Prosecutors raid cyber command

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Prosecutors raid cyber command

Military prosecutors raided the Cyber Warfare Command headquarters yesterday after the special military unit was accused of being involved in an online smear campaign against the opposition candidate in last year’s presidential election.

But the Ministry of Defense yesterday denied the allegation that four officials of the cyber unit were obeying orders from above when they posted negative comments on the Internet about Democratic presidential candidate Moon Jae-in ahead of last December’s election. They acted on their own, it said.

The National Intelligence Service is also in hot water for allegedly running an online smear campaign against Moon during the campaign on Web portals and via Twitter.

Announcing the initial results of an internal investigation, the Defense Ministry confirmed that one noncommissioned officer and three civilian employees of the cyber command’s psychological warfare unit posted negative political comments on their Twitter accounts and blogs, violating their obligation to be politically neutral.

The ministry said the Cyber Warfare Command had nothing to do with the postings and was not involved in any illegal campaign meddling.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin ordered an internal investigation of the four officials, including a former National Intelligence Service official, last week after they were accused of running an online smear campaign against Moon.

The cyber command, which was launched in 2010, also faced accusations that it received funding from the NIS, the nation’s spy agency. The Defense Ministry said the command had not received any money from the NIS.

Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said yesterday that the four cyber unit employees were “expressing their personal opinion” and “didn’t act upon [ministry] orders.”

Military prosecutors, however, launched a full-fledged investigation into the allegations and began search and seizure operations in offices of senior officials and agents of the psychological warfare team of the cyber command.

The search team seized around 10 boxes of material yesterday from the cyber command headquarters.

“We will launch a thorough and transparent investigation so that when the final results are announced there will be not a shred of doubt left in the minds of the people,” a ministry official said.

The investigation is likely to take some time, and the opposition Democratic Party is expected to continue to highlight the issue as it accuses the NIS, military and Blue House of being behind the malicious campaign against Moon.

DP lawmakers on the defense committee yesterday expressed disappointment in the initial investigation results and called it “an investigation in order to buy time to destroy evidence.”

DP spokesman Park Yong-jin said at a briefing, “The case is snowballing, but after a weeklong internal investigation the only result is [the ministry] saying, ‘It was at a personal level.’ This proves that the so-called fact-finding investigation is just a formality to conceal the truth.”


BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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