[View point]Intelligence for a nation

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[View point]Intelligence for a nation

The Korean National Intelligence Service has announced a new mission statement - “Service by the Nameless toward Liberty and Truth.” Unfortunately, it does not represent the values an intelligence agency should pursue. What does it mean to pursue liberty? If the government suppresses the people’s liberty, can the National Intelligence Service stand up against it? The slogan is not appropriate given the present reality.

The liberty that the National Intelligence Service is talking about seems to be the system of liberal democracy versus communism. During the Cold War era, the key conflict was the confrontation between the free world and the communist bloc. However, the Cold War is long over. The intelligence agencies of major powers are fighting new threats instead of communists. These conflicts involve religious, territorial, resource, ethnic and financial interests. Is the concept of liberty appropriate for an intelligence service’s motto in the 21st century?

“Truth” is an even more out-of-place expression. Truth means propriety and fact. Truth is something pursued in academia or religion, not a national value sought after by an intelligence agency or the military.

Seoul National University’s motto is Veritas lux mea, “The truth is my light.” The Korea Army Academy’s motto is “Country, honor, loyalty and courage,” and the U.S. Military Academy’s motto is “Duty, honor and country.”

Historically, an intelligence agency’s priority has been protecting the national interest, not truth. In the 20th century, when spreading democracy was equated with truth, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency supported dictators.

In 1961, when General Park Chung Hee’s coup toppled the democratic regime of Prime Minister Chang Myon, Peer de Silva was the Korea station chief of the Central Intelligence Agency. De Silva wrote in his memoir, “Sub Rosa: The CIA and Uses of Intelligence” that Chang Myon was a great man in every way by all moral standards. However, his polite leadership style failed to control Korea’s political situation.

Park Chung Hee’s leadership was by no means a Jeffersonian democratic model, but it was progressive, creative and constructive, and clearly appropriate for the time. The CIA supported a pragmatic, development-driven dictatorship over the weak democracy of Chang Myon.

Protecting the national interest is an enduring value. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the United States became deeply involved with General Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship in Pakistan.

Other countries’ intelligence agencies represent secular wisdom. China’s Ministry of State Security emphasizes elite executives’ loyalty to the party. The Security Services, the intelligence agency of the United Kingdom, has Regnum Defende, “Defend the Realm,” as its motto. They stress loyalty to the central power of the nation. The most common motto revolves around service to the national interest.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organization’s mission is “To identify and investigate threats to security and provide advice to protect Australia, its people and its interests.” The Canadian Security Intelligence Service protects the national security and citizens’ safety. The Directorate of Territorial Surveillance, the French domestic intelligence agency, stresses strict discipline when agents are out of the public eye and keeping a cool head in public.

The CIA promotes truth in its motto, “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” It is a passage from the Book of John in the Bible, and in this case, the truth means God. The United States is a Protestant-founded nation and often refers to the Bible to describe national values.

The official motto that appears on U.S. bank notes is “In God We Trust.” The CIA’s motto is relatively unknown, and on its Web site, it simply says, “The Work of a Nation, the Center of Intelligence,” focusing on the core values of national interest and intelligence.

The Korean National Intelligence Agency is eager to reinvent itself under the new administration. The current motto is “Intelligence is the National Strength,” which was created during the Kim Dae-jung administration. It is understandable that the agency wants to change it. But while it is lacking in literary taste and has not been properly practiced, the motto itself suits reality.

To an intelligence agency, the national interest is life itself, and to protect the national interest, it might have to forgo the truth. Why does the agency want to limit itself by adopting a fancy motto?


*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin
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