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Military faces backlash over probe into cyber command

Military faces backlash over probe into cyber command

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Published : 2013-12-23 20:18
Updated : 2013-12-23 20:18

Opposition lawmakers accused the military Monday of trying to cover up more pervasive election meddling in last year's presidential poll by purposely carrying out a shoddy investigation into an alleged online smear campaign by the cyber warfare command.

The defense ministry last week announced that military prosecutors will indict the director of the psychological warfare unit and 10 other cyber warfare officials for posting political writings in connection with last year's presidential election. But it concluded the former and present chiefs of the cyber command as well as the defense minister were not involved.

The politically sensitive issue dominated Monday's parliamentary defense committee meeting as the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) questioned the transparency of the military's ongoing investigation and called for a special investigation by an independent counsel.

"As soon as the case broke out, military investigators should have started probe, but they were belatedly forced to do so. The lackluster investigation result had been expected from then on," DP lawmaker Ahn Kyu-baek said. "To leave no sanctuary in the case, a special prosecutor should be designated to investigate."

Another DP lawmaker, Kim Jae-yun, said the ongoing investigation is only targeting lower-level officials who posted political messages in cyber space, ignoring those who masterminded the online smear campaign ahead of last December's presidential election.

"How can a psychological warfare unit director order his subordinates to post political writings without an order from his boss in the hierarchical military command system?" Kim said. "The investigation left the main body alone."

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin acknowledged that some cyber warfare officials violated their obligation to stay neutral while conducting their psychological warfare operations, while denying any systematic involvement in the online smear campaign against the opposition camp.

When asked about the cyber command's connection with the state spy agency, also at the center of the election meddling scandal, Kim said the military investigation team will clarify allegations by analyzing confiscated data and computer files. He did not elaborate on the ongoing investigation.

In light of the latest incident, the defense chief vowed to reform the scandal-ridden cyber command to better guard against North Korean cyber attacks, its core mission.

"It is true that North Korea is launching cyber attacks against the South every day," Kim said. "We will make efforts to have best-performing cyber warfare officials as soon as possible and increase the staff to prepare cyber warfare." (Yonhap News)

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