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Illegal Eavesdropping Conducted by National Agency Should Be Thoroughly Investigated

Illegal Eavesdropping Conducted by National Agency Should Be Thoroughly Investigated

Posted July. 26, 2005 03:08,   


On July 25, President Roh Moo-hyun ordered a thorough investigation into allegations of illegal tape recording conducted by the Agency for National Security Planning (ANSP) (the current National Intelligence Service [NIS]) and the so called “X-Files” scandal is taking a new aspect. It seems that a full-scale investigation by the prosecution will be inevitable based on the results of an NIS internal probe.

Intelligence Agents Gone Bad—

Members of the ANSP are at the center of the scandal around the disclosure of the X-Files. Former and current intelligence agents that swore to “carry intelligence gathered during work to the grave” are the ones spreading the scandal. They are providing testimony on the yet to be verified illegal tapings by individual contacts with the press.

Some former agents are even claiming that “eavesdropping is widespread, even in the current government.” In particular, a former agent that headed an eavesdropping team said in an interview with a few members of the media the naked and specific truth on the eavesdropping reality of the ANSP without any special foundations.

A former NIS official commented, “There was a big sense of loss when at the beginning of the Kim Dae-jung administration a large number of NIS workers were laid off, and with the battle between factions, characteristic of NIS, kicking in, the current situation is turning into an indiscriminate, telltale battle.”

Article 17 of the NIS Personnel Law stipulates that “all personnel should not divulge secrets obtained during office, not only while in office but also after retiring.” Article 32 of the same law stipulates that those who violate Article 17 will be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison or a maximum fine of 10 million won.

The Moment They Speak They Become Flagrant Criminals—

The prosecution has expressed reluctance to investigate the illegal tape recording acts of the X-Files. They cite that the statutory limitation (seven years) on the crimes, a violation of the Law to Protect Secrecy of Communications, has expired. A prosecution official said at the beginning, “Yielding prosecution authority is done under the premise of judiciary processing, but the prosecution can’t just investigate just to find out the truth.”

However with former ANSP agents divulging secrets learned during their service, the situation has changed.

“Such acts by ANSP personnel will become a crime the moment they speak,” said a prosecutor. The statutory limitation also starts from that point. Hence, seven years have to pass for it to expire. Therefore, an investigation is obviously possible.

An investigation into NIS members will be first handled by the NIS. Nevertheless even if the NIS investigates, the prosecution will lead the investigation.

Investigation on Illegal Tape Records Will Be Inevitable—

If investigations are conducted on ANSP agents, then an investigation of the overall illegal tapes will become inevitable.

That is because in order to investigate their actions for violating NIS Personnel Laws, an investigation in the original actions that caused them to violate the personnel law is necessary. In other words, they are accused of divulging secrets obtained while on service, so in order to specifically investigate their accusations, the prosecution needs to investigate their “service,” or in this case, the illegal tapes.

“Since we cannot investigate the current crimes without knowing the main cause of the current crimes, an investigation into the illegal tapes recorded by ANSP agents is inevitable,” said a mid-rank prosecutor.

Therefore, it seems that the truth of the alleged ‘8,000 illegal tape recordings’ claimed by former ANSP agents will be known.

On the other hand, Samsung sued MBC for violating the Law to Protect Secrecy of Communications, and this might cause the investigation to expand to other illegal tapes recorded in the past. If the prosecutor asks the reporter and the media company, “On what grounds did you reported that?” the investigation might naturally lead to uncovering illegal records of the past.

It is forecasted that investigation will be conducted on the media corporation and the reporter that obtained the tapes and scripts during this process. The NIS has already requested the Interpol to look for former ANSP agent "A" (40), who is currently staying in the U.S. The NIS also plans to summon the former agent that led the eavesdropping team.

Experts all point out that the core of this case is the illegal tape recording of the ANSP. Although the contents of the tapes are also a problem, the illegality of eavesdropping conducted by a national agency is a more serious problem.

The Korean Bar Association made a declaration in July 25, criticizing, “The government that passed the Law to Protect Secrecy of Communications to protect private secrets violated this law and conducted large-scale illegal tapings for a long period.”

It also added, “By illegally divulging information obtained during public service, it shows holes in the management of national intelligence. The prosecution should immediately start an investigation, seek the truth and strictly punish those involved.”