Unbeknownst to many Americans during World War II and even today, there was a clandestine American network of intelligence positioned in Japan. For decades, the activities and the overall effect of the network was relatively unknown due to the CIA maintaining the classified status of the documents which chronicled those activities.
However, there were several indications from interviews, memoirs, and even rumors that led researchers to believe that the network was riddled with inefficiencies and failures. These rumors were validated when the CIA declassified and released a number of documents about the Japanese intelligence network.
From those documents, a compilation of essays, titled, Researching Japanese War Crimes Records, was written and released. According to the set of essays, the American intelligence network was plagued with faliures.
One major blunder was the establishment of Operation Takematsu. The operation consisted of utilizing former high-ranking members of the Japanese Army to provide the United States with intelligence on communists and communist activities throughout Japan. However, the issue with this plan is that the men that the U.S. trusted with these intelligence tasks were individuals who despised the American occupation.
Furthermore, some of the individuals that the U.S. was relying on could even be classified as war criminals themselves. One such individual was Arisue Seizo, who stole various Japanese intelligence to use as bargaining chips during the implementation of the American occupation.
Though it sounds like Arisue sold out his country and his army by stealing the classified documents, the reality is that his plan was to use them to buy more time to reestablish the Japanese Army in an effort to fight off the American occupation. Finally, the operation actually gave Arisue a great deal of autonomy and financing to “gather intelligence”.
Another failure of the American intelligence community in Japan was the the fact that they turned a blind eye to the past actions of these war criminals; all in the name of intelligence gathering.
The CIA Name Files identify numerous occasions when G-2-funded or supported operations conducted by several prominent war criminals or suspected war criminals. They make it clear that G-2 was willing to overlook the tainted pasts of Japanese who directly or indirectly supported its anti-communist efforts.
The actions that were overlooked include bombings, assassinations, mob-style violence and murders. The failure here was that instead of prosecuting these individuals for their crimes, they were actually recruited by the American government.
Turning this blind eye did not get the CIA what it truly needed in terms of intelligence. By the time American occupation in Japan began to come to a close, the Japanese intelligence network began to splinter off into a variety of factions; all of which were only looking out for themselves.
The obvious self-serving tendencies of these factions prohibited the Americans from determining which of the intelligence cells were trustworthy. Moreover, as the Japanese cells realized that American occupation was coming to an end, they all were using what they had learned about American intelligence to their advantage. Many of them tried to leverage their knowledge to once again gain high-ranking positions within the independent Japanese government. The vulnerability to America caused by the CIA was another failure by the intelligence agency.
By the time World War II ended, America was so engulfed in the “Red Scare” that they were willing to do just about anything to gather intelligence on communists and communist activities.
Such a willingness has lead to some of the American intelligence community’s most embarrassing failures. One of the most embarrassing is the fact that they relied on Japanese war criminals who ultimately used the CIA to gain funding for their own purposes and learn about American intelligence.
(1) Wikipedia: Occupation of Japan