Former CIA employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden, 32, gave his first-ever interview to a Japanese journalist in May. Snowden answered questions from freelance reporter Midori Ogasawara, a former Asahi Shimbun reporter who is currently a Ph.D. student at Queen’s University in Canada, via the Internet from Moscow, where he is living in exile.
This was the first time for Snowden to reveal the details of the work he did when he lived and worked in Japan for two years. He also commented on U.S. espionage operations in Japan.
Snowden started working for the Yokota Air Base as an employee of Dell Computer in 2009. He lived off-base in Fussa City (Tokyo). According to Snowden, Dell often gets contract work from the NSA and serves as a perfect front for covert operations.
According to Australian security experts Desmond Ball and Richard Tanter, there are currently around 1,000 U.S. intelligence operatives in Japan who are mostly assigned to the Misawa Air Base (in Aomori Prefecture), the Yokota base, and the U.S. Embassy (both in Tokyo). Japan is the third or fourth most important place in the world in terms of U.S. espionage facilities. The office of the Department of Defense Special Representative – Japan (DSRJ) on the Yokota base is the NSA headquarters in Japan.
Snowden said: “I mainly received anti-hacking training in Yokota. I participated in the classes of the Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy of the Defense Intelligence Agency, where CIA and FBI experts took turns mentoring each other. I was in charge of cyber defense against hacking from China.”
Snowden became a senior cyber espionage officer in Japan. During that period, he became aware of the absolute hierarchical relationship between the U.S. and Japan.
According to Snowden, “The U.S. did not pay much attention to counterintelligence in Japan because it was very unlikely for Japan to spy on the U.S. The U.S. view at least was that the bilateral relationship was not equal at all. U.S. legislative officials were in a position to tell Japan what to do and what not to do, and Japan did as it was told most of the time. The Japanese were too afraid to spy on the United States because they would be punished by us if they got caught. On the other hand, the Americans thought that even if the Japanese found out about our espionage operations in Japan, there was nothing they could do.”
Japanese “partners” came to the NSA building in Yokota. Snowden said that, “They knew about the NSA’s spying activities and Self-Defense Forces personnel came because they wanted to get information. But we told them we could not give them information because this was not allowed under Japanese laws. Instead, we doled out just a little bit of information. We tried to expand the surveillance network using this as leverage.”
Snowden made the following very intriguing statement: “The Japanese special state secrets protection law enacted recently was actually designed by the U.S.” for the purpose of legalizing and enlarging the NSA’s surveillance network. By penalizing the disclosure of state secrets, the NSA will be able to hide from public view. The NSA used its usual modus operandi to put pressure on Japan, i.e. Japan would only be provided with information of greater confidentiality if it enacted legislation to protect secrets. Snowden warned that this will cause information designated as state secrets to multiply and eventually lead to the decay of democracy.
Japan’s media organizations and citizens are “certainly” under surveillance, according to Snowden, because the U.S.’s policy is “collect it all.” (Summary)