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“Wiretapping Is Still Being Conducted”

Posted August. 08, 2005 03:04,   


According to recent testimony, loopholes in the current Communication Confidentiality Act have in effect allowed the illegal overhearing of conversations, an act viewed as wiretapping, to continue.

During the Kim Dae-jung administration, the Science and Security Department in the National Intelligence Service (NIS) was charged with wiretapping. A former high-ranking official who once served as a Science and Security Department chief, on August 6, admitted, “Even now, people who need not be overheard are overheard. And the number of these people is growing.”

In an exclusive interview with the Dong-A Ilbo, he said, “Following the Communication Confidentiality Act, intelligence agencies are required to inform the person concerned about having been wiretapped. This process is necessary if the person concerned is to be dropped off the list for tapping. But no intelligence agency would ever tell people that it intercepted their conversations.”

He further explained, “The agency might choose not to let the person concerned know about the eavesdropping and keeps extending the execution term of a warrant of wiretapping. In that case, once a person is placed on the wiretapping list, the intelligence authorities will keep listening to him. It’s so even if such an act is not necessary.”

The testimony indicates that the NIS has ignored legal procedures of notifying wiretap targets and kept conducting illegal interceptions of conversations because the agency was worried about the reaction from those who were secretly overheard. So the public will likely call for revising the provision in the Communication Confidentiality Act, which effectively allows wiretapping, more loudly.

The former high-level NIS official went on to say, “Mostly politicians including political rivals had been eavesdropped before the bugging equipment was destroyed. It would be fair to say that wiretapping was conducted on a quite large scale across the entire society. The intercepted conversations were frequently reported to the secondary deputy director charged with domestic affairs, the anti-communism investigation chief and other officials.”

He added, “The director and other top NIS officials have received reports not in the unabridged form, but in the form of a typical intelligence report that is a combination of important information. To an outsider, the reports may not have looked like a report on wiretapping.”

When asked why the NIS destroyed the tapping equipment in March 2002, the former NIS official answered, “The Communication Confidentiality Act was changed in December 2001. In March the following year, the revision went into force. So the existing as well as newly purchased equipment had to be reported to the Intelligence Committee, a parliamentary committee. If it had filed a report, their wiretapping activities would have been discovered. So the NIS had to get rid of the equipment.”

He also said, “With the presidential election not long away, the agency didn’t want to be swayed by politicians. This was another reason. At that time, relevant information was being leaked to the opposition party.”

He said, “NIS workers resisted the disposal of the bugging equipment. But the National Assembly passed the newly amended Communication Confidentiality Act unanimously. The workers were persuaded because there was no alternative.”

He noted, “The ‘Mirim team’ that had been in charge of wiretapping under the Agency for National Security Planning was supervised by the anti-communism department. The team had nothing to do with the science and security department. There was no body like the Mirim team during Kim Dae-jung presidency.”

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