NIS spy agency raided in campaign smear probe

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NIS spy agency raided in campaign smear probe

The investigation into an alleged smear campaign against the opposition by the National Intelligence Service during the presidential election campaign last year took another turn Tuesday with a prosecutorial raid on an office at the agency’s headquarters in Seoul.

The search and seizure raid by the prosecutors, the first against the spy agency in eight years, came a day after former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon was summoned for a 14-hour grilling by prosecutors about his role in the spy agency’s alleged intervention in domestic politics.

A team of 25 officials from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office raided an office used by a now-disbanded NIS psychological operations bureau at the agency’s headquarters, seizing documents, computer hard disks and laptops.

During the 13-hour raid, the prosecutors emphasized that the spy agency did not volunteer to hand over information.

Skeptics have raised the possibility that evidence might already have been destroyed in the four months since the allegations against the agency were first raised last December. They also cite the fact that under the law, prosecutors are barred from obtaining confidential information from the agency without its own approval. A group of officials from the NIS has been accused of violating the agency’s political neutrality by posting a series of Internet messages critical of opposition candidate Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party before the presidential election. The prosecutors are looking into how high up the operation reached.

Meanwhile, it was reported that prosecutors have obtained the identities of Internet users who posted political messages on three major Internet portals, Naver, Daum and Nate, in the run-up to the Dec. 19 presidential election. The authorities have begun checking if any of them belonged to the now-defunct psychological operations bureau or were hired by NIS agents to conduct the smear campaign.

The Hankyoreh newspaper reported yesterday that 73 IDs with IP addresses originating from a 29-year-old female NIS worker and another civilian surnamed Lee uploaded 390 postings on an Internet forum in favor of presidential contender Park Geun-hye during the campaign.

By Kang Jin-kyu, Lee Dong-hyun []
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