Why Use A Drone When a Rocket Will Do?

Real Terrorists Don't Use Drones; They Use Rockets!
Real Terrorists Don’t Use Drones; They Use Rockets!

The design for the new main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been finalized. The new stadium will replace the one used for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and will be located in the same location. Around the turn of the century the city of Tokyo opened a new subway line that has a station very close to the stadium location; this new line will facilitate travel to and from the new stadium.

The neighborhoods surrounding the Olympic stadium contains many cultural and recreational facilities open to the public. Close by are expensive shopping districts as well as many high income residential neighborhoods. The stadium neighborhood is also located near the Imperial Palace, the official residence for the Crown Prince and Princess, and the State Guesthouse for the Japanese government.

The State Guesthouse for the Japanese government is also referred to as the Akasaka Palace. It functions as a venue for international meetings and conferences and also as lodging for foreign dignitaries visiting Japan.

Foreign security and safety officials who will be responsible for security at the Tokyo Olympics may want to consider a dramatic security failure that occurred at the Akasaka Palace and not far from the location for the new Tokyo Olympic stadium.

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

The security failure occurred during the 1986 G-7 Tokyo Economic Summit. The heads of the governments of the G-7 members (U.S., U.K., Italy, West Germany, France, Canada, and Japan) had gathered in Tokyo for the meeting. Just as the ceremonies to mark the opening of the summit began at the Akasaka Palace the location was attacked by a Japanese terrorist group called the Middle Core Faction. Contemporaneous news reports of the incident are here, here , here, and  here.

In brief, on May 5, 1986 the Middle Core Faction, a Japanese terrorist group, fired several homemade rockets at the Akasaka Palace where Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and the five other G-7 leaders were gathering. Luckily, the rockets sailed over the heads of some of the world leaders in attendance and landed without causing injuries or serious property damage (remarkable in such a congested neighborhood).

Although a police investigation later revealed the rockets were fired from a distance of just two miles from the Akasaka Palace the Tokyo police had no advance indication of this particular threat. The linked news reports assert the Tokyo police knew the Middle Core Faction had used similar rockets for attacks in Japan in the previous two or three months. However, the police in Tokyo did not believe the group could produce rockets capable of posing a threat to the G-7 Summit.

Japanese Government Terrorist Investigative Tools Are Limited

What went awry? In Japan the use of three types of investigative techniques (use of informants, use of undercover investigations, and use of electronic surveillance) is restricted compared to the U.S. and many other countries. It is likely the absence of these types of investigative tools allowed the Middle Core Faction to plan and execute the rocket attack without alerting the police. In the future the lack of these three investigative tools may leave Japanese law enforcement authorities dangerously uninformed about threats to the security of the Tokyo Olympics.

The Akasaka Palace is no more than two miles (as the “rocket” flies) from the location of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. Both the Akasaka Palace and the Olympic Stadium are located in the most secure and heavily patrolled district of Tokyo which contains some imperial family residences as noted above. And yet, from this well monitored district the Middle Core Faction launched a potentially deadly attack on the leaders attending the G-7 summit. If the Akasaka Palace can be attacked then the Olympic stadium can be attacked just as easily.

What Lesson Should 2020 Tokyo Olympics Foreign Security Officials Learn From This Attack?

First, foreign security professionals responsible for the security of participants and spectators in Tokyo in 2020 should keep in mind that Olympic security authorities in Japan do not have the full range of counter-terrorism tools available to law enforcement and counter terrorism agencies in many other countries. The terrorist group that launched the 1986 G-7 rocket attacks today employs primarily peaceful tactics. However, in 1986 its existence and its use of rockets to mount attacks were well-known to Japanese law enforcement and security agencies. The fact such a notorious group was able to launch a rocket attack on THE most securely guarded event in Japan in 1986 demonstrates that foreign security professionals at the Tokyo Olympics should constantly be on guard and maintain a pro-active security stance as long as they are in Japan.

Second, radical Islamic terrorists are not the only terrorists who might present a threat to the security and safety of the Tokyo Olympics. Between today and 2020 domestic Japanese terrorist groups could form and present a threat to Tokyo Olympic Security just as the Middle Core Faction presented a threat to the 1986 G-7 Summit in Tokyo. Foreign safety and security officials responsible for Tokyo Olympic security should learn as much as they can about Japanese domestic terrorist groups before the Tokyo Olympics begin and plan security accordingly. Japanese domestic news is little reported outside of Japan so it will take an extra effort to find out if Japanese terrorist groups could present a security issue. Some sources of relevant information are: Japanese government law enforcement and domestic security agencies; Japanese and foreign security firms; Japanese and foreign journalists; members of the diplomatic corps in Tokyo; and members of the Tokyo Olympic Committee.


Author: Ed Shaw

I am a retired FBI Special Agent (25 years) who lived in Japan for a total of fifteen years and speaks Japanese. At two different times during my career with the FBI (first for five years and then for four years) I worked at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan and represented the FBI to all Japanese law enforcement, security, and intelligence agencies. While in Japan with the FBI I handled everything from international fugitive and spy investigations to sensitive reviews of U.S. government national security issues. My assignments took me to all parts of Japan. After nine years I am well-acquainted with how Japanese law enforcement and intelligence agencies work, their objectives, their bureaucratic habits, and most importantly how they interact with their foreign counterparts. Tokyo has been selected as the site of the 2020 Olympics. Each Olympic country participating in the games will have security officials looking for the best way to assure the safety of its athletes and other countrymen visiting Tokyo. The purpose of this blog is to share with those security officials the best way to ensure the safety and security at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

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