Saturday, June 18, 2011

Taiwan adopts leniency provision to address growing espionage problem

Facing an overwhelming espionage threat, Taiwan is adopting counter-intelligence measures that, at best, will only provide stopgap benefits

In the wake of the nation’s worst spy case in half a century, Taiwan’s legislature has passed an amendment to regulations that would grant lenient treatment, and in some cases pardons, to double agents who voluntarily turn themselves in.

Under existing law, spies who surrender to the authorities still face up to life imprisonment. The amendment, introduced in early June, is seen as an incentive to prevent additional damage to national security. Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), a legislator from the ruling Kuomintang who initiated the legal revision, said recent major espionage cases, such as that involving Major General Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲), had underscored the shortcomings in the existing law.

However, closer cross-strait ties are making it more difficult for counterintelligence agencies to monitor every target and possible recruits, while ambiguous mandates and intelligence turf wars are creating further opportunities for penetration by Chinese intelligence. Ongoing efforts to divorce the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST), Taiwan’s premier defence research institute, from the defence ministry — a move that could occur as early as 2012 — could also present a serious security challenge, given the interest of the Chinese intelligence apparatus in the organization behind key technologies such as the Hsiung Feng IIE cruise missile.

My article, published today in Jane’s Intelligence Weekly, continues here (subscription required).

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