Analysis Essential to Prevent Intl Terrorism

By Sasamori, Haruki | The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), December 3, 2015 | Go to article overview

Analysis Essential to Prevent Intl Terrorism


Sasamori, Haruki, The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)


Terrorist attacks on Paris, no less than the murders of two Japanese nationals including independent journalist Kenji Goto, have impressed on the Japanese people the threats posed by the militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed Toshiro Yonemura, former deputy chief cabinet secretary for crisis management and superintendent general of the Metropolitan Police Department, to ask if the government's measures against international terrorism are sufficient.

The Yomiuri Shimbun: As in the latest case, it is often pointed out that terrorist attacks occur despite warning signs that they may happen.

Toshiro Yonemura: Terrorism countermeasures should aim to prevent a terrorist plot from being carried out by detecting and responding to it in advance. So if a terrorist attack actually happens, it means the countermeasures failed. Japan failed to prevent the 1995 sarin gas attacks on Tokyo's subway system.

How a terrorist plot can be detected in advance depends largely on intelligence activities, including information gathering and espionage.

You can form some ideas about a terrorist plot only after collecting, transmitting, summarizing and analyzing intelligence about it. However, the job is extremely difficult. I can say from my own experiences that you can easily analyze intelligence after something has happened, but it is not easy to analyze it correctly in advance.

Q: What is the possibility of Japan becoming a target for ISIL?

A: ISIL has clearly shown its hostility toward France. In the background are France's airstrikes on the terrorist group. Also, the situation in Japan differs from those in Europe, where there are problems related to communities of Muslim immigrants and an abundance of weapons on the black market. Nonetheless, it is necessary to continue efforts to minimize the feasibility of a terrorist attack on Japan.

Q: What is the most important point in such efforts?

A: Immigration control measures are very important to prevent terrorists from entering Japan. Due to the Schengen Accord, there is no border screening among many European countries, except Britain and five others that have not signed it. Japan can take measures to find terrorists at immigration control. I assume that no organization has formed in Japan to support militant Islamic fundamentalists. Efforts must be made to prevent creation of such an organization or to find it if it is already formed.

Training intelligence experts

Q: What is the current situation regarding Japan's system of collecting intelligence on terrorism and any related problems?

A: The intelligence gathering system in Japan has problems in summarizing and analyzing collected data. In the United States and European countries, authorities are allowed to detect moves of potential terrorists by wiretapping if necessary. Wiretapping is done in Japan only as part of criminal investigations, which is called "judicial" wiretapping. However, many other countries allow their authorities to do so-called administrative wiretapping as part of intelligence gathering activities to prevent terrorism.

Some people say it is excessive, but there is no doubt that it is an essential part of counterterrorism.

Another major issue in intelligence is development of human resources. …

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