Friday, May 09, 2008

Lebanon's Cell Phone War

Communications have always been a key element of war, from maps and pidgeons to satellites.

For political violence groups like Lebanese Hizb'allah, the government has moved against their propaganda, intelligence, and command-and-control network in one stroke, by disabling their cell-phone network and ejecting a mole at an information hub (the airport).

Then came the telephone crisis: Last weekend, Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon's Druze minority and an archenemy of Hizballah, accused the militant Shi'ite party of maintaining its own private telephone network, and of using security cameras to monitor Beirut airport with the possible aim of staging attacks or kidnappings. On Tuesday, the government followed up with an edict declaring Hizballah's telephone network "illegal and unconstitutional." It also launched an investigation into the alleged monitoring of the airport, and dismissed airport security chief General Wafiq Shuqeir, on suspicion of opposition sympathies.


More recently, Hizballah has dug trenches for fiber-optic cables in the mainly Christian and Druze Mount Lebanon district and in north Lebanon, according to Marwan Hamade, the Lebanese minister of telecommunications. "It was confined to one or two small areas before and we overlooked it as part of their internal communications. But now it's spread all over Lebanon," Hamade told TIME.

TIME, Nicolas Blanford

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