A senior adviser at the National Security Council (NSC) yesterday called the leak of top secret documents to the media by a National Security Bureau (NSB) member the biggest national security crisis to date.
The adviser said the publication will cripple the nation's foreign intelligence system and diplomatic projects.
The Presidential Office and the NSC have met frequently since they learned on Tuesday that some local media were planning on publishing reports on the documents and President Chen Shui-bian (
The high-ranking meetings have focused on how to diffuse factional infighting within the nation's intelligence departments and how to respond to the leak of the documents, the adviser said.
"The meeting of the task force also reached a consensus that it is appropriate for the government to take legal action against the media organizations which leaked national security secrets," the adviser said. "It has nothing to do with the suppression of press freedom."
He added that the media reports reveal a deep rift within the nation's intelligence community.
"The coverage of the NSB's top-secret documents shows that the country's intelligence system has spiraled nearly out of control and that the country is facing its biggest crisis," the adviser said.
"Therefore, the purpose of the task force is damage control, including the evaluation of all possible damage and preventing the exposure of Taiwan's foreign intelligence network."
The adviser stressed that the information publicized in the China Times and Next will hurt Taiwan's diplomatic development. He said that even more serious is the fact that they exposed the international security cooperation mechanism between Taiwan, Japan and the US.
"President Chen and the NSC are now seriously concerned that Liu might still hold many top-secret documents and are worried about whether documents that list Taiwan's agencies in China have been taken out of the NSB," the NSC member said.
"We are also worried that the international mechanism will be forced to shut down," he said.
He said that an internal NSB power struggle is behind the leak.
"It shows that the military and intelligence system have still not shifted their loyalty to the DPP government since the transfer of power in May 2000," the adviser said.
Though the China Times said that it received the documents from former NSB chief cashier Colonel Liu Kuan-chun (劉冠軍), the NSC official said there had to have been people within the NSB or other government officials who assisted Liu.
Liu is wanted for embezzlement and fled the country with a false passport in 2000.
Next magazine has not revealed its sources.