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Terrorism Bill Passes Despite Uneasy NIS Past 2016-05-06 오후 5:44:00

Just two months ago, a contentious bill making its way through the South Korean National assembly led to the longest filibuster recorded in world history.

The Anti-Terrorism Bill, which eventually passed despite strong opposition and intense debate, gives the National Intelligence Service (NIS) the power to look in on people’s phone calls, conversations, and personal banking information without a warrant. They can utilize this surveillance authority if they believe someone fits their loose standard of suspicion - anyone suspected of potential terrorism related activity.

The biggest opposition to the bill is rooted in concerns about the NIS’s politically corrupt history. Going back to the 1970s and 80s, the NIS, previously named the Agency for National Security Planning, built up a troubling history of detaining and using torture techniques on political prisoners and student protesters. According to a summary report by Amnesty International, in this period at least 20 political prisoners were tortured and received unfair trials; some 5,800 students were also violently arrested and ill-treated by police.

Recently, the NIS has been at the center of new controversy, namely the Park presidency smear campaigns in 2011 to 2012. The Internet campaign created false Facebook and Twitter accounts to both criticize the opposition party and support the Saenuri Dang party. According to the Head Prosecutor in the NIS trial, they generated approximately 22 million tweets on 2270 Twitter accounts.

NIS scandals are not a thing of the past, they continue even to this day; the former NIS chief officer, Won Sei Hoon, was sentenced to three years of prison in 2013, however the case is still under appeal.

The opponents to the recent anti-terrorism bill used this long history of NIS political scandals to question whether handing such extensive powers to invade people’s privacy is a good idea.

Korean’s rights to privacy are obviously not absolute when it comes to the needs of national security; the anti-terrorism bill makes this priority very clear. However, giving such unrestrained power to the NIS may push the balance between security and privacy into a realm that citizens may never have expected.

서울국제학교 (SIS)
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