Japan prepares response to terrorist threat
Financial Times | August 26, 2005
By Mariko Sanchanta
Japan is to release a report early next month on ways to strengthen its intelligence operations as Tokyo tries to improve what critics say is an inadequate system to prevent terrorist attacks.
Japan's move comes as Jean-Louis Bruguière, France's top terrorist investigator, told the Financial Times that al-Qaeda is preparing an attack on a big financial centre in Asia, such as Tokyo, Sydney or Singapore.
Singapore and Australia said on Friday in response to Mr Bruguière's comments that they were unaware of an imminent terrorist threat. But they expressed confidence that they had taken measures to prevent a possible attack.
Critics say Japan is less prepared since its intelligence capabilities are split among several agencies with little co-ordination. The forthcoming report will examine ways to improve co-operation among intelligence agencies.
Tatsumi Tanaka, president of Risk Hedge Corporation, a risk management consultancy, said Japan's laws make it difficult for the police to conduct random searches of possible suspects.
“In the debate over greater safety versus privacy, the latter has consistently won,” he said.
Security experts have warned that Japan's upcoming national elections on September 11, the fourth anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks in the US, might trigger a terrorist attack since it is a symbolic date.
Tokyo has increased surveillance of public transport systems in the wake of last month's bombings in London, as have Singapore and Sydney.
“Singapore has taken an aggressive pro-active stance against terrorism threats since the discovery of a plot to blow up western embassies here in 2001,” said John Harrison, a terrorism expert at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore.
Singapore's monitoring of potential local terrorists has been aided by tough internal security laws that allow the indefinite detention of suspects without trial. Australia has also placed under surveillance some 60 possible terrorist suspects.
Both Singapore and Australia have prepared detailed plans to respond to a terrorist attack, including evacuation procedures.