Japan releases files on 1942 Tokyo spy ring that helped USSR win World War II

Richard SorgeJapan has released secret documents from 1942 relating to the Tokyo spy ring led by Richard Sorge, a German who spied for the USSR and is often credited with helping Moscow win World War II. The documents detail efforts by the wartime Japanese government to trivialize the discovery of the Sorge spy ring, which was at the heart of modern Japan’s biggest spy scandal. Thirty-five people, many of them highly placed Japanese officials, were arrested in Tokyo in October of 1941 for spying for the Soviet Union. Sorge, the German head of the spy ring, had fought for the Central Powers in World War I, but had subsequently become a communist and trained in espionage by Soviet military intelligence. He was then sent to Tokyo where he struck a close friendship with the German Ambassador and joined the German embassy. He eventually informed Moscow that German ally Japan was not planning to invade Russia from the east. That tip allowed Stalin to move hundreds of thousands of troops from the Far East to the German front, which in turn helped the USSR beat back the Nazi advance and win the war.

Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun, which has seen the declassified documents, said they were among the personal files of Taizo Ota, a Japanese counterintelligence official who led Division VI of Japan’s Ministry of Justice. The unit was in charge of political policing and counterespionage during World War II. The documents date from May 1942, which was when the Japanese government finally publicized the arrest of Sorge and his comrades, more than six months after they were caught spying for Moscow. The documents were issued by Japan’s Ministry of Justice but —according to experts— were most likely authored by officials in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who were in charge of investigating the Sorge spy ring case. According to Mainichi Shimbun, the documents were part of a broader effort by the Japanese government to cover up the espionage case by instructing the country’s media to give it marginal attention.

One document instructs newspaper editors to cover the incident on an inside page and to use a headline smaller than the length of four columns. Another document states that newspaper editors should not use pictures in reporting on the spy ring, and adds that no information other than what is included in government press releases should be printed. A third document specifically instructs newspaper editors to avoid all mention of Kinkazu Saionji, a core participant in the Sorge spy ring. Saionji was a member of Japan’s governing aristocracy and a grandson of former Prime Minister Kinmochi Saionji, the country’s most esteemed interwar politician. Indeed, much of the information in the newly unearthed documents details efforts by the Japanese state to conceal the magnitude of communist penetration in the country’s leading families and governing circles.

Coverage of the Sorge incident in Japan’s two leading newspapers of the time, the Nichi Shimbun and the Asahi Shimbun indicate that the government pressure was successful, according to Mainichi Shimbun. Both papers covered the incident but neither paper published information about it on its front page, nor was there mention of Saionji or of other senior Japanese officials who were members of the Sorge spy ring. According to Japanese researchers, the documents provide rare detailed examples of attempts by the country’s wartime government to guide reporting on national-security affairs. The files are currently archived in the Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room of the National Diet Library in downtown Tokyo.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 20 August 2018 | Permalink

News you may have missed #660

Margaret ThatcherBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Taiwan President accused of spying on political opponents. Taiwan’s opposition challenger for the presidency, Tsai Ing-wen, has accused intelligence services under the control of incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of tracking her campaign events for political advantage. The allegations – unproven and denied by Ma – conjure up memories of Taiwan’s one-party past when Ma’s party, the Nationalists, used their total control of the state apparatus to persecute opponents.
►►Analysis: Has Israeli-Australian spy relationship been restored? Intelligence sharing between Israel and Australia was halted this time last year, when a Mossad hit squad with forged Australian passports assassinated senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in in Dubai. But Australian newspaper The Age reports that “the flow of top secret intelligence between the two countries has now been restored”, in a move apparently initiated by the Australian side.
►►Thatcher threatened to ban BBC program on MI5 and MI6. The Conservative government of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher threatened to “veto” a BBC investigative program about British intelligence services MI5 and MI6, because it would reveal details about how they operated and question their public accountability. In a letter marked “top secret and personal”, cabinet secretary Sir Robert Armstrong, recommended that Margaret Thatcher consider invoking the rarely used power, saying that “the government has the power to ban any program”. Thatcher wrote on the note: “I would be prepared to use the veto”.

News you may have missed #581

Jin Yinan

Jin Yinan

►►CIA wants to censor book by ex-FBI agent. The agent, Ali H. Soufan, argues in the book that the CIA missed a chance to derail the 9/11 plot by withholding from the FBI information about two future 9/11 hijackers living in San Diego. He also says that torture interrogation methods against terrorism detainees were unnecessary and, ultimately, counterproductive. Both these things are known and have been publicly discussed. As The Independent correctly notes, the CIA’s objections are “less for national security reasons than out of a desire to avoid re-airing incidents that show the Agency in an unflattering light”.
►►New scandal at India’s SIGINT agency. The Indian government founded the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) in 2004, as a potential communications nerve center for all of India’s intelligence agencies. But the SIGINT agency has been involved in one financial scandal after the other, most recently relating to an elaborate procurement scam.
►►China silent about spy lecture leak. China has remained quiet as a recently leaked video of a Chinese general’s candid remarks on sensitive spying cases continued to draw international attention. The ministries of defense and foreign affairs have not responded to media inquiries, and numerous phone calls to National Defense University, where the general, Jin Yinan (pictured), teaches, went unanswered. State media made no mention of the story.

CIA sues former officer for publishing unauthorized book

The Human Factor book cover

The Human Factor

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The US Central Intelligence Agency has announced a lawsuit against a former officer who authored a book without the Agency’s prior approval. The book, The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture (published in 2008), was written by a former CIA deep cover operative going by the pseudonym Ishmael Jones. Jones first submitted the book’s manuscript, which offers a highly unsympathetic account of the CIA, to the Agency’s review board. However, when it became clear that the board’s decision would have been unfavorable, he published the book without approval, thus breaking what the CIA claims is his legal obligation to abide by the review board’s decisions. The CIA filed a lawsuit against Jones in July, but only announced it this week. It seeks access to the financial proceeds of The Human Factor, as well as to prohibit further exposés from Jones. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #434 (book news edition)

US Pentagon to ban book by DIA intelligence officer

Operation Dark Heart

Op. Dark Heart

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
American military officials are in negotiations with a major publishing firm to prevent the distribution of a new book on the Afghanistan War by a US intelligence officer, even though thousands of copies of the book have already been printed. Written by US Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer, the book, Operation Dark Heart, is a personal memoir of the author’s five-month tour in Afghanistan in 2003, as an officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The Pentagon has admitted that its censors did send Shaffer an official clearance letter, authorizing him to forward the manuscript to a publisher –which he did. But it was only after the book had gone into print, that the Defense Department realized that it had neglected to forward a copy of the manuscript to the DIA, as required by regulations, which stipulate that all US government agencies mentioned in the manuscript must approve it prior to publication. Read more of this post

Israel arrests prominent Arabs on Hezbollah spying charges

Omar Sayid

Omar Sayid

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Israeli authorities have arrested two prominent Arab-Israeli political activists, accusing them of spying on behalf of Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah. The arrestees are Omar Sayid (or Sayeed), who campaigns on behalf of Israeli-Arab political party Balad, and Amir Makhoul, who heads Ittijah. This Haifa-based group, known as the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, aims to combat alleged cases of discrimination against Arab-Israelis. Sayid was arrested by members of the Israeli police and intelligence agency Shin Bet on April 24, and Makhoul was arrested on May 6. But the Israeli media were not allowed to report on the arrests until late last Sunday, due to Israeli censorship laws enforced in “national security investigations”. Nevertheless, news of the arrests began circulating almost immediately on Arab electronic media outside of Israel, and the Israeli government was eventually forced to lift the gag order, upon learning that hundreds of Haifa residents were preparing a demonstration on Monday in support of the two arrestees. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0215

  • Ex-MI5 officer cannot publish memoirs, court decides. A former MI5 officer, known only as “A.”, cannot publish his memoirs, which consist of a 300-page manuscript, a panel of British judges has decided. Interestingly, “A.” has said he intends to remain anonymous.
  • Turkey denies Israel use of its airspace to spy on Iran. If Israel were to violate Turkish airspace in order to conduct reconnaissance operations on Iran, Ankara’s reaction would resemble an “earthquake”, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said in an interview.

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CIA censored me to avoid embarrassment, says ex-οfficer

V.L. Montesinos

V.L. Montesinos

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
More than a month after Secrecy News reported the legal victory of a former CIA agent, who managed to have a censored report he wrote about the CIA’s dirty dealings in Peru declassified, a US news outlet has finally given some attention to the story. On August 4 (see previous intelNews reporting), Secrecy News revealed that a memorandum drafted in 2001 by CIA officer Franz Boening, detailing assistance illegally provided by the CIA to the then chief of Peruvian intelligence, had finally been declassified following an eight-year court battle. In the censored memorandum, Boening argued that the Agency violated US law by providing material and political assistance to Vladimiro Lenin Montesinos Torres, a graduate of the US Army’s School of the Americas and longtime CIA operative, who headed Peru’s Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional (SIN) under the corrupt administration of President Alberto Fujimori. Fujimori is now in prison, as is Montesinos himself. Read more of this post

CIA whistleblower’s memo on Peru declassified after eight years

V.L. Montesinos

V.L. Montesinos

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A memorandum drafted in 2001 by a CIA officer, detailing assistance illegally provided by the CIA to the former chief of Peruvian intelligence, has been declassified following an eight-year court battle. In the memorandum, CIA employee Franz Boening argued that the Agency violated US law by providing material and political assistance to Vladimiro Ilich Montesinos Torres, a graduate of the US Army’s School of the Americas and longtime CIA operative, who headed Peru’s Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional (SIN) under the corrupt administration of President Alberto Fujimori. Fujimori is now in prison, as is Montesinos himself. But in 2001, the CIA Inspector General, to whom Boening’s memorandum was addressed, took no action in response to the officer’s allegations. What is more, the CIA proceeded to classify Boening’s memorandum, claiming that its disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause damage to national security”. Read more of this post

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