The Japanese translation of a recent book by Glenn Greenwald covering his involvement in the events surrounding Edward Snowden’s release of thousands of classified US government documents is set to hit stores on 14 May. As a result, an excerpt from the book was released to the Japanese media, whetting readers’ appetites by mentioning the role Japan played in his decision to turn himself into what some consider an enemy of his state.
On the surface, Japan’s role was fairly incidental. However, the slightly new info helped to reignite an older dispute over the nation’s lack of any sort of substantial anti-espionage laws.
In the book, Snowden tells Greenwald that he was stationed in Japan while working for a contractor of the National Security Agency of the US from 2009 to 2011. Here he received intensive training to become a high level cyber-operative to steal information from civilians and other countries’ militaries.
It was in Japan that Snowden claims he witnessed real-time video of people who were about to be killed by drones. He later explains in the book that having to conceal matters such as this began to weigh on his conscience until he felt he could no longer keep it inside.
It’s hardly a mind-blowing revelation. Very soon after the leaks went public, fingers of the international community began to point at Japan for its involvement. Still, this got readers of the news again mulling over the old issue of the “Secret Protection Bill” which has been a point of contention among citizens for quite some time.
Proponents of anti-espionage laws say that Japan has become a “spy heaven” because there is no law issuing significant punishments for those found collecting data against other nations. Many commenters admit this is no surprise writing, “Japan is the perfect place for the US to train spies. Nothing happens if you get caught here.”
Those opposed prefer the current state of transparency in government and claim that because of Article 9 of the Constitution, which declares Japan a pacifist country, there is no need for national secrets of any interest to spies.
On a lighter note, this news has also led to some playful xenophobia among netizens who wondered if other foreigners in Japan might be spies:
“Dave Spector [American TV personality and producer in Japan] is a CIA agent.”
“Bobby Ologun [Nigerian MMA fighter and often cutely befuddled TV personality] is also a spy.”
“Harry Potter… Yup.”
“There’s rumor that a the brother of a guy on the street selling accessories is in Mossad.”
“That’s right. I saw some foreigners riding bikes and talking about Jesus the other day. They had to have been spies in training.”
And amidst all this, the irony wasn’t lost on many readers that the land with the most legendary spies of all – ninja – had nothing in the way of a super secret intelligence agency any more.
Or do they…?
Naw, that’s ridiculous. There are no more ninjas…
Then again, maybe that’s what the ninjas want us to think…