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NIS Suspected of Having Abused Wiretapping Authority

Posted August. 22, 2005 03:11,   


It was confirmed for the first time that the National Intelligence Service has used wiretapping extensively for purposes ranging from fighting communism and tracking down drug users to monitoring industrial spies and international terrorism suspects with the permission of the president.

This was revealed from the use log of the mobile phone wiretapping device called CASS which the wiretapping investigation team of the Seoul Central District Public Prosecutor`s Office confiscated from the NIS. The team is currently investigating into the bugging case involving the NIS and its predecessor, the National Security Planning Agency.

Article 1, Clause 7 of the Telecommunications Security Protection Act stipulates that the president can allow the use of wiretapping, even without the warrant of the prosecutors, only when a significant threat is posed to national security and there is a need to collect information.

The CASS use log, which the prosecutors seized during the search of the NIS office building on August 19, indicates that the CDMA mobile phone wiretapping device was mostly used for above mentioned purposes by the NIS in the Kim, Dae-jung administration.

The science security bureau of the NIS has been in charge of CASS. Therefore, the teams responsible for fighting communism or collecting industrial information within the NIS reportedly got approval from the president before they actually applied to the science security bureau for the use of the device.

The log reportedly contains 40 to 50 wiretapping targets, mobile phone numbers and the date the CASS was used.

The prosecution accepts those uses as legal bugging activity since the NIS used the device with the approval of the president.

The prosecutors are, however, probing whether the NIS used the device for the purposes other than those approved by the president or whether the president gave the permission for much broader uses than permitted by the law, opening the door for the abuse of the spy agency’s eavesdropping authority.

Accordingly, prosecutors plan to summon related employees and senior officials from the concerned teams of the NIS, who are confirmed to have used the device, earlier this week for interrogation.

They are also examining an option to summon former heads of the NIS in the Kim, Dae-jung administration, including Lee Jong-chan and Chun Yong-taek.

Soo-Hyung Lee sooh@donga.com woogija@donga.com