Japan: Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA)

Relatively Unknown

Japan’s Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA), established in 1952, contributes to government policy by providing relevant organizations with necessary foreign and domestic data on subversive organizations. It is a small agency, with perhaps 1,100 employees. Its activities are not well known among the Japanese public. The Second Department of Investigation is in charge of foreign intelligence. This division has liaison contacts with more than 30 intelligence agencies around the world.


The origins of a strong Japanese intelligence organization under the fascist governments of the 1930s and 1940s has tended to discredit espionage and counter-espionage activities in the eyes of the Japanese government. Historically, the PSIA has been oriented toward domestic, not foreign, threats. Empowered by the Subversive Activities Prevention Act of 1952, the PSIA focuses on subversive activities involving acts of violence.


A 1994 CIA study noted that the PSIA “has no police powers of arrest,” rendering hollow its frequent boast that it is the “FBI of Japan.” The agency “does conduct extensive investigations of Communist, rightist, and foreign subversive activities, but action on its findings is hampered officially by a timid executive and legislature and unofficially by intense rivalry with the National Police Agency,” the CIA study said. “Its analytical product is both voluminous and of respectable quality, but is more likely to be used in massive annual ‘White Papers’ or thinly disguised propaganda blasts at the Communists than in the orderly identification of subversive elements and counter-action against them.”


A separate agency, the Directorate for Signals Intelligence (DFS) is responsible for collecting electronic communications. The DFS, which employs about 1,700 people, works closely with the U.S. National Security Agency.


According to documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Japan’s Directorate for Signals Intelligence (DFS) has at least six surveillance facilities around the country. Using a U.S.-supplied mass surveillance system called XKEYSCORE, DFS can eavesdrop on phone calls, emails, text messages, online chats, internet browsing histories, and social media activity.