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Ahn requests access to NIS hacking software

The main opposition party’s Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo on Tuesday said he would request extensive information on the hacking software that had sparked public debate as to whether the nation’s intelligence agency used it to spy on its own people.

The former CEO of an antivirus software company said in a press conference that he would formally ask the National Intelligence Service to submit some 30 documents, including all log files of the Remote Control System, software that has the capability to tap into mobile phones.

“All information will remain in log files, including whether the computer in question hacked the target device and what was hacked,” Ahn said. He added that by analyzing the log files they would be able to find out the owner of the target device, which would shed light on whether any civilians were hacked or not.

Ahn’s plans came amid an intensifying scuffle between the rival parties over the scandal.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy repeated its calls for a parliamentary hearing into the NIS, while the ruling Saenuri Party dismissed the call as a politically-motivated attempt.

“Lawmakers have a duty to get to the bottom of the wiretapping allegation,” said NAPD floor leader Rep. Lee Jong-kul. “The NIS must come out and accept a parliamentary hearing if they think they have never been involved with spying on civilians,” said Lee. 

NPAD Rep. Lee Jong-kul (left) and NPAD Rep. Shin Kyoung-min. (Yonhap)
NPAD Rep. Lee Jong-kul (left) and NPAD Rep. Shin Kyoung-min. (Yonhap)

But the ruling Saenuri party refused, urging the NAPD to stop inflating allegations, dismissing them as groundless. The ruling party asserted than the NIS had already given a plausible explanation on the wiretapping charges.

Last week, NIS issued a rare public statement and denied the allegation that the agency had bugged civilians. In the statement, the agency said it never conducted surveillance operations against civilians and groundless allegations would compromise national security.

“The NIS came forward and gave us a full explanation. As I understand, the NPAD should appreciate and acknowledge the agency’s attempt to explain itself. I think it is truly courageous,” said Rep. Cho Won-jin of the Saenuri Party.

The wiretapping allegations surfaced when emails between suspected NIS agents and Italian software firm Hacking Team were leaked by unidentified hackers earlier this month. The email showed that the NIS had purchased hacking software with wiretapping capabilities.

The NIS asserted that the software was never used for the surveillance of South Korean citizens, though it admitted it bought it in 2012. The agency pointed out that it used the program to enhance cyber warfare capabilities against North Korea.

The explanation, however, was met with public skepticism due to the spy agency’s alleged meddling in the 2012 presidential elections. The NIS was accused of conducting a smear campaign against opposition candidate Moon Jae-in. The NPAD claimed that the NIS helped Moon’s rival, now-President Park Geun-hye, win the election.

The public distrust only worsened after last week’s apparent suicide of an NIS agent suspected to have been involved in the agency’s deals with Hacking Team. He left a suicide note that said the NIS had not wiretapped ordinary citizens.

(jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)



By Yeo Jun-suk (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)
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