Japan's Directorate for Signals Intelligence

The Intercept has a long article on Japan's equivalent of the NSA: the Directorate for Signals Intelligence. Interesting, but nothing really surprising.

The directorate has a history that dates back to the 1950s; its role is to eavesdrop on communications. But its operations remain so highly classified that the Japanese government has disclosed little about its work ­ even the location of its headquarters. Most Japanese officials, except for a select few of the prime minister's inner circle, are kept in the dark about the directorate's activities, which are regulated by a limited legal framework and not subject to any independent oversight.

Now, a new investigation by the Japanese broadcaster NHK -- produced in collaboration with The Intercept -- reveals for the first time details about the inner workings of Japan's opaque spy community. Based on classified documents and interviews with current and former officials familiar with the agency's intelligence work, the investigation shines light on a previously undisclosed internet surveillance program and a spy hub in the south of Japan that is used to monitor phone calls and emails passing across communications satellites.

The article includes some new documents from the Snowden archive.

Posted on May 21, 2018 at 9:54 AM • 14 Comments

Comments

echoMay 21, 2018 10:45 AM

I was wondering about things like this the other day. We know so much relatively speaking about GCHQ and the NSA and lesser amounts about other intelligience organisations.

It's interesting to note not just Japan's intelligience services are so secret but the democratic aparatus controlling them is so opaque as is NSA collusion. While secrecy can hide abuse secrecy can also hide incompetence. It must be difficult having a window seat job in a building with no windows. It's enough to drive you nuts.

This is orthogonal to the topic but it is noted that Sony is shifting from hardware to subscription services and entertainment which as we know is an ecosystem riddled with rights protection, walled garden profit margins, with an active intelligience and police enforcement aparatus enforcing this and the technologies and infrastructure this depends on.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-20/new-sony-ceo-to-detail-shift-away-from-gadgets-in-mid-term-plan

echoMay 21, 2018 4:30 PM

@Clive

Yes, this is such a disappointment. I imagine the Japanese haven't had such a big fright since Alan Clark was Minister of Trade.

I'm not sure what to say about these articles. They were interesting although I swear I have read most of it before.

SteveMay 21, 2018 6:30 PM

@Who?: The antenna looks like a Wullenweber or something similar.

It's a direction finding receiving antenna, as far as I'm aware.

Clive RobinsonMay 22, 2018 1:08 AM

@ Who?

Antennae like the ones deployed in Higashi Chitose can be found in other spy hubs like this one in the south of Europe:

I do not think that is a "spy hub" --as there are not the usuall microwave antennas you would expect-- but a significant military instalation.

If you pull out a bit you will see the ground colour is different to the land around it. You will notice several well spaced out "factory type" buildings on there, if you look at them each has a significant "earthworks bunker" next to it. You see similar at ordinance depots and the old nucular cruise missile site at "Greenham common" UK. Further if you look at the shadows of the perimiter the fence hight is between a half and two thirds of the building hight, which judging by the road width/markings makes it a significant fence.

If you look to the South of South West you will see what looks like four very very large crop circles. I've seen these before basicaly they are caused by people "diging in" earth radials for a quater wave or more. These look like they have them for quaterwave, halfwave and fullwave. Interesting unlike other antenna sites nearby (south east of Alveres farmars market) these do not appear to have vertical masts in them, but do appear to have feed gantrys comming in from the North West to the center. It's possible they are VLF or Beverage antennas but it might be more likely "a work in progress". Further if you look around there appears to be very recent landscaping. Those regular dots are young trees that have been planted out in a grid recently and have a few years to go before they reach maturity as an orchard/grove for commercial agricultural activity.

If you look to the east of the sight you see some odd shaped roads. If you look at where the roads cross each other you will see significant shadows from quite imposing walls, some of which have large appatures in. Further they are oddly shapped and some what symetrical around the crossings. I've not seen that sort of thing before, so have no guesses to make on them.

Also you can see overhead power comming into the site from the North East, it does not appear to be a major power grid source you might expect for a major transmission site.

If you follow the main road to the west of the sight upwards, you can see a site that looks like an accomodation or resedential site with a swimming pool surrounded by trees. It's set back quite a way from the road and appears to have been partially obscured from the main road by trees and it's orientation. It could be a hotel or possibly a school but there is very little around it to have a reason for putting it there...

@ Steve,

The antenna looks like a Wullenweber or something similar.

It does have the concentric rings of a Wullenweber, but it looks way to small as there are no where near the number of verticals you would expect, and it's kind of too small to be an "elephant cage" of the type that used to be at RAF Chicksands in the UK that had something like two hundred verticles. So unless it's only for the upper end of the HF band, my guess is it's some type of phased array for transmitting.

PatriotMay 22, 2018 3:05 AM

This is big in Japan:

"Igeta Daisuke, a Japanese lawyer who specializes in civil liberties cases, said that the XKEYSCORE revelation was “very important” for the country. The Japanese government’s use of the system could violate Japan’s Constitution, which protects privacy rights, Daisuke told The Intercept. He added that Japan has a limited legal framework covering surveillance issues, largely because the scope of the government’s spying has never before been disclosed, debated, or ruled upon by judges. 'Japanese citizens know almost nothing about Japanese government surveillance,' said Daisuke. 'It is extremely secret.'"

Keep in mind that the presence of U.S. military personnel is deeply controversial in some areas of Japan, especially Okinawa.

Try to picture America with a series of foreign military bases inside it, and one of the foreign government's Generals, who leads an intelligence agency, orders his people to spy on every single American and process every bit of information in their lives, and to process it with the very latest emerging technologies. How would Americans feel? Probably not very good.

Japan is our friend and it is a nice place. To my mind, spying on every single one of them is an enormous mistake. First, they would eventually find out; secondly, it shows the U.S. as two-faced.

BillMay 22, 2018 1:35 PM

Clive Robinson wrote at May 22, 2018 1:08 AM:
"If you look to the South of South West you will see what looks like four very very large crop circles. I've seen these before basicaly they are caused by people "diging in" earth radials for a quater wave or more. These look like they have them for quaterwave, halfwave and fullwave. Interesting unlike other antenna sites nearby (south east of Alveres farmars market) these do not appear to have vertical masts in them, but do appear to have feed gantrys comming in from the North West to the center. It's possible they are VLF or Beverage antennas but it might be more likely "a work in progress". Further if you look around there appears to be very recent landscaping. Those regular dots are young trees that have been planted out in a grid recently and have a few years to go before they reach maturity as an orchard/grove for commercial agricultural activity."

Sorry Clive, those are center pivot irrigation fields. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_pivot_irrigation

I fired up google maps, entered "Kasas" for the search and is seconds found more. https://www.google.com/maps/place/Kansas/@38.4885154,-99.1899376,7154m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x87a31771717c016b:0x68c2b4a94b3e095f!8m2!3d39.011902!4d-98.4842465

albertMay 22, 2018 2:17 PM

@Clive,
"...significant shadows from quite imposing walls, some of which have large appatures in..."

This is the most fascinating thing. What are those 'walls' for?

I did read up on Wullenweber antennas, but it seems those relatively low frequencies aren't used much nowadays. The US Navy is heavily involved in submarine detection, so it's not surprising that they operated the Wullenweber systems. Most have been decommissioned.

Some discussion concerns a system derived from the Wullenweber:

"...The Wavefront Analysis is a HFDF system that was developed to overcome some of the problems inherent in the Wullenweber/CDAA systems...." - ht tps://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/gec-military/SqtWBCeMqeI

Cheers!
. .. . .. --- ....

echoMay 22, 2018 2:38 PM

I wondered what those walls were for too. Supporting structures for something abandoned or planned for later? Could they be focusing or deflecting devices like the old concrete radar dishes (or whatever they were)? Maybe they had some concrete left over and were just being funny?

Who?May 23, 2018 4:22 AM

@ Clive Robinson, Bill, albert and echo

In case Clive is talking about the circles outside "El Doctor," then I must agree with Bill. These ones look like center pivot irrigation fields owned by some farmer.

I had been doing some research. It seems "El Doctor" was a communications surveillance area twenty years ago, shared by the German's BND and Spanish intelligence (named CESID at that time). I have read it remains active but most antennae had been removed in the last two decades. It seems it is mostly an underground base now owned by the Spanish intelligence service now known as CNI. The residential area looks like a training center for Spanish spooks. It is related with a small base in the north-west known as the Center for Radiological Studies:

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.98034,-3.5352077,235m

Thanks to all for the detailed study of the satellite images!

echoMay 24, 2018 8:10 AM

@Who?

If it was part of a now larger defunct complex perhaps those walls are supporting stuctures for now removed equipment? Clive says he doesn't recognise them so this is still a mystery.

@vas pup

This is very odd!

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