NIS reform will empower police

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NIS reform will empower police

Amid a major overhaul of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the spy agency’s anti-communist investigation powers may be revoked and transferred to police, which could draw backlash from opposition parties.

Jung Hae-gu, a social science professor of SungKongHoe University, who heads a committee to reform the NIS, told the JoongAng Ilbo Wednesday that two NIS bureaus that have been involved in gathering intelligence domestically will be scrapped within the week.

“After cutting out IOs [intelligence officers], which have been the arms and legs in illegal political interference practices,” he said, “two bureaus that have analyzed and collected domestic intelligence will be scrapped within this week.”

Jung did not name these two bureaus, but he said that their agents will undergo re-training and be transferred to different departments, such as one analyzing overseas intelligence.

“The NIS reform plan will soon be confirmed,” said Jung. He indicated that a major reshuffling of personnel under this reform plan will take place in August.

Jung was named to head the eight-member committee to reform the spy agency, which launched on June 19 and is comprised of civilian experts and former and current NIS officials.

This committee set up task forces to deal with investigating the NIS’s illegal involvement in domestic politics and overseeing its organizational reform.

On June 1, newly inaugurated NIS Director Suh Hoon ordered a ban on domestic intelligence operations gathering information on government branches, media and other organizations.

President Moon Jae-in previously vowed to reform the NIS and put an end to its meddling in domestic politics, and the NIS said on July 11 it would reinvestigate 13 of its past domestic political interference operations as part of a campaign to clean up its act.

Jung said NIS investigators are currently reviewing them and that “the cases will be investigated one-by-one, starting with the relatively simple ones, and the results will be announced before the end of the year.” While Moon has vowed to end the NIS’s collecting of domestic intelligence, Jung clarified that the agency will retain its authority to secure domestic security intelligence, such as that related to espionage or terrorism.

This is in accordance with the current National Intelligence Service Act’s Article 3, which stipulates that the NIS’ duties include collecting domestic security intelligence ? related to communism, government subversion, espionage, terrorism and international criminal syndicates - as well as foreign intelligence.

Jung said, “The NIS has until now been collecting domestic [political] information, which is unrelated to domestic security intelligence, and President Moon has ordered for the scrapping of such illegal attaining of information.”

Thus, he said this is not going back on Moon’s campaign pledge.

Jung said that the regulation on attaining domestic security intelligence is too ambiguous, however, and was been misused to illegally target civilians and politicians in the past.

He added that the authority to investigate communism will be “transferred to the police,” keeping with Moon’s campaign pledge. “An amendment to the law transferring such authority to the police will be submitted to the National Assembly this year.”

But such a transfer in investigative authority is drawing concern from opposition lawmakers.

BY KIM HYOUNG-GU, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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