Cop blows whistle, stirs up NIS campaign case

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Cop blows whistle, stirs up NIS campaign case

Suspicions that the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency went easy on its investigation of the National Intelligence Service’s meddling in the December presidential election have grown after a detective who headed the case said pressure came from up above.

Revelations by Kwon Eun-hee, who was the lead detective on the case when it began in December, prompted the major opposition Democratic United Party to demand a new and more through probe.

On Friday, Kwon, who now works at the Songpa Police Precinct, said pressure was felt by the Suseo Police Precinct from up above.

“After the DUP submitted a complaint to the Suseo precinct, the Seoul police agency constantly intervened in the probe,” the female detective was quoted as saying by Yonhap Friday.

The DUP said the NIS operated a systematic cyberspace campaign to damage candidate Moon Jae-in while helping then-Saenuri Party contender Park Geun-hye. A 29-year-old female worker identified as Kim and another 39-year-old NIS worker identified as Lee were investigated on charges of posting political comments on the Internet to influence the presidential election.

Kwon said investigators at the Suseo precinct requested the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency to “analyze 78 keywords” associated with Kim’s Internet postings. The Seoul police agency analyzed only four keywords and abruptly held a press briefing to announce its interim probe results only three days ahead of the Dec. 19 election, clearing the accused NIS official of the alleged charge.

“We felt tricked [by the agency] and were speechless [when the interim results came out],” Kwon said.

The detective said yesterday during a meeting with reporters at the Songpa Police Precinct the most problematic aspect was the fact that the Seoul police agency announced the interim probe results, which it was not entitled to do.

“The Suseo Police Precinct is the entity that leads and concludes the investigation while the Seoul police agency is the one to analyze the data requested by the precinct,” said Kwon during a press briefing yesterday at the Songpa Precinct, Songpa District in southern Seoul.

“The Seoul police agency is not the force responsible for the case.”

Kwon, a former chief detective at the Suseo precinct, was transferred to the Songpa precinct in February.

Kwon’s revelation Friday came a day after the Suseo Police Precinct concluded its investigation into the case. It said two NIS officials had violated the law governing the main spy agency by intervening in domestic politics ahead of the presidential election and passed the case to the prosecution Thursday. But it cleared them of charges of violating the election law.

Kwon has been supported by other police officers who say they have experienced similar pressure from upper level officials.

“With Kwon’s revelation as momentum, we must reform current practices of internal intervention by superior officials [to meddle in ongoing investigations],” said detective Yang Young-jin at the Dongbu Police Precinct in Masan, South Gyeongsang, on his Facebook page.

The DUP has demanded a thorough investigation into the case.

“The newly appointed police commissioner, Lee Sung-han, must get to the bottom of the case with the honor of the police at stake,” said the DUP’s interim leader Moon Hee-sang at a meeting of the party’s lawmakers at the National Assembly yesterday.

Meanwhile, Lee left open the possibility yesterday that the 39-year-old whistleblower Kwon could face “an internal inspection” if she is found to have “exaggerated or distorted” facts in her claim.


By Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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