The Claim of Hezbollah Responsibility for the Burgas Bombing

by Feb 27, 2013Foreign Policy0 comments

How the media turns an ‘assumption’ in to ‘proof’

Thomas E. Donilon, President Obama’s national security adviser, penned an op-ed last week in the New York Times titled “Hezbollah Unmasked”, which begins:

ON FEB. 5, after more than six months of investigations, the Bulgarian government announced that it believed Hezbollah was responsible for the attack last July that killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver and injured dozens more in the resort town of Burgas.

I commented previously on what Bulgarian Minister of the Interior Tsvetan Tsvetanov actually announced, which was:

A reasonable assumption, I repeat a reasonable assumption, can be made that the two of them were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah.

What he didn’t say was that this was a conclusion they arrived at based on hard evidence. But this is what Donilon is referring to when it says that the Bulgarian government “believed” Hezbollah was responsible. And what is the evidentiary basis for belief?

[E]vidence recovered from the bomber’s body included a fake Michigan identification card produced in Lebanon. Elsewhere in Bulgaria, investigators discovered that operatives used two other fake Michigan IDs. These led them to the true names of the bomber’s two accomplices. They traveled to Bulgaria using Australian and Canadian passports and then returned to Lebanon using a circuitous route to hide their trail. After sharing information with Australian and Canadian security officials, Bulgaria’s government stated that it believed both of these operatives were tied to Hezbollah’s military wing.

Oh my goodness. It’s an open and shut case. Obviously, if the fake I.D.s were produced in Lebanon, then they must have been made by Hezbollah. And, obviously, if the bomber’s accomplices were in Lebanon, that could only be because they are “tied to” Hezbollah. This is enough evidence for Donilon to declare beyond any reasonable doubt that

the Bulgarian investigation has once again proved to the world what Hezbollah has tried for years to hide: that it remains engaged in international terrorist attacks against civilians.

And thus an “assumption”, a mere belief based on weak circumstantial evidence (which is a very generous description), is turned into proven fact.

Writing in Haaretz the following day, Barak Ravid offered additional details under the headline “Bulgaria to reveal how it traced Hezbollah to deadly attack on Israeli tourists in Burgas”:

A computer printer in Beirut, DNA traces on a used SIM card and several suspicious telephone calls are just some of the clues that led Bulgarian intelligence agents to conclude that Hezbollah was behind last July’s bombing attack in Burgas, which killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nickolay Mladenov will be presenting these and many other pieces of evidence on Monday during a luncheon at the monthly conference of the EU Foreign Ministers Council in Brussels.

So in addition to fake I.D.s made on a printer in Lebanon, we have DNA traces on a SIM card! Well, now, that proves that someone touched the SIM card! But who? Further down the page, Ravid reports that it “had DNA traces that were very similar to the DNA of the suicide terrorist”, the identity of whom “is still not known, though it assumed he was a Canadian citizen”. Aha! DNA from an unidentified individual that is similar to the DNA of the unidentified bomber! That clearly implicates Hezbollah!

But it’s those fake I.D.’s, Ravid writes, that were “the most significant smoking gun”, because “the printer that had produced the forged documents” was located “in Lebanon.” That evidence obviously puts the “smoking gun” in the GSR-ridden hands of Hezbollah (“gun-shot residue”, for those readers who have never watched CSI).

And don’t forget that the two accomplices were actually in Lebanon. They went from Beirut to Istanbul, Turkey; and then to Warsaw, Poland; and then to Prague, Czech Republic; and then to Romania; and then to Burgas, Bulgaria. Then they “fled back to Lebanon the same way”. So they were twice actually in the same country as Hezbollah. Case closed!

And is if that wasn’t enough, don’t forget those “suspicious” phone calls! Calls between whom and suspicious how? Ravid reports that

The investigation found that there was an increase in the number of calls between Burgas and Lebanon in the days that preceded the attack…

Aha! Calls between people in Burgas and people in Lebanon!

…among them several suspicious calls that were apparently between the cell members and Hezbollah officials.

Well, there you go! The calls were “apparently” between these two parties—which means there is apparently no proof that they were actually between these two parties, that this, too, perhaps, is just another “reasonable assumption”, another belief to be accepted as a matter of faith.

Investigative reporter Gareth Porter provides yet further information about the case. He notes that the in an interview, Tsvetanov alternatively called the “reasonable assumption” a “grounded hypothesis for the complicity of the Hezbollah military wing”. And the chief prosecutor in charge of the Bulgarian investigation, Stanella Karadzhova, gave an interview last month in which she revealed that the two suspected accomplices “had apparently traveled without cell phones or laptops.” Moreover, the SIM card found at the scene of the bombing, but the associated telecom company was Maroc Telecom, which “sells its cards throughout North Africa—a region in which Hezbollah is not known to have any operational bases but where Al-Qaeda has a number of large organisations.” Karadzhova’s interview was published by 24 Hours newspaper, which has a sister publication, the weekly 168 Hours, the editor of whom, Slavi Angelov, “one of the country’s premier investigative journalists”, wrote that one of the suspects “had been linked by a ‘closely allied intelligence service’ to a wing of Al-Qaeda.”

So it seems there is room for more than one “reasonable assumption”, more than one “hypothesis”, about who was responsible for the Burgas bombing, and that it has not yet been “proved to the world” that Hezbollah—(much less Iran)—was ultimately responsible.

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About Jeremy R. Hammond

About Jeremy R. Hammond

I am an independent journalist, political analyst, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, book author, and writing coach.

My writings empower readers with the knowledge they need to see through state propaganda intended to manufacture their consent for criminal government policies.

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