Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Fumio Ota

【#284】Japan Should Create Intelligence Agency

Fumio Ota / 2015.02.05 (Thu)

February 2, 2015

     Since the beginning of this year, radical Muslim militants have made terror attacks in Europe and caused a hostage crisis involving Japanese citizens. Through these incidents, I feel a need for Japan to have an intelligence organization that any ordinary country has.
     There are broadly four intelligence sources: HUMINT (human intelligence), SIGINT (signal intelligence), GEOINT (geospatial intelligence) and OSINT (open source intelligence). As Japan lacks a HUMINT organization, it must request other countries' cooperation whenever overseas hostage crisis involving Japanese citizens occurs.
     Intelligence activities aim to collect intelligence about others. Since other countries also try to collect intelligence about us, we must have counter-intelligence to block foreign intelligence activities. Japan lacks such a counter-intelligence organization as well.

Japan lacks HUMINT
     When we deal with a terrorist group as in the latest hostage crisis, it may be difficult to detect the group's movement through SIGINT as specialized terrorist groups usually avoid using telephone or other communication tools. Even if terrorist groups use such communication tools, we may have to have mobile SIGINT detectors and Arabic linguists. Japan lacks such capabilities as well.
     Given that terrorists stay indoors to avoid satellite or aerial surveillance, it may be difficult to collect information through GEOINT. Therefore, you must collect terrorist information through traditional HUMINT. Japan lacks a HUMINT organization like the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Britain's MI6, France's DGSE or Israel's Mossad that can conduct commando operations if necessary.
     Without such organization, Japan cannot locate hostages and conduct a rescue operation. I hope Japan sets up a HUMINT organization under direct control of the prime minister.
     The Cabinet Secretariat already has the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office. But the office analyzes mainly OSINT, falling short of conducting HUMINT. Moreover senior officials at the office are from other government agencies. The office should have its own senior officials for lifetime employment in order to lead them to become proud of their job.

Necessity of counter-intelligence organization
     Just after a terrorist attack on a newspaper company in France in January, Belgium raided a radical group to forestall its imminent terror attack. Apparently, Belgian authorities might have used wiretapping and other means to figure out and arrest the group just before the planned attack.
     Only a counter-intelligence organization can conduct such operations. This is the reason ordinary countries have specialized counter-intelligence bodies. Britain has MI5 that made wholesale arrests of terrorists for their attempted simultaneous aircraft bombings in 2006. Israel's Shin Bet security agency is also known as a counter-intelligence organization.
     In the United States, the PATRIOT Act allows authorities to monitor communications of people suspected as likely to conduct terror attacks in the country. In Japan, however, such operation is banned from the viewpoint of privacy protection. Japan should not only create a counter-intelligence organization but also enact a law for wiretapping.

Fumio Ota is a JINF Planning Committee Member and the former Director of Defense Intelligence Headquarters in Japan Defense Agency.