Al Jazeera has gained access to confidential documents prepared for the Syrian president by his intelligence and security chiefs on the conflict raging across the nation.
The files provide an insight into President Bashar al-Assad’s strategy to suppress anti-government protests, including the lengths the government went to for protecting its strongholds.
The documents, running into hundreds of pages, point to a government desperate to keep control of the capital Damascus and include clear orders to stop protesters from getting into the city.
They also revealed detailed security plans for crushing protests in the cities of Aleppo and Idlib.
One leaked paper spelled out clear orders to top officials to give financial and moral support to Assad's supporters in Aleppo, the second major city.
The documents were passed on to Al Jazeera by Abdel Majid Barakat, who until recently was one of the government’s most trusted officials.
The former Baath party member, who was in charge of collating information from across Syria at the secret joint crisis management cell in Damascus, has fled to Turkey.
“For months, the opposition had a mole at the heart of Assad’s security apparatus working in this joint co-ordination cell that co-ordinates the work of all the intelligence agencies across the country,“ Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Turkey, said.
"This man was leaking information to the opposition. Finally he was compromised and realised that he had to get out of Syria to save his own life. As he left the country he took with him some of Syria's most secret documents."
In one leaked cable marked confidential, the government cautioned the Syrian foreign minister about countries trying to influence Syrian diplomats to defect.
“Every evening at 7:00 pm Damascus time, there is a meeting of all the intelligence and security chiefs looking back at what happened across the country during the day, making their plans, making their orders for the next day,” our correspondent said.
“These orders then go to the office of the president the next morning and he himself signs all the orders, the final go ahead,“ he added.
Monitors spied on
The documents indicate that the government spied on the Arab League monitoring mission, which was in Syria at the end of last year.
They also spell out where protests have been taking place, and how many people were involved. They show that some of the biggest rallies have been in the province of Idlib.
Barakat, the whistleblower, told Al Jazeera: “Any person reading these reports will be shocked, will realise that Syria is living a true crisis: killings, criminality and suppression of protesters.
“However security chiefs paint [a] beautiful picture in their reports. They ignore many substantial facts on the ground, simply to boost the president’s morale,” he said.
Al Jazeera's Bays said that the network was confident about the validity of the documents, and that two Al Jazeera teams had worked for days to verify them.
"We have been through the documents in detail ... not just looking at what's in the documents, the detail of the documents, looking at the letterheads, looking at the the signatures on the documents, speaking to Syrians, speaking to opposition activists.
"We are very confident that the documents are genuine," he said.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|
|William A. Cook|