Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How do we know the Assad emails are genuine?

It is impossible to rule out the possibility of fakes in the email cache, but several pieces of evidence suggest they are authentic

Robert Booth, Luke Harding, Angelique Chrisafis and Matthew Taylor, Wednesday 14 March 2012

"Why does the Guardian believe the emails are genuine?

The cache of 3,000 emails passed on by a source in the Syrian opposition reveals a wealth of private information – including family photographs and videos, a scan of the president's identity card and a birth certificate belonging to a family member – that would be difficult for even the best resourced hoaxer or intelligence agency to gather or fabricate. The and accounts that activists say were used by Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma, communicate regularly and in affectionate terms with the wider family and advisers, some of whose email addresses are easily verified. Events and speeches mentioned in the emails tally with the timings of real events. The "sam" and "ak" accounts were also monitored contemporaneously by activists who say the protagonists reacted in real time to events on the ground in Syria.

What has the Guardian done to verify the emails?

The Guardian has contacted 10 people whose emails appear in the cache. All have confirmed the time and content of the emails or refused to deny they are genuine. People contacted include Thomas Nagorski, ABC News's managing director of international coverage, who emailed Sheherazad Jaafari while trying to arrange an Assad interview with Barbara Walters, and Sir Andrew Green, Britain's former ambassador in Syria. Two of Green's messages feature in the email haul: one, dated 6 October 2011, was to Assad's father-in-law; the other, dated 26 June 2011, was to members of the British Syrian Society. Green confirmed that the emails were genuine. Also copied in was Lord Powell, Lady Thatcher's former foreign policy adviser and one of the society's trustees. Asked about the email, Powell said: "It sounds familiar but no time to search my records."

Asma al-Assad used the email address and is believed to have used the pseudonym Alia Kayali when ordering expensive designer goods from Britain. All four British suppliers mentioned in the emails and contacted by the Guardian confirmed that the email exchanges were real.

The Lebanese businessman Azmi T Mikati – a friend of Asma al-Assad who features in many of the emails – refused to deny the veracity of the emails when contacted by the Guardian despite being offered the opportunity to do so......"

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