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Presidents Have Personally Signed Application Forms for Wiretapping Three Times per Year

Presidents Have Personally Signed Application Forms for Wiretapping Three Times per Year

Posted August. 25, 2005 02:59,   


The Communication Confidentiality Law provides for legal wiretapping by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) without having to receive a warrant from a court. What the NIS needs is only the “president’s approval.” But it was discovered on August 24 that the president personally granted the NIS permission to conduct wiretapping by signing the application forms without the proper procedure of legally required delegation of authority.

The discovery was made after the Dong-A Ilbo acquired the application form for the president’s approval for wiretapping and checked with some government officials.

Every year, the NIS consolidates the plans of eavesdropping submitted by intelligence and investigation organizations in February, June, and October, writes a document under the name of the NIS head, and then classifies it as “second-degree confidential.” According to the revealed information, the NIS head has applied for the president’s approval based on the document.

The practice is in compliance with the enforcement ordinances under the Communication Confidentiality Law. It was reported that the NIS has made wiretapping applications for 40 to 50 targets at a time. The targets given the president’s green light have usually been foreigners. Yet, it seems that those Korean nationals who had conversations over the phone with non-nationals have inevitably been eavesdropped on.

Under the Communication Confidentiality Law, a limitation on communication (wiretapping) can be posed only by high courts if deemed necessary for national security. And the interception of any conversations targeted at hostile countries (such as North Korea) and non-nationals must be sanctioned by the president in writing.

In the application form for the president’s approval for wiretapping, the type, target, scope, time frame, location, and method of wiretapping should be included.

Given the practice of the president personally signing the application forms, former presidents must have been aware of the activities to wiretap cell phones, which have been a controversial issue lately.

The prosecution’s investigation into the matter has further revealed that the NIS, after given the president’s permission, has overheard cell phone conversations using specially made equipment (named CASS).

The prosecutors suspect that the NIS could have abused its ability to wiretap in the process and are digging deeper into the matter. They also are focusing their investigations on the possibility that the NIS slotted some Korean politicians in the wiretapping approval list sent in to the president and conducted illegal eavesdropping.

Myoung-Gun Lee Tae-Hoon Lee gun43@donga.com jefflee@donga.com