Intelligence Reforms: Time for a Japanese James Bond

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/11/2019 - 9:37am in

Published in Japan Forward 29/11/2019

In Ian Fleming’s novel You Only Live Twice, the Japanese Secret Service is a formidable organization. Directed by Tiger Tanaka, an ex-kamikaze volunteer with a first-class degree from Oxford University, and headquartered, memorably, in a disused subway station, it appears at least the equal of its British equivalent.

As M. explains to James Bond, “they’ve built incredible cracking machines, far ahead of I.B.M…. for the last year they’ve been reading the cream of the Soviet traffic from Vladivostok and Oriental Russia – diplomatic, naval, air-force, the lot..”

Bond is sent to Japan is to arrange an intelligence swap – access to the output of Japan’s code-cracking machines in exchange for the “top-grade” information gathered by MI6’s station in Macau.

Unfortunately, no swap is possible. Whereas Tiger gives Bond vital intelligence about an imminent Soviet plan to nuclear-blackmail Britain, the Macau material has no value to the Japanese – they penetrated MI6’s China network right from its inception.tanaka5

In 1964, when the novel was published, Japan had no such capability, as Fleming, a wartime spy who retained many contacts in the secret world, would have been well aware. His exaggeration of Japanese strength reflected what he saw as British intelligence’s collapse in credibility after the betrayal of the Cambridge spies and, particularly, the defection of MI6 veteran Kim Philby (“Prendergast” in the novel) in 1963.

Yet Fleming would also have remembered the fearsome reputation of Japan’s wartime and pre-war intelligence arms, stretching back into the late nineteenth century.

As Richard Samuels of  the Massachussets Institute of Technology writes in  Special Duty: A History of the Japanese Intelligence Community,  Japanese agents were charged with “destabilizing Imperial Russia, supporting coups d’état in Korea, assassinating warlords, exfiltrating a Chinese Emperor, practicing espionage in Latin America and on the West Coast of the United States, and nurturing nationalist resistance movements in colonial South and Southeast Asia.”

Freewheeling, wide-ranging and highly creative, Japan’s intelligence personnel were quick to exploit the latest technology of the times. In the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, they made use of aerial reconnaissance balloons and set up a SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) unit that broke Russian codes, thus anticipating the performance of Tiger Tanaka’s “MAGIC 44” machine.

The creator of James Bond would surely have appreciated the exploits of Motojiro Akashi, a pioneer of covert action. Akashi stirred up trouble in Tsarist Russia before and during the Russo-Japanese war, setting up an espionage network in major European cities, smuggling arms to Finnish nationalists, financing riots and rebellions in Odessa, Kiev and other major Russian cities, as well as anti-Russian propaganda by the likes of Anatole France.

According to Samuels, one of his contacts might have been the young Vladimir Lenin. Akashi also ran operations across the Asian continent, from Siberia to Manchuria and China.

Fleming was a man of powerful imagination and a firm believer in enduring national characteristics. He has Australian agent “Dikko” Henderson say of all great nations, “it’s their bones that matter, not their lying faces,… And time means nothing for them too. Ten years is the blink of a star.” So as well as looking into the past, Fleming could have found inspiration by speculating about future developments in Japan, when what Tiger Tanaka describes as “the usual transition period of the vanquished” is over.


For most of Japan’s long post-war era, which can only be said to have ended in the current decade with the second Abe administration, its intelligence capabilities were crippled by a combination of engrained pacifist sentiment amongst the public and territorial squabbling between the small, poorly provisioned agencies responsible for collection and analysis.

As Samuels’ comprehensive overview makes clear, Japan suffered spectacular intelligence disasters too. Possibly the most embarrassing was former KGB agent Stanislav Levchenko’s testimony before Congress after his defection in 1979. While stationed in Japan, Levchenko ran a network of informants that, he claimed, included a former LDP Minister of Labour, more than ten leading figures in the Japan Socialist Party, two Foreign Ministry officials who provided him with secret diplomatic cables and many cypher clerks and lower ranking functionaries who were snared in “honey traps”, as well as various academics and journalists whom he paid for high-level political information.

Not for nothing was Japan known as “a paradise for spies.” The legal retribution for being caught was a trivial to non-existent. When Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone tried to bring in a tough State Secrets Act in 1985, the uproar forced him to back down, just as another popular conservative leader, Shigeru Yoshida, had had to do in 1953. As Samuels points out, the Japanese public was sensitized to the memory of war-time repression and saw any step to normalize intelligence work as a potential “slippery slope.”

Well into the 1990s, Japan’s intelligence functions remained in a state of atrophy, to the extent that software developed by the psychopathic Aum Shinrikyo cult was installed in 100 private firms, the Ministry of Defense and a dozen other government bodies. More embarrassment came in 2007 when operational data from the Aegis missile defence system was found in the home of an uncleared Maritime Self Defense Force member married to a mainland Chinese citizen residing illegally in Japan.


Fortunately, the story does have a happy ending. When Shinzo Abe returned to the Prime Minister’s office in late 2012, the proponents of intelligence reform at last had a highly determined sympathizer in power with strong public support. As Samuels reports, Abe expended a great deal of political capital in passing the State Secrets Law, succeeding where his respected predecessors, Shigeru Yoshida and Yasuhiro Nakasone, had failed. In building support Abe had to compromise in the direction of increased political oversight, a step that Samuels considers essential to win public backing for an active and properly resourced intelligence community.

The State Secrets Law was the most controversial, but by no means the most important of the intelligence reforms that Abe introduced. A whole new infrastructure was put in place, topped by a centrally co-ordinated National Security Council supported by a National Security Secretariat. Budgets and personnel were massively increased. Previously next-to-non-existent cyber warfare defence capabilities became a high priority, and the self-imposed limitation of “the peaceful use of space” was scrapped.

What happened to the slippery slope? The answer is that that the strategic landscape has changed radically and the Japanese public has been worn down by the provocations of North Korea and the brazen expansionism of China. Meanwhile, the old “master-servant” (shuju) relationship with the U.S. is no longer viable. Japan has the difficult job of simultaneously strengthening the alliance with the U.S. through a more active contribution and hedging against its demise. Greatly enhanced intelligence capability serves both purposes.

Generational change is also critical. Polls show that pacifist sentiment is highest in the most aged ranks of Japanese society, whilst young people are the strongest supporters of the Abe line.

So what’s next? Abe has been careful not to move too far ahead of his public, rejecting proposals from within his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to establish a full-spectrum Japanese CIA. But as Samuels suggests in his book’s conclusion, “covert action remains a risky, but not unlikely next frontier for Japanese intelligence reform.”

Tiger Tanaka would be pleased to hear that. Ian Fleming would have expected it.





Stacey Abrams Takes a Big Step Forward to Combat Georgia’s Massive Voter Purges

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/11/2019 - 7:36am in



Stacey Abrams has teamed up with veteran investigative reporter and voting rights advocate Greg Palast in order to help her ongoing lawsuit over voters who were purged from Georgia’s voting rolls in the months before the 2018 midterm elections.

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Stacey Abrams Hires Palast Investigations Teamfor Massive Federal Suit to Restore Voting Rights

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/11/2019 - 3:36pm in

Stacey Abrams’ non-profit Fair Fight has retained the Palast Investigations team experts to provide court testimony. How refreshing. I’ve been exposing Jim Crow vote trickery for 20 years but this will be the first time an official, intent on justice, has taken my evidence into a courtroom.

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When I got the evidence behind Roger Stone’s witness tampering conviction

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/11/2019 - 6:11am in



I remember the morning when the key witness in the Roger Stone trial, Randy Credico, sent me the violent and threatening note he just received from Roger Stone. Other threats followed. I told Randy, “Stop protecting this guy. Roger is

The post When I got the evidence behind Roger Stone’s witness tampering conviction appeared first on Greg Palast.

Roger Stone Trial: Randy Credico for the Prosecution

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/11/2019 - 11:24pm in



The key witness for the prosecution in the Roger Stone trial is my friend, comic and journalist Randy Credico. I’ve been in constant contact with Credico for three years as Stone tried to bully him into perjury. Here’s just one threat to dissuade Credico from

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End PG&E’s Reign of Error With a Hostile Takeover

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/11/2019 - 9:42pm in

Power companies have two jobs: Keep the lights on and don’t kill your customers. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. of Northern California flunks on both counts. So how can California put an end to PG&E’s reign of

The post End PG&E’s Reign of Error With a Hostile Takeover appeared first on Greg Palast.

Can Japan Become the Sixth Eye?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/11/2019 - 5:15pm in

Published in the Nikkei Asian Review 26/10/2019

Some foreign investors are in a tizzy – and understandably so. The Japanese government is in the process of introducing new regulations that could potentially make life difficult for the activist funds who have been the shock troops of Japan’s corporate governance reforms. Specifically, investors will be required to ask permission from the authorities if they intend to buy more than 1% of the stock of a strategically sensitive company.

This is a considerably greater obstacle than the previous trigger level of 10%. Ordinary portfolio investors are exempt, it seems, but only if they do not intend to influence company management. These days, though, many fund managers are expected, and sometimes required, to put constructive pressure on managements under the prevailing codes of ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance). For activist investors, pushing and coaxing managements to create more shareholder value is their business model. If that is no longer possible, they might as well pick up their football and find somewhere else to play.

The definition of “strategically sensitive” is also fuzzy. It appears to include agricultural products. Would that mean giving protected status to, for example, food companies? That is what the French government did in 2005 when blocking PepsiCo’s takeover of yogurt maker Danone, described as “an industrial jewel” by French Prime Minister Dominique De Villepin.

Despite these unhelpful ambiguities, the original purpose of the Japanese legislation was not to roll back governance reforms and discourage foreign investors. After all, the revival of the Japanese equity culture has been a crucial and successful element in Prime Minister Abe’s programme of economic and national revival – to the extent that in 2013 he exhorted investors at the New York Stock Exchange to “buy my Abenomics.”

In all likelihood, what senior Japanese politicians and bureaucrats had in mind was the need to protect critical national assets from purchase by unfriendly states, specifically China. For many years, Japan has been aspiring to full membership of the “Five Eyes” the oldest and most successful intelligence gathering and sharing community in the world. Made up of the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it has its roots in Anglo-American intelligence co-operation in World War Two.

What stands in the way of Japan becoming the Sixth Eye, according to Arthur Herman of the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, is lack of confidence in its industrial security. The controversial State Secrets Law, which the Abe administration passed in 2013 in the teeth of street protests, was likewise intended to reassure allies that Japan’s had sufficient legal infrastructure in place to be trusted with sensitive information.

In the context of a new Asia-focused Cold War centred on trade and tech, the idea that capital should flow across borders unimpeded and unmonitored is strictly for the birds. Japan’s problem is that it is attempting to establish a set of legal criteria to decide what is acceptable and what is not. The result has been ham-fisted, to say the least. For such decisions can only be made through judgement – and judgement formed from reliable intelligence.

This is the approach that the United States has taken with “CFIUS,” The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which requires all foreign acquirers to register their deals. A recent example is SoftBank’s purchase of an 80% stake in WeWork. Presumably that will go through without a hitch, as with the overwhelming majority of cases. However, CFIUS can also impose stringent conditions on a purchase, as it did with SoftBank’s acquisitions of Sprint (no Huawei equipment allowed) and private equity group Fortress (no involvement in investment decisions).

CFIUS started life in the mid-1970s, but only became a politically significant actor in the US-China confrontation when the Obama administration blocked two foreign companies, one German and one Dutch, from selling off high-tech US assets to Chinese buyers. It sits under the aegis of the Treasury Department, but is effectively a secretive star chamber that exists, like the intelligence services, outside the standard procedures of the civil law. The members are high-ranking administration officials. Their findings are not disclosed. Potential acquirers and acquirees have no role in the process and cannot appeal.

Recently, CFIUS has been beefed up by the Trump administration’s Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (“FIRRMA”), which extends its remit to real estate transactions and minority stakes. According to law firm Mayer Brown, the emphasis is on “TID businesses”, meaning those involved in Technology, Infrastructure and Data. What CFIUS does not do is concern itself with tiny stakes in companies or get in the way of foreign activist investors.

Japan’s cabinet has approved the bill as is, but plans to remedy the obvious flaws by ministerial ordinances, which will likely be aimed at reassuring fund managers that they have nothing to fear. It would better still to scrap the whole thing, revert to the pre-existing ceiling of 10% – stakes lower than that have little significance anyway – and set up a Japanese equivalent of CFIUS.  Purchases of real estate, forestry and other resources, as well as private equity investments should come under its purview too. Most important of all, it should operate by judgement and understand the difference between friends and foes.

Dayton mass shooting tribute by hip-hop artist who lost cousinJevin Lamar’s "Still Holding On"

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/11/2019 - 6:00pm in

Hip Hop artist Jevin Lamar’s cousin Tee Jay McNichols was killed in the Dayton, Ohio mass shooting. As a tribute, Jevin has created an extraordinary track, “Still Holding On”. The heartfelt lyrics explore the economic devastation of Dayton that served as

The post Dayton mass shooting tribute by hip-hop artist who lost cousin<div id='sec-title'><small>Jevin Lamar’s "Still Holding On"</small></div> appeared first on Greg Palast.

Damage Report: The nexus of voter theft, race and gun violencefeaturing Jevin Lamar’s new track, “Still Holding On”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/11/2019 - 4:15pm in

In this edition of Damage Report, host John Iadarola and investigative reporter Greg Palast discuss vote theft and how it intersects with social issues such as homelessness and mass shootings. They also premiere a video by hip hop artist Jevin Lamar, whose cousin, Tee Jay McNichols, was

The post Damage Report: The nexus of voter theft, race and gun violence<div id='sec-title'><small>featuring Jevin Lamar’s new track, “Still Holding On”</small></div> appeared first on Greg Palast.

How to End PG&E’s Reign of Error

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/11/2019 - 6:19am in



Currently, the only thing "public" about this "public utility" are the bills the public pays and the charred homes and bodies this bankrupt beast leaves behind. The answer: make this so-called "public utility" into a true public system — a customer-owned power cooperative. Here's how, without busting government coffers...

The post How to End PG&E’s Reign of Error appeared first on Greg Palast.