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[Editorial] National Intelligence Service Engages in Old Days’ Covert Political Operations

[Editorial] National Intelligence Service Engages in Old Days’ Covert Political Operations

Posted July. 16, 2007 03:26,   


It was confirmed that a National Intelligence Service (NIS) agent illegally dug up the real estate transaction records of former Seoul Mayor and current Grand National Party’s presidential candidate Lee Myeong-bak. Last Friday, the NIS alleged, “It is our duty to look into a matter that can cast a huge impact on the society as a whole.” The “duty,” the NIS contents, mandates it to wage “espionage” operations on 420 corruption cases including Lee’s real estate transaction.

The public, however, do not buy the NIS contention and do not believe that it shredded Lee’s documents without any leakage. What is more shocking is what the NIS has done so far. The organization interpreted its operational scope to its own satisfaction, and has engaged in covert political operations.

The National Intelligence Service Act clearly defines the jurisdiction and scope of the spy agency in Section 3. The section limits its jurisdiction to overseas intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism activities. Jurisdiction over corruption cases belongs to the police, the prosecution, the Board of Audit and Inspection, or the Korean Independent Commission Against Corruption, based on the nature of each individual case.

In 1996, then President Kim Young Sam narrowed the scope of the spy agency, which was the National Security Agency at that time. In the following administration, Kim Dae Jung officially renamed the agency the National Intelligence Service, and put more restrictions on it. All these changes were made through legislative processes. The Kim Dae Jung administration, however, dealt in illegal wiretapping, and watched two NIS heads indicted and locked up behind bars. Alleging itself as guardian of democracy, the Roh administration expanded the jurisdiction of the agency without any legislative authorization. We do not know why they needed the personal information of a citizen. They may have used it to threaten an individual or to politically damage a politician.

We, the citizens of this country, strongly demand that we have to know what the NIS anti-corruption taskforce team has done and how the team has used the collected information. If necessary, we do not object to appointment of an independent counsel or launch of a congressional probe.

Under the act, the President has to supervise and control the NIS. Thus, if the NIS has committed any wrongdoing, the President should also be held accountable.