If You Want to Know the Truth about the Recordings...

There is no doubt that the recording which Sakr said he filed in court is a copy. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Omar Nashabe

Published Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lebanese Future Movement MP Okab Sakr accused Al-Akhbar of “forgery by editing” after the newspaper published parts of audio recordings that implicated him in providing arms to Syrian militants. To determine the recordings’ authenticity and whether there truly was “forgery by editing” requires an investigation by an independent and impartial party with specific technical qualifications. Following are some basic points to guide such an investigation.

First: determining the identities of the voices in the recordings. Al-Akhbar compared the voices of the people with other authoritative recordings. By counting the vibrations in the sound waves, experts employed by Al-Akhbar concluded that the voice that appears in the recording matches Sakr’s voice. Indeed, Sakr confessed to this hours after the recordings were published.

Second: figuring out the recording tool used in order to determine the timing of the recordings. This is something that is supposed to be conducted by a party authorized to investigate this matter. The process requires looking for the people who did the recording and listening to their testimonies in order to obtain the used recording device.

The recording could have been made through one of the two phones used to make the call or through a third device connected to the phone network, either through a breached phone or the phone companies. The recording could also have been done by a device that was close to one of the callers, but was not directly connected to the line. It is also possible that the material consists of many recordings that were done in a different ways.

Third: electronically dissecting the recording device used to record Sakr. Through this delicate technical operation, it is possible to determine the exact time of the recording and if it was stopped at some point and later resumed. The people that made the recording should be able to explain the reasons for doing that. Determining the timing of the entire recordings broadcast by Sakr the day before yesterday will expose the truth because it will reveal whether Sakr added further recordings to the those published by Al-Akhbar.

Fourth: determining the nature of the copies of these recordings. Keep in mind that copies allow technicians to know when they were made and not when the original recordings were made. Therefore, it is impossible to determine, by technically examining the copies, when further parts of the recording were added to them. This process requires inspecting the recording device used to preserve the original recording, i.e., the memory chip or the CD or hard drive or any other tool to which the audio recordings were transferred before they were copied and distributed.

Fifth: In addition to determining the timing by checking either the original recording device or the device used to preserve the recording, it is technically possible to examine the sound waves throughout the recording that Sakr broadcast. There are differences between a voice recorded today and the same voice recorded yesterday or few hours earlier. These differences are very minor and an average listener might not notice them but they are visible on the screens of devices that analyze sound waves. Therefore, one can reveal any addition or subtraction or manipulation of the content by examining the recording broadcast by Sakr and distributed to the media.

Sakr claims that the recordings were stolen from him. But it is not clear whether the theft includes the original recording device or copies of the recordings. There is no doubt that the recording which Sakr said he filed in court is a copy. It is not possible to determine whether there were gaps in the timing of the entire recording unless it is technically examined.

Without such an investigation, this copy gives the impression that the recording is of specific conversations that took place over the phone at a specified time. Perhaps Sakr and his associates think that the investigating authorities will be satisfied with verifying the identity of the people whose voices appear in the recording and will not consider the question of possible variations in timing.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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