Sakr’s Flimsy, ‘Not-So-Smart’ Fabrications

His press conference lexicon was rich in expletives and insults, but all this impudence served only as a smokescreen to mask his lies. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

Published Saturday, December 8, 2012

After Al-Akhbar published authenticated recordings that documented Future MP Okab Sakr’s role in providing arms to Syrian rebels, the MP has concocted his own recordings. With the help of audio experts, Al-Akhbar easily confirmed that Sakr’s recordings, which portray him as the humanitarian savior of Syrian revolutionaries, can hardly pass muster.

By fabricating his own recordings to counter those obtained by Al-Akhbar, MP Okab Sakr wants to delude the public into believing that the recordings published by Al-Akhbar were “doctored.” Yet Sakr initially acknowledged the authenticity of the published recordings, even offering to buy them to prevent them from going public.

On Thursday, 6 December 2012, Sakr held a press conference of sorts, but the spectacle that ensued was unfortunate. He thought that by shouting at Al-Akhbar and his political opponents, he would be able to conceal the facts surrounding his actions. To be sure, Sakr never dared before to say one word to counter the media of the West.
A simple look at the audio file played by Oqab Sakr at his press conference in Istanbul shows a disparity between the original clip released by Al-Akhbar and the additional parts played by Sakr.A simple look at the audio file played by Oqab Sakr at his press conference in Istanbul shows a disparity between the original clip released by Al-Akhbar and the additional parts played by Sakr.

When the New York Times, Time Magazine, The Times, The Guardian, and Le Figaro, all ran stories confirming that “Saudi Arabia’s man, Okab Sakr,” was supplying Syrian militants with money and weapons, Sakr remained silent. He swallowed up his bile, only to vomit it out on Thursday, in the form of 15 words of folly, ten words of lies, eight words of sheer stupidity, and four words of blind hatred.

His press conference lexicon was rich in expletives and insults, but all this impudence served only as a smokescreen to mask his lies.

Sakr wanted to convince the audience that he was not panicked by Al-Akhbar’s possession of the incriminating recordings. In fact, when this newspaper offered to jointly publish them with a number of television networks in Lebanon, Okab was tipped off.

The Future Movement MP was quick to contact officials in one of these networks (before the recordings were advertised) – using whatever favor he enjoyed with the TV network to offer the following: “You buy the recordings, and Sheikh Saad Hariri will pay you double what you paid, provided that you don’t broadcast them.”

The offer still stood last week for the unpublished recordings, even after some of the recordings were published by Al-Akhbar.

During the conference, he exhibited a misleading sense of self-confidence, just like he did back when he appeared on Paula Yacoubian’s show “Interviews.”

That day, he made a finger gun with his hand and pretended to shoot himself in the mouth on television. He said that he was going to commit suicide, but everyone understood that he was jesting. Nevertheless, Sakr came across as a ‘charmer,’ but one lacking charisma. He is a man who knows the ins and outs of the game. He knows the audience, how it thinks, and what it likes to hear.

The fact of the matter is that there is no battle taking place, even if Sakr has sought to portray things otherwise. For one thing, the recordings published by Al-Akhbar were clear and unambiguous.
No one knows this better than Sakr and nothing confirms their authenticity better than his own acknowledgment. So, what how do Sakr’s own recordings hold up?

In the recording where Sakr asks for “more advanced weapons,” published by Al-Akhbar on Friday, 30 November 2012, Sakr spliced in two technically different audio segments at the beginning and at the end of the published recordings. The gaps are noticeable when the segments are joined together, albeit this cannot be detected directly by ear without certain equipment.

Al-Akhbar spoke to sound engineers about Sakr’s recordings. The audio experts preferred to remain anonymous because they feared “getting involved in something this big,” one said.

The audio experts said that Sakr’s recordings were “doctored more than they needed to be.” Technically speaking, anyone can consult any engineer he likes and compare the recordings published by Al-Akhbar, which, once again, Sakr has acknowledged were authentic, and the recordings he peddled as his irate press conference.

Of course, the audio experts’ opinion needs some explanation. The figure above shows an analysis of the recording presented by MP Sakr, which had a total duration of five minutes and 12 seconds.

The sound analysis shows that the recording contains crossfades, that is, gradual transitions between two consecutive segments, appearing at 2:30 in the clip. It is a slight and inaudible “interruption,” or more precisely, a “sound gap” that can only be discerned by means of an audio analysis, according to the engineers we spoke to.

For the one minute and seven seconds that followed the section published by Al-Akhbar, which starts with “Allo, Allo, yes brother,” variations in the timbre, a measure of sound quality, are clear.

Similarly, the drop signal and the intonation are different. The first has to do with the distance between the speaker and the recording device, while the second is related to the tonality of the speaker’s voice, which is affected by his “posture” as well as other factors.

In other words, the audio experts are certain that the section which begins with the words “we need machine guns” in the recording Sakr presented at his conference, is technically different from Al-Akhbar’s clip.

In Sakr’s recording, up to the 2:30 mark, his voice had different characteristics from the subsequent one. Evidently, the first segment was added in later to Al-Akhbar’s clip. The same goes for the last segment.

From the 3:36 mark until the end of the clip, the audio characteristics are nearly the same as those of the first segment, which Sakr added to the recording. Indeed, the audio analysis shows that Sakr’s recording is divided into three segments, with crossfades added in twice.

The first crossfade appears at the beginning of the segment published by Al-Akhbar while the second can be discerned at the end of the same segment. Sakr’s clip is thus divided into three segments: the first from 0 to 2:30 (the part published by Al-Akhbar); the second from 2:30 to 3:36; and the third from 3:36 to 5:12.

The audio experts have no doubt that the clip presented by Sakr, in which he asks for machine guns, and which contains no mention of milk and blankets as he claimed, has different audio characteristics and properties, as we detailed above, and which are clearly illustrated by the figure above.

In summary, the experts concluded that Sakr added “a segment in the beginning and a segment in the end,” leaving the part published by Al-Akhbar intact, which was the only authentic segment. According to the audio experts, the least that can be said about this fabrication is that it is “not so smart.”

But MP Sakr must have known that a “scandal” such as this would not go unnoticed. Consequently, the Future Movement MP’s recording was not aimed at sound engineers or even Al-Akhbar.

So, why did Okab do it? Does he want to lure the public into the trap he claimed to have set before the recordings went public? Or maybe the man thought that games like this would be easily camouflaged by bringing the issue of the Lebanese abductees in Azaz back to the limelight?

On Friday, Sakr “gathered” some of the hostage’s relatives, with whom Sakr now has close ties, so that through them he can lash out against Al-Akhbar and OTV. Then in the evening, Ali Zugheib, one of the Lebanese hostages, appeared in a recording and read a speech written for him, where he spoke about high gasoline prices in Azaz, and claimed that there were secret detention facilities in Lebanon where Syrian and Arab prisoners of conscience are being tortured, using the same methods of the Syrian regime.

(Al-Akhbar)

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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