The special investigation into NIS electioneering has taken yet another twist. The senior prosecutor in the Office of the Prosecutor has dismissed Yoon Seok-yeol, the chief prosecutor of the special investigation team looking into the National Intelligence Service’s (NIS) alleged interference in the 2012 presidential election. This came shortly after the prosecutor arrested three NIS agents that were implicated in an attempt to unduly influence the last presidential election by using over 400 twitter accounts (cite). There seems to be more concern that the NIS electioneering activity was far more extensive than originally thought:
. . . According to opposition officials, Yoon’s team suspected that the NIS under its former head Won Sei-hoon disseminated over 50,000 online comments on Twitter and other social network services to support the then ruling Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye. (cite)
After Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook was basically forced to quit by the libelous drive-by character assassination of the Chosun-Ilbo, the prosecutor that took over investigation of the NIS decided to proceed with the arrest and questioning of the NIS agents without the prior approval of his superior:
. . . the chief investigator (Yoon) did not trust the top brass when he decided to ignore the standard operating procedure (and arrest the NIS agents without telling his superior). Instead, he may have believed they would thwart his investigation into the spy agency’s alleged online smear campaign if he reported his plan to widen the investigation and arrest the three NIS officials. Their alleged use of Twitter in the campaign against the opposition candidate was a new finding from the investigation that had started several months before, but a news report (?) claimed that he did report his plan to a senior prosecutor in the line of command, and that he decided to take action on his own when the senior prosecutor continued to sit on his proposal to arrest the NIS officials. The chief investigator put his career as a prosecutor on the line when he decided to arrest the officials without obtaining official approval. If past experience is any guide, it seems to be a matter of time before he is pressured to resign as a prosecutor. (cite)
Kim Han-Gil Chairman of the Democratic Party has another theory why Yoon arrested the NIS agents without giving notice first:
. . . “Yoon believed that the NIS officials would destroy evidence if he gave prior notice to the agency, which sounds reasonable,” said Rep. Kim Han-gil, the DP chairman. “The Park government seems to be doing everything to cover up the truth.” (cite)
There is now concern that the Cyber Warfare Command – run by South Korean military – also engaged in pro-Saenuri Dang posting in an attempt to smear the DP candidate (cite).
You will notice the lack of Chosun Ilbo links on this matter as well because there are none. (update: now there is one after this thread was posted).
As per the JoongAng Ilbo today, this quote:
. . . “I told him that he must follow the legal procedure,” said Jo Yeong-gon, head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and Yun’s supervisor. . .“but he refused to do so and told me, ‘The Justice Ministry would never allow me to do that.’” (from phone interview)
The NIS protested the arrest of its agents to the prosecution. Yun finally released the three at about 9 p.m. on the day of the arrest, and was dismissed from his position as leader of the probe the following day.
“If a prosecutor ignores the procedures of notification to superiors, he could arrest whomever he wanted,” said Lee Jin-han, a senior prosecutor at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. (cite)
Right . . .
The JoongAng Ilbo writes of Yoon’s motivations in not following strict procedure by warning suspects (NIS) that need to destroy evidence quickly before they are raided:
. . . Although Yun had an arrest warrant issued by a local court on Oct. 16, he apparently should have reported his arrest plan in advance to his superiors, the justice minister and the head of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. Under the current law, arrests of spy agency officials require that additional step, which Yun did not take, however, Yun claimed at the hearing yesterday that he did follow appropriate internal steps, alerting his superior, Jo Yeong-gon, the head of the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office, of his plans.
“On Oct. 15, I visited [Jo’s house],” Yun said during his testimony. “I brought my report on the investigation and briefed [him on my plans].” Jo, who also testified at the hearing, denied that it was an official notification and claimed Yun authorized the arrests himself. “We just had a casual, private conversation,” Jo said. “It was not an official notification. We were just having dinner, [and then] Yun suddenly showed me his report. I just told him to ‘review’ the report and returned it.”
Yun went on to say that his investigation was under pressure from the beginning.“At the beginning of this investigation, I had [a lot of] trouble because of external pressure,” Yun refuted, without mentioning the parties responsible. When lawmakers asked whether Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-an was one of the people who exerted pressure on his investigation, Yun replied, “I think he was.” Yun also argued that Jo dissuaded him from arresting the NIS officials because he was afraid of being criticized by the ruling party (cite).
So what does it mean when even “talented” prosecutors feel they need to resort to unusual methods to do their job?
The Cyber Warfare Command (part of the South Korean military) appears to have been involved in the same twitter-gate activities, at the same time:
Democratic Party Representative Jin Sung-joon said yesterday in an MBC radio interview that his party had obtained additional evidence regarding the postings by the cyber unit officials, which he said the party will release if the military’s investigation proves inadequate.
“What has been revealed is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Jin. “The investigation will show that this is an organized incident,” he added, rather than individuals acting on their own to make political posts. “We have many materials to support this.” He claimed the DP’s evidence shows that the Cyber Command agents also “re-tweeted comments posted by the NIS agents.” (cite)
Meanwhile, all this talk of accountability and due process of law has fallen upon deaf ears since accountability could possibly threaten other things:
We have [been continually hovering] over the issue of the presidential election,” Saenuri Chairman Hwang Woo-yea, said. “We can’t do this anymore. We should move on to the politics for state affairs.”
Choe Sang-hun has added a related article, in the NY Times, about the Prosecutor’s Office raiding the South Korea’s Cyberwarfare Command on Tuesday due to four of its officials having posted political messages online last year:
Last week, opposition lawmakers alleged in the National Assembly that the military’s secretive Cyberwarfare Command had carried out a similar online campaign, separately or in coordination with the spy agency, to help sway public opinion in favor of Ms. Park before the Dec. 19 election. The Defense Ministry, On Tuesday, confirmed that four cyberwarfare officials had posted political messages, but it quoted them as saying they had acted on their own.
Of prosecutor Yoon, Choe notes that:
. . . Mr. Yoon was removed from the investigation last week after his team detained three intelligence agents and searched their homes. He said his team had collected more evidence of the spy agency’s online campaign: 55,700 messages, posted or reposted by intelligence agents, that praised Ms. Park or disparaged her opposition rivals ahead of the December election. One of them called Mr. Moon, the main opposition candidate, a “servant” of North Korea and Ahn Cheol-soo, an independent who supported Mr. Moon, “a woman in men’s clothes.”
As with Prosecutor General Chae, it seems that libel is an operational tactic for today’s leading political party, meanwhile Cho Young-Kon, head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, yesterday submitted a request to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to investigate him after a junior prosecutor who worked for him (Yoon) dropped the bombshell revelation about the investigation of the National Intelligence Service’s alleged online smear campaign against the losing candidate in last December’s election. (cite)
How can there ever be an investigation, such as this, if the very parties that are under investigation are in control of the government!? As said one senior prosecutor about this conflict of interest, “When an issue is politically sensitive, the leader of an investigation always clashes with a high-ranking prosecutor who cares about its political impact,” (cite)