Monday, August 07, 2017

Spies are a threat to democracy

If you need any further evidence that spies are inherently a threat to democracy, just take a look at South Korea, where its chief spy agency has just admitted manipulating elections to get its preferred candidate elected:

South Korea’s spy agency has admitted it conducted an illicit campaign to influence the country’s 2012 presidential election, mobilising teams of experts in psychological warfare to ensure that the conservative candidate, Park Geun-hye, beat her liberal rival.

An internal investigation by the powerful National Intelligence Service also revealed attempts by its former director and other senior officials to influence voters during parliamentary elections under Park’s predecessor, the hardline rightwinger Lee Myung-bak.


The NIS’s in-house investigation found that its cyberwarfare unit formed as many as 30 “extra-departmental” teams comprising officials and internet-savvy citizens to upload posts in support of conservative politicians for two years in the run-up to the 2012 presidential vote.

“The teams were charged with spreading pro-government opinions and suppressing anti-government views, branding them as attempts by pro-North Korean forces to disrupt state affairs,” the NIS report said.

The NIS's 2012 candidate was eventually forced from office and is now standing trial on corruption and abuse of power charges. The NIS director at the time is also currently standing trial, and faces four years in prison if convicted.

The fundamental problem here is a conflation of domestic politics with enemy action, and the interests of the spies with the interests of the state. Secretive agencies are prone to such problems, and the problem is that we'll never find out that they've done it until its too late. For safe, peaceful countries, its is safer then not to have such agencies at all, lest they get tempted...