Spy agency under attack

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Spy agency under attack

The prosecution is expected to kick off an investigation into the National Intelligence Service’s (NIS) alleged snooping on private citizens’ mobile devices. The Central District Prosecutors’ Office will soon name a department to probe into accusations lodged by the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy. The prosecution is considering the idea of dispatching a special investigation team, composed of prosecutors in charge of high-tech crimes, to the public security department of the law enforcement agency.

The prosecution originally planned to investigate the wiretapping fiasco only if the National Assembly found criminal activity in the hacking of communications among civilians. But the prosecution has decided to deal with the case after the opposition filed a complaint.

The prosecution’s investigation of the spy agency will be the third during the Park Geun-hye administration, following one in 2013 into the NIS’s controversial postings of pro-Park messages on the Internet during the 2012 presidential election and another one in March last year involving the spy agency’s attempt to fabricate evidence on a Seoul city official’s history of pro-North Korean activities. The prosecution’s once-a-year investigations of the NIS have disgraced the top spy agency.

The core of the issue is whether the NIS tried to look into the lives of average citizens through hacking programs. The spy agency insisted that it used the program for national security only. A fact-finding effort by the National Assembly, particularly the Intelligence Committee, is better than an investigation by the prosecution because a prosecution investigation is not a cure-all when our national security is at stake.

Given the sensitivity involved, the prosecution is not likely to push forward an investigation immediately. The charges filed by the opposition are no more than suspicions. In fact, no victim has come forward yet. If the prosecution raids the spy agency again against such a backdrop, it could be drawn into a serious political battle.

The public hopes to see the truth behind the charges of tapping citizens’ mobile conversations when the agency reports what it has been doing at an informal Intelligence Committee hearing starting on Monday. But if the NIS doesn’t provide enough information on its activities, the legislature’s fact-finding mission could stop short of the people’s expectations. In that case, the prosecution must prepare for a full-fledged investigation so that this case does not turn into a mystery.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 27, Page 34

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