[FOUNTAIN]Spy gamesMajor nations in the world have their own intelligence agencies with good sources of information. The United States has its Central Intelligence Agency, England has MI6 and France has the Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure.
These intelligence centers have no political power, but do have strong information, analysis and research capabilities. Developing nations, on the other hand, seem to give their intelligence agencies too much political power.
In developing countries, intelligence agencies serve the leaders of their countries. Agencies in such countries have well-organized information on domestic politics to counter opposition party members, but they have low-quality information about other countries that have important relationships with them, and they depend on borrowed information from developed countries’ agencies.
Iraq is a good example. Before the war started, the United States, England and Israel sent 4,000 intelligence officials to Iraq and ferreted out the fatal defects of the Iraqi military. The Iraqi intelligence agency had no idea of what was happening abroad because its contacts with other intelligence agencies were cut off.
Legislatures and judiciaries in developed nations check and balance their information agencies, but their operations are highly protected from public view.
When officials are summoned as witnesses in trials, their identities are not made public. A gentlemen’s agreement between the media, the people and intelligence agencies guarantees secrecy, and secrecy drives quality output.
Korea seems to be in the center of an unprecedented intelligence war. Major nations’ intelligence agencies seem to have paid attention to the rumored defection of a senior North Korean official to the United States.
While all this is going on, the National Intelligence Service is being reformed and officials connected with the cash-for-summit scandal are being questioned. What all that will do to the agency’s relative advantages in collecting information on North Korea is anybody’s guess.
The abuse of power by political groups should be investigated and the agency should indeed serve the people, not the president. Intelligence officials should keep in mind that playing political games weakens their effectiveness.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.