On Tuesday, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) delivered its verdict on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, more than a decade after the deadly incident that reshaped Lebanon.
What was clear in the summary of the verdict was that the investigation into the assassination was mostly, if not fully, dependant on an intricate mesh of mobile networks that was studied extensively to uncover the perpetrators.
Without these networks, which were practically the only reliable evidence that the investigation could use in such a terrorist act, the Tribunal might not have been able to close the case even after all these years.
What many people don’t realize is not just the fact that this method of investigation is unprecedented for international criminal court, but that it came about by the work of one genius Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) captain.
In a time when the international investigators working on the Hariri case struggled to make progress, Major Wissam Eid of the ISF Information Branch was effectively cracking the case.
Much of what the STL revealed on Tuesday was, in fact, either based on the foundation that Eid had laid while leading the technical side of the investigation or directly cited from the findings that he had reached before his assassination.
For yes, Wissam Eid became the target of a murder similar to that which he was working to solve, when he got close – much too close as far as his killers were concerned – to obtain the full story of who had murdered the late Prime Minister.
On the 25th of January, 2008, Major Eid was killed in a bomb explosion that tore through his armored vehicle and ended his life, killed his bodyguard, three innocent bystanders, and injured others.
Before his death, he was informed by Hezbollah that the phones he had been tracking belonged to some of its agents who were conducting counter-espionage operations against Israel’s Mossad. The message was a clear threat, but it did not stop him.
Eid sent his crucial findings to the UN investigative team, with which he was later set to work. As a British specialist on the case put it at one point, what Eid did in uncovering those findings was impossible, yet the celebrated Lebanese computer engineer did it.
Through a tedious process of elimination, Eid collected all the phone numbers that had had a connection with the cell tower in the vicinity of Hariri’s assassination site at the time of the blast.
He successfully isolated the numbers, which led him to discover the “Red” cell that conducted the assassination.
With his extraordinary mind that was able to exceptionally detect patterns and his simple Excel spreadsheets, Eid soon uncovered and traced several other networks operating at various levels and within different time frames.
He was gradually drawing a map that showed how the perpetrators had been surveying and following Hariri for a long time, up to the assassination day. His map was getting clearer and more detailed with time.
But perhaps the most important discovery that he ultimately reached was these color-coded networks’ eventual connection to landline phones known to be directly operated by Hezbollah in their controlled region in South Beirut.
Despite being initially overlooked by the international team, much to their shame, later on, Eid’s investigative report became the core of the investigation, and perhaps the first satisfying lead to surface in a long time.
While the captain could not live to see his great work become the forefront of the investigation, the rest of his nation – and the world – did, and they will all remember Major Wissam Eid as the Lebanese hero who gave his life for the truth.