The government has decided to enhance the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the “International Terrorism Intelligence-Gathering Unit” and other offices that collect and analyze terrorism data by increasing the number of staff members– both domestic and overseas– from the current 40 to 80 before the end of the year. In preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the government aims to prevent terrorist attacks before they happen by strengthening intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities.
The unit was established in December last year following the November terrorist attacks in Paris. Although the unit is housed within the Foreign Affairs Ministry, it is comprised of about 20 personnel from the Defense Ministry, the National Police Agency and other relevant ministries and agencies. All the personnel concurrently serve as members of the Cabinet Secretariat, so the unit is, in practice, under the “direct control” of the prime minister and the chief cabinet secretary.
In March this year, a terrorist attack took place in Belgium. In July, seven Japanese were killed in a terrorist attack on a restaurant in Bangladesh. In response to these successive large-scale terrorist attacks, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has moved to strengthen intelligence gathering saying, “The most important thing in terrorism prevention is intelligence gathering.”
Currently, the unit is gathering information on Islamic militant groups in four different regions: Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and North and West Africa. In these regions, the government has used its overseas establishments as bases for intelligence gathering, assigning regional specialists to work along with the unit members.
While maintaining a focus on the four regions, the government intends to increase the number of unit members assigned to the four regions from the current 20 members to 40 members total.
In order to move forward with the plan, the government is coordinating with relevant ministries and agencies to hold a meeting on “integrating international terrorism intelligence gathering” with director-generals and senior members of the Prime Minister’s Office (chaired by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita). In combination with increasing the unit’s numbers, the government plans to improve language training and area knowledge, as well as required equipment.