The Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau has been pushing for a security act, which has led to a discussion about the bureau’s focus. At this critical time, the bureau is trying to redefine its function. If a security act is passed, the bureau could direct or even take over national security, placing it in a role filled by the National Security Bureau (NSB) before its functions were legally regulated. The Investigation Bureau would be above all government agencies, as a security act would give it special investigative powers placing it above prosecutors and perhaps making it untouchable.
The Investigation Bureau has acted as an intelligence and counterintelligence agency, and under NSB leadership it carried out political investigations and prevention functions with military intelligence agencies, Taiwan Garrison Command and others.
After martial law was lifted, the Garrison Command was abolished, followed by the regulation of the NSB and the gradual weakening of intelligence agencies’ duties. During this time, the Investigation Bureau’s intelligence and counterintelligence duties were also diminished, but not abolished, nor was it integrated into a government bureaucracy like the NSB, because the Investigation Bureau was also tasked with eliminating corruption, drugs and financial crimes.
At about the same time as the establishment of the civil service ethics offices, ethics officers and investigators frequently changed between the agencies. Before the Agency Against Corruption was established, the Investigation Bureau was the main agency working against corruption, and the ethics office cooperated with their efforts. The Investigation Bureau was politically favored and trusted, but as times have changed, it is no longer tasked with these duties.
Given this, it is understandable that the Investigation Bureau would want to return to “the good old days.” However, this would not be as simple as it once was: Taiwan is a democratic society built on the free flow of information.
If the security act is passed, the Investigation Bureau would become powerful and supervisory mechanisms would need to be rebuilt, which could result in imbalances.
Judging by the organization, the expertise of investigators, the generous subsidies for judicial personnel and the flexible nature of the job, there are great possibilities. If the Investigation Bureau returns to its old ways, it would not enjoy public support and there might even be people within the bureau who are unwilling to support it. This is why it would be better for the bureau to focus on drug and financial criminal activities. If illicit drugs continue to be distributed unchecked, it will shake the nation.
News that personnel at the Ching Chuan Kang Air Base in Taichung tested positive for drugs made headlines for several days, but the government has yet to issue a statement. This is because Taiwan does not have a dedicated agency working against illicit drug crimes.
Although the Investigation Bureau works against drug activities, the role is not regarded as important by top government officials.
Premier Lin Chuan (林全) has talked more than once about the seriousness of corporate corruption, but the Investigation Bureau has not taken on that responsibility. If a fight against drugs and corporate corruption becomes its focus, and if it worked hard with the support of all ministries, it would soon build a positive image, and that would be in the public interest.
Yang Yung-nane is a professor in the political science department and the Graduate Institute of Political Economy at National Cheng Kung University.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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