[EDITORIALS]Investigating the tapingWith prosecutors having seizing 274 tape recordings from the former spy agency official who headed its illegal eavesdropping operation, the nation’s attention is on the progress of the investigation, and the shock waves it could cause. Should this Pandora’s box be opened, it could bring about exactly the “terrible collapse” of society that the agency’s former inspector general warned of. That is why this investigation must be fair and orderly. Prosecutors should investigate with the utmost prudence, while taking this as an opportunity to end illegal eavesdropping by government agencies once and for all.
The investigation should start with who was behind this illegal taping operation. The obvious suspects are the central figures and officials in the Kim Young-sam administration who revived the Mirim surveillance team that did the taping. Who revived the team after a year of inactivity, and how was it used?
There are already claims that the Mirim tapes were delivered to Kim Hyun-chul, son of President Kim Young-sam, and to Lee Won-jong, then the Blue House senior secretary for political affairs. It is very likely that the tapes were used for partisan purposes, not the common good. The officials involved should be thoroughly investigated.
Nor is the Kim Dae-jung administration free of blame. The former head of the spy agency, Chun Yong-taek, knew the illegal tapes were being smuggled out of the agency but did nothing to retrieve them. There are even allegations that Mr. Chun gave the Mirim team leader a telecommunications contract in return for some tapes. There are also rumors that Park Jie-won, a close aide to President Kim Dae-jung, received Mirim transcripts when he was culture minister. What was the nature of the secret transactions between these people and the Mirim team, and how did these people use the transcripts they received? Why do Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung remain silent even now?
The investigation is bound to conclude with the National Intelligence Service. The actual taping was done by the agency, and the transcripts were leaked by a former agency official. Another point to investigate is whether the agency, as it claims, in fact destroyed the illegal tapes it retrieved. Considering the nature of the agency, it seems highly unlikely that it would do so just because the recordings were illegal. To whom, and how, were the contents of these recordings released, and does the Mirim team leader have more tapes hidden?
Illegal surveillance by government agencies is as detrimental to a democratic society as was the torture of civilians by government officials during the military dictatorships. Unless we discover every last element of the truth behind this affair, we will not be able to root out illegal taping. It is also the investigators’ duty to look into allegations that the contents of the tapes were tampered with. The prosecution must clarify whether illegal taping was done during the Kim Dae-jung administration, and whether the public is now safe from such a terrifying possibility.