wit­ness coun­tered by not­ing that, in si­t­u­a­tions such as this where there may have been a clear at­tempt to keep var­i­ous covert cel­lu­lar net­works sep­a­rate, it would not be sur­pris­ing for there to be rel­a­tively few in­stances of co-lo­ca­tion.

In the past, the pros­e­cu­tion has al­leged that dif­fer­ent color-coded net­works were used to carry out var­i­ous stages of the plot and were of­ten not in con­tact with each other.

“If you were re­ally try­ing to iso­late the red and blue phones, there should be no mo­ment where they are co-lo­cated. Red phones were used on cer­tain dates and days and dur­ing those pe­ri­ods it would ap­pear that the use of blue phones was pre­cluded,” Philips said.

Fol­low­ing the end of Mair’s cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, Jad Khalil – de­fense coun­sel for Has­san Merhi – be­gan his cross-ex­am­i­na­tion.

Though his ques­tion­ing will con­tinue next week, Khalil’s ini­tial in­quiries fo­cused on how the de­struc­tion of Beirut’s south­ern suburbs in the 2006 war with Is­rael may have af­fected the pros­e­cu­tion’s abil­ity to ef­fec­tively map cell cov­er­age.

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