[EDITORIALS]The truth about tappingThe National Intelligence Service issued an apology to the people yesterday. It admitted that illegal tapping was committed during previous administrations and sought a pardon for such illegal acts. It is the first time that the national intelligence agency has issued an apology to the people, but this is not something that can end with an apology by the spy agency. It must be followed by thorough investigations and punishment. Also needed is proof that such illegality will not recur.
The agency insisted that illegal tapping had ceased since the Kim Dae-jung administration. Especially, it asserted that tapping cell phones was not possible technically and invited lawmakers to its head office for an on-site inspection.
The agency admitted that illegal tapping was done under the Kim Dae-jung government and that cell phones were tapped. There is hardly anyone who will naively accept it as a courageous confession. To the contrary, it makes us wonder whether tapping is done even now.
It is inevitable that the focus should be on preventing a recurrence and thorough investigation and punishment. The agency must accept investigations of its staff, and a search of its premises. And those responsible must be discovered based on such investigations. It shouldn’t be working level agents, but those who ordered tapping and used the material from it for illegal purposes, who should be punished.
Especially, the investigation of former Presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung is inevitable. It must be clarified whether they directed tapping or not; whether they knew of it if they didn’t give the orders; whether they received reports based on tapping; and whether they utilized the information collected through tapping as material for deciding state affairs. Apart from such investigations, the two former presidents must clarify their position on the issue and apologize.
Kim Dae-jung expressed a strong will to eradicate illegal tapping himself. Mr. Kim said, “It will not be tolerated, if there is, by any chance, illegal tapping done under this administration that suffered from torture and tapping by the dictatorships in the past.” In December 1998, he revised the Protection of Communications Secret Act to strengthen punishment for illegal tapping. Even after that, the spy agency continued to tap illegally for three years and four months. It is difficult to accept its claim that there is no tapping. Instead of forcing people to believe its words, it must prove its own credibility.
The agency disclosed that illegal tapping was committed until three and a half years ago. The insistence on making the contents of recordings public is like pulling the whole society into destruction. It is clear that tapping was aimed at those not cooperative to the government, or political rivals. If their private conversations become objects of investigation, democracy and social justice will be a remote thing for us. It will destroy the basic value of our society above people’s right to know.
In the case of the “X file,” however, since most of its contents are revealed, we do not object to verifying them in order to defuse the misunderstanding of the people. But it must be done strictly within the bounds of the law. What is important is providing a social device and surveillance system that can prevent illegal tapping. And it can start with a thorough investigation of past illegalities and strict punishment.