Japan: Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA)

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Overview

PSIA, established in 1952, contributes to government policy by providing relevant organizations with necessary foreign and domestic data (collected through investigations and intelligence activities) on subversive organizations. Its is a small agency, with perhaps 1,100 employees, and its activites are not well known among the Japanese public.

The Second Department of Investigation is in charge of foreign intelligence. This division has liaison contacts with over 30 intelligence agencies in the world, including CIA, FBI, MI6, MOSSAD and so on. The U.S. CIA has invited PSIA officials for training in Washington D.C., in the Intelligence Analysis Course.

The origins of strong Japanese intelligence organization under the fascist governments of the 1930s and 1940s has discredited espionage and counter-espionage activities in Japanese government. So has the insular character of Japan, an ethnically homogenous island nation.

Historically, the PSIA has been oriented toward domestic, not foreign, threats. Based on the Subversive Activities Prevention Act, the PSIA which are likely to commit subversive activities by means of acts of violence. The Agency places a request with the Public Security Examination Commission for the implementation of any action, such as restricting their activities or disbanding them.

A 1994 CIA study noted that the PSIA “has no police powers of arrest,”rendering hollow its frequent boast that it is the “FBI of Japan.” The agency “does conduct extensive investigations of Communist, rightist, and foreign subversive activities, but action on its findings is hampered officially by a timid executive and legislature and unofficially by intense rivalry with the National Police Agency. Its analytical product is both voluminous and of respectable quality, but is more likely to be used in massive annual ‘White Papers’ or thinly disguised propaganda blasts at the Communists than in the orderly identification of subversive elements and counter-action against them.”

A separate agency, the Directorate for Signals Intelligence, or DFS, employs about 1,700 people. According to documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, DFS has at least six surveillance facilities that eavesdrop on phone calls, emails, and other communications. 

In August 2019, the government of South Korea cancelled intelligence sharing agreement with Japan.

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