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Friday, Nov. 19, 2010


Damaged credibility on security

On the night of Oct. 29, an Internet technology firm, after noticing that some 100 documents, most of them apparently made by the security police, had been posted on the Internet, notified a prefectural police headquarters near Tokyo. Alerted by this police headquarters, the Metropolitan Police Department grasped the situation.

It has been found that 114 documents in five compressed files streamed onto the Internet around 10 p.m. on Oct. 28 via a server in Luxembourg. Most of them are believed to have been made by the MPD's Third Foreign Affairs Division in charge of investigations related to international terrorism. Fourteen documents were classified as "secret" — among them a list of the names of the members of an antiterrorism team and notices issued by the division's chief.

Sources say that most of the documents were made from 2007 to 2009. They include the names and addresses of informants who cooperated with the MPD division, a list of foreigners suspected of links with international terrorism, information on their families and information provided by investigative authorities abroad.

They also include analysis of the bank accounts of embassies in Tokyo and the international terrorism situation at the time of the G8 industrialized nations' summit in 2008 held in Toya, Hokkaido. Some documents are likely to have been made by the National Police Agency and the Aichi prefectural police.

The MPD's Third Foreign Affairs Division was created in October 2002 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. in September 2001 to strengthen Japan's ability to cope with international terrorism. Its main specific task is to have close cooperation with intelligence organizations in the Americas, Europe and Asia, bar the entrance of terrorists into Japan and prevent acts of terrorism inside Japan.

The nature of information contained in the documents posted on the Internet dictates that they should never have been shown to outside people. The credibility of Japan's security police has been damaged. The incident will make it difficult for Japan to receive sensitive information from foreign countries and to cultivate informants indispensable in conducting antiterrorism investigation. The disclosure of the information may expose informants and their family members to danger. It will become difficult to get cooperation from people in investigation.

The information contained in the documents is detailed. For example, one document shows that investigators set up investigation points near embassies of Muslim countries and mosques and checked people and cars entering or exiting them. It lists these people and cars in chronological order and includes comments on them. It mentions movements of people who became important investigation targets, results of the shadowing of people new to investigators, results of the examination of the immigration status of targeted people and inquiries concerning their bank accounts.

Another document analyzes the remittances into and from bank accounts held by employees at embassies of Muslim countries and includes comments on the movements of funds held by military attaches. Still another document is a manual on how to cultivate informants to get information on Muslim communities in Japan. It outlines the kinds of people to select and how to approach them.

Some of the people who cooperated with the security police have complained that the posting of the documents on the Internet destroyed their relations with relatives or is likely to financially damage their businesses. The MPD should at least apologize to them and take steps to protect them against physical harm if necessary.

In 2007, investigation-related information was leaked to the Internet through file-sharing software Winny from the personal computer of a police officer, whose rank is senior policeman. Since then, the MPD says it has introduced strict rules on the handling of documents stored in computers, making it very difficult to obtain documents. It also says that even if documents are released, it would be impossible to understand them because they are coded.

But several personal computers at the MPD's Third Foreign Affairs Division are not linked to the MPD's network system. It is theoretically possible to get data from the computers by using peripheral data storage mediums without leaving any trace of the theft on the network system. The division does not usually use the PDF format. But most of the uploaded documents have been converted into the PDF format.

At this stage, it cannot be determined whether an inside person released the documents or someone outside hacked the computer system. Officially, the police and the government refuse to confirm that the documents are genuine — in an apparent effort to save face. But they should admit their mistakes and quickly rebuild a system that will fully protect information important for the nation's security from theft.

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