April 6, 2016


Tokyo Olympic Games


Japan has drawn the ire of many around the world for hunting whales.  In fact, a U.S. cable television series called, “Whale Wars,” was devoted to chronicling the attempts of whale lovers to disrupt and stop Japanese whale hunts on the open seas.  Sometimes the attacks on Japanese whaling ships can became quite dangerous for everyone involved.

The attacks on the high seas are just one manifestation of the world-wide protests made against Japanese whaling that have continued for many years.  Opponents of Japanese whaling frequently employ extreme tactics to gain attention for the anti-whaling cause.  Some of the more notable protest techniques include the following:

1.]  Blocking and illegally boarding ships on the high seas.

2.]  Attacking and disabling Japanese web sites.

3.]  Mounting demonstrations which employ vivid and highly emotional images of blood and gore.

4.]  Civil disobedience


Whale lovers employ protest tactics that can be violent, shocking, and incredibly disruptive. Generally, however they do not deliberately direct violence at innocent bystanders.  That does not mean that innocent bystanders are never affected.  For example, boat owners can suffer damage to property, whalers can suffer economic loss when they cannot catch enough whales to make a profit, and commuters can be delayed when a protest blocks public transit.

Seeking an international audience, pro-whale activists schedule protests … usually at times and locations, designed to generate large amounts of media attention.  An attractive target, the Tokyo Games present a serious challenge to security officials concerned about whale loving activists wanting to get their message out.  Not just the host nation for the 2020 Olympic Games, Japan is the country pro-whale activists love to hate.  Placing the games in Japan creates the “Perfect Storm” for security officials at the Tokyo Olympics.  It gives anti-whaling advocates a not-to-be-missed opportunity to “hijack” the world’s foremost international event in a place also known as the whaling industry’s nerve center.

Limited only by their imagination, security officials for the Tokyo Games should consider the following protest scenarios:

1.]  Hackers could seize control of electronic scoreboards displaying messages featuring anti-whaling propaganda.

2.]  Purchasing strategic seats for “opening” ceremonies, activists could disrupt proceedings like the emperor’s welcome speech, screaming hysterically, unfurling a graphic banner detailing a gory whale hunt.

3.]  Disrupting transportation facilities, activists could converge on a Tokyo bullet train, jumping onto tracks staging a die-in, stopping rail traffic in both directions.

4.]  Creating havoc, using balloons filled with a red liquid representing whale blood, activists could toss the balloons onto an Olympic venue and then disappear into crowds as onlookers and authorities tried to figure out what happened.  Unsure about the liquid the targeted venue might have to be shut down until hazmat and Tokyo Olympic security staff assessed and cleaned the area, needing to make sure the venue was safe.

5.]  Hackers could also “hijack” official websites featuring Olympic event schedules, transportation information and ticket sales, not to mention electronic control systems used for building access and heating and air conditioning systems, offering only to return access to the sites when the Japanese government agreed to ban whale hunting.


The aforementioned scenarios require a relatively small number of people and resources to execute.  Neither requiring sophisticated planning and/or a lengthy lead time to implement.  In the case of a computer attack on electronic systems none of the perpetrators need to be in Japan.  In the other scenarios planning and execution can be carried out by non-Japanese activists who only need to enter Japan just a few days before staging protests.

From a whale lover’s point of view, the disruptive protests present an overwhelmingly favorable “risk to reward ratio,” utilizing relatively few resources while protesters garner worldwide news coverage.  They could even stream live video depicting their exploits, immediately sending their message around the globe.

Most anti-whaling activists live outside of Japan which is where most of the planning takes place.  Japan does not have the authority and/or resources to identify and handle disruptive protesters before they arrive in Japan.  Traveling in plain sight, the activists would arrive with the hundreds of thousands of other foreign visitors attending the Olympics, escaping detection until the moment they stage their protests.  Japanese law enforcement agencies have few means to identify anti-whaling activists and their plans before they enter the country.


Most whale protesters reside in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom [UK] and western European counties.  As a general rule most democratic governments will not readily provide information about their nationals unless a crime has occurred or there is a high likelihood a crime has occurred.  For example, even if law enforcement authorities in the UK learned some nationals planned to stage protests during the Tokyo Olympic Games the UK Government might not provide the information to the Japanese Government because staging a protest is not a crime. The UK officials would need a strong and compelling reason suggesting a crime before authorities would identify British citizen whale protesters to the Japanese Government.

Japanese law enforcement authorities have limited information sharing relationships with countries from which most anti-whaling protesters and activists at the Tokyo Olympics would likely originate.  Greenpeace is headquartered in the Netherlands and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is based in the U.S.  In 2012 the U.S. had two full time law enforcement representatives assigned to its embassy in Tokyo and France had one.  However, and based upon the writer’s personal experience, in 2012 neither Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Netherlands, and the UK had any full time law enforcement representatives in Japan.  Due to limited contact with foreign police agencies, it is highly unlikely Japanese law enforcement agencies would have any advance warning about anti-whaling activists before they arrive in Japan.

But even if Japanese law enforcement identified likely pro-whale activists arriving in Japan, the writer thinks they have very few tools to penetrate their organizations and learn about their plans.  Undercover investigations are almost entirely forbidden by Japanese law.  Law enforcement interception of electronic communications, including telephone and e-mail is severely limited by Japanese law and can’t be used to identify plans for illegal disruptive demonstrations.  Japanese law enforcement is exceptionally good (probably the best in the world) at physical surveillance.  But conducting physical surveillance takes a long time to develop pertinent/useful information.  In addition, physical surveillance is extremely labor intensive, draining manpower from other priorities.

Summarizing, the writer thinks per chance whale loving activists choose to disrupt the Tokyo Olympics, current security conditions suggest, left unchecked, demonstrators stood a good chance of creating confusion and causing chaos in at some of the planned Olympic events and venues.  Public safety and security officials at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have a lot to consider getting ready for the games, but the disruptive anti-whaling advocates should be foremost on the minds of Japanese authorities making security plans.


1.]  Have several back-up plans attending the games, e.g. alternate travel plans to Olympic venues as well hotels and restaurants; consider having alternate means to access the web and internet data telephone service; have paper copies of event information and time schedules.

2.]  Research how participants at other large events around the world have coped with disruptive protests and adopt their best practices.

3.]  Inform Olympic contestants and attendees that disruptive protests are a possibility and encourage them to report any unusual activity to Tokyo Olympic security officials promptly.

4.]  Arrange for a central point of contact for Olympics contestants to call for advice and instructions in case they are affected by anti-whaling protests.

5.]  Identify vital Olympic services (medical care, identification records, venue access authorization records) that rely upon data links.  Consider having redundant systems in place to avoid disruptions.

6.]  As soon as possible identify officials and establish network of individuals who will provide timely and helpful information in the event disruptive protests occur.  These officials should include law enforcement, the Olympic committee, media, and foreign embassy security officials.


EDWARD C. SHAW is a retired FBI Special Agent (25-years) who resided in Japan for approximately fifteen [15] years, speaking fluent Japanese.  An Assistant Legal Attaché, assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, enjoying two tours of duty totaling nine [9] years, Mr. SHAW was the FBI’s official representative in Japan, responsible for working with Japanese law enforcement, and their security, and intelligence agencies.  While in Japan his assignments included locating and apprehending international fugitives, conducting espionage investigations involving spies and doing sensitive reviews concerning national security issues.

Because his assignments took him to every prefecture in Japan, Mr. SHAW is well-acquainted with Japanese law enforcement, and their intelligence and security agencies, and very familiar with their objectives, bureaucratic habits, and most importantly how they interact with their foreign counterparts.

Speaking on security issues facing would be travelers, readers can look forward to Mr. SHAW posting articles here about the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games looking for helpful tips thinking about attending the games.

For additional information see his website at:

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