Watchdog warns Lee office over civilian surveillance
Published : 2013-02-07 21:15
Updated : 2013-02-07 21:15
The national human rights watchdog advised President Lee Myung-bak Thursday to take steps to reassure the public they will not be illegally spied on, an activity the government was accused of conducting early on in his term.
It is the first time the National Human Rights Commission has made a recommendation to the president since its founding in November 2001.
“It is necessary for the government to clearly state the measures it will take against (the illegal surveillance of civilians) so that presidents, as heads of the government, can prevent similar incidents in the future,” a commission official said on the customary condition of anonymity.
Illegal spying on civilians who were critical of the government took place on a wide scale over an extended period of time, even during previous administrations, the official said.
However, he added that the commission was unable to verify whether Lee had been aware of the illegal spying that took place in his own government.
The allegations of illegal surveillance center on suspicions that an anti-corruption team under the Prime Minister’s Office recklessly collected information on not only government officials, but also civilians considered critical of the government, such as labor union leaders and reporters at unfriendly media firms.
Prosecutors twice investigated the allegations and indicted a number of government officials for their alleged involvement in the operations. Suspicions still linger over whether the presidential office was also involved.
The commission’s inquiry revealed that the information collected from the surveillance operations was reported to the presidential office, but it remains unclear whether the office informed the president and to what extent the office was involved in the operations, according to another commission official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The commission said its inquiry was based on interviews with more than 50 civilian victims of the surveillance operations and dozens of officials suspected of having carried them out, including some at the presidential office.
The commission’s recommendations must be accepted or rejected within 90 days of their issuance, but they are not binding.