Aum Shinri-kyo and Related Controversies
TOKYO, April 17 (Kyodo) - The AUM Shinrikyo cult said Monday it has voluntarily reported to a government body about the activities of related computer software firms found to have developed computer systems for government ministries and major companies.
Cult members said they have explained to the Public Security Investigation Agency about the business operations of eight companies linked to the group in an apparent effort to show it has no intention of causing harm.
They said they also instructed cult followers to limit future businesses to dealings with private companies.
According to the AUM report, six of the eight companies have suspended business, while the two others will continue operations until mid-May only to deliver orders already received in February.
Revelations surfaced in February that computer software companies linked to the doomsday cult had developed systems for 190 government ministries and major companies.
The projects the software companies were involved in included the development of a command and control system used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the installation of communications management equipment at headquarters of the Ground Self-Defense Force.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial on murder and other charges in connection with the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes. AUM changed its name to Aleph earlier this year.
TOKYO, April 14 (Kyodo) - The Defense Agency on Friday promised a full investigation into whether sensitive military information was leaked as a result of an AUM Shinrikyo member's involvement in the development of a command and control system used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF).
The agency also says it is trying to pinpoint which computer programs that run the system were worked on by the AUM follower.
On Thursday, police sources disclosed that the cult member took part in the development of the host computer of the maritime operational force system, based at the Self-Defense Fleet Headquarters in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. The system, whose host computer was developed from fiscal 1995 to fiscal 1998, controls information on the movements of warships and aircraft.
The agency's investigation is to be conducted in coordination with the Public Security Division of the Metropolitan Police Department.
The probe aims to determine whether information on the Self-Defense Forces' military operations or the stationing of its personnel was leaked, the agency said.
Defense Agency chief Tsutomu Kawara told a news conference Friday that the incident did not cause any serious security breach. ''We have carried out system checks to confirm the programs and the point of time when they came into operation,'' he said shortly after a cabinet meeting.
''When we get the investigation's finding, I would like to study what appropriate measures to take, if necessary.''
Kawara said it was ''difficult to imagine'' that information could be leaked from the maritime operational force system.
A senior Defense Agency official said the system is closed to outside communications and accessing it from a regular telephone line would be extremely difficult.
The agency says the AUM follower was working for NTT Data Corp., one of eight companies subcontracted to develop the host computer. He apparently was not authorized to enter sensitive MSDF facilities.
In a related development in February, it was learned that computer software companies linked to the doomsday cult had developed systems for 190 government ministries and major companies.
The software companies were also involved in the installation of communications management equipment at key headquarters of the Ground Self-Defense Force.
AUM founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial on murder and other charges in connection with the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other crimes. AUM has since changed its name to Aleph.
("Asahi Shimbun", April 14, 2000)
An Aum Shinrikyo member is believed to have helped develop the key command and control system of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, sources in police and the Defense Agency said Thursday.
The system, called Maritime Operational Force, has been in operation since March 1999 at the MSDF headquarters in Yokosuka, the sources said.
Details of the system are highly confidential, but sources said it enables unified control of all MSDF components, including submarines, escort vessels and aircraft.
The 25-year-old male cult member was a temporary employee at a computer software development company in Tokyo. He was dispatched to one of the companies that engaged in subcontracted work to develop the Maritime Operational Force system, according to an investigation by the Public Security Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department in Tokyo.
Terms of his contract with the software company show that he was assigned an MSDF-related job from April 1, 1998, until March 31, 1999. That period partially overlaps the time when the system was being developed, the sources said.
The Maritime Staff Office said there have been no reports of errors in the system. The Defense Agency has started an investigation to confirm which part of the system the cultist was involved in. The agency is also considering replacing part of the system if necessary, the sources said.
According to the Defense Agency, the main contractor for the development of the system was NTT Data Corp. There were eight subcontractors, including Hitachi Ltd., Fujitsu Ltd. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.
The cultist was dispatched to one of the eight subcontractors, the sources said.
The suspected involvement of the cult member surfaced in March, when the Tokyo software company asked police to investigate a suspicious man who had been a temporary employee, the sources said.
Officials of the subcontractor company told police that they could not confirm whether the cultist in question had worked at the company, the sources said.
The officials also could not explain the content of the company's work because such information is confidential, the sources said.
And details about cultist's duties at the company were not immediately known, the sources said.
The member of Aum Shinrikyo, which now calls itself Aleph, was hired on a temporary basis by the Tokyo software company in 1997. He has since left the company, the sources said.
The cult said it has not identified the man in question nor confirmed other details.
The Maritime Operational Force system was developed from 1995 to 1998 at a cost of about 6 billion yen to replace the former command and control system, the sources said.
An affiliate of the AUM Shinrikyo cult was involved in the development of the core computer system of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF), which controls its troops across the country, Jiji Press reported Thursday.
It was learned earlier that another AUM affiliate was involved in the development of a local area network (LAN) at the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF)..
The latest revelations suggest that the cult, which now calls itself Aleph, may have been involved in the development of computer systems for the MSDF as well as GSDF, as part of its failed bid to arm itself and wage war against the government, observers say.
The finding has prompted the Defense Agency to launch investigations in a bid to see if the force's confidential information has been leaked to the cult and to specify which part of the system the cult affiliate developed.
The MSDF will also investigate whether the cult's affiliates were involved in the development of other important computer systems.
Agency officials, however, maintain that there have been no technical problems involving the system to date.
Following the revelations that the cult was involved in the development of the GSDF's LAN, the MSDF conducted a probe into its own systems, but failed to find the cult's involvement.
Fumihiro Joyu, a high-ranking member of AUM, denied that the cult had any intention of illicitly obtaining confidential data from the government.
The Defense Agency commissioned a computer software development company around 1995 to develop the system that the MSDF would use to control MSDF's destroyers, aircraft, patrol vessels and submarines, the press agency reported.
The company, whose name was not immediately known, leased out the work to a number of companies including the AUM affiliate.
A member of the cult, who had not joined its priesthood, played the key role in developing the MSDF system, Jiji said.
The system was completed in 1998 and was put into practical use in March 1999.
The host computer of the system is installed at the command post of the the Self-Defense Fleet in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and its terminal units are placed at the posts of the force's major troops.
It was learned earlier that another AUM affiliate was involved in the development of software for central government ministries and agencies and other government organizations as well as major companies. They included the Construction Ministry, the Education Ministry, the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry and the Metropolitan Police Department.
The data that Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. had on nuclear power-plant construction works had leaked to the cult.
TOKYO, April 13 (Reuters) - A Japanese doomsday cult accused of a fatal 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway system may have known of top defence secrets as members were involved in developing key software for the navy, local media said on Thursday.
Media reports said a member of the Aum Shinri Kyo (Supreme Truth) cult took part in developing software which keeps track of all of the forces of the Maritime Self Defence Force, or navy, including the whereabouts of submarines, which are top secret.
An official at the defence ministry said it could not confirm the reports and was investigating the issue.
The reports deal a blow to the government's computer security management following revelations in February that Aum took part in installing a computer system at the defence ministry.
While that system was not connected to the ministry's classified information and its implementation was postponed due to the finding, the navy's software had been in operation since last year, media reports said.
Aum, whose computer business has been a major source of its income, was also involved in developing software used by a number of government ministries and major companies.
Japan's computer security had already been under scrutiny following a series of hacker raids on government computer systems in early February.
Aum has been under government surveillance this year and has had its facilities repeatedly searched by police.
Prompted by fears the cult was making a comeback, Japan's parliament passed new laws in December enabling authorities to put the cult under surveillance for three years, by inspecting its sites and obliging the group to submit details of its members and assets to the authorities.
The laws do not specify Aum by name but target the activities of any group that has engaged in ``indiscriminate mass murder'' in the past 10 years. In the 1995 nerve gas attack on the capital's subway system, 12 people were killed and thousands injured.
Aum has responded to the growing hostility by saying it has implemented reforms, such as changing its name, and is now a benign religious group.
Aum preached that the world was coming to an end and that the cult must arm itself to prepare for various calamities.
Although AUM Shinrikyo pledged to the world that it had turned over a new leaf earlier this year when it announced it had changed its name to Aleph, the doomsday cult was merely acting on orders their guru, accused mass murderer Shoko Asahara, issued years ago, the Mainichi has learned.
In the wake of the lethal gas attack on Tokyo subways, which AUM members have confessed to carrying out, Asahara in November 1995 instructed cult followers to adopt the Aleph name in what appears to have been an attempt to circumvent efforts to outlaw AUM, police documents that the Mainichi obtained show.
Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officials believe that the name change indicates Asahara continues to exert great influence over the doomsday cult, even though its current leaders claimed to have effectively disowned him.
Officials at the MPD's Public Security Bureau said the documents, dated November 1995, that indicate Asahara's role in AUM's alleged new public face were seized in a raid on a cult office in Yokohama in February.
The documents apparently outlined a conversation between the guru and his lawyer, in which Asahara issued instructions for cult members regarding an alteration of the group's status from a religious corporation to a voluntary group. Among the first orders Asahara issued was one to change the cult's name to Aleph.
Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and AUM ran a company of the same name.
In November 1995, the Public Security Investigation Agency scoured AUM records to determine whether the cult should be disbanded under the Anti-Subversive Activities Law. Although officials later decided not to force the cult to break up, the possibility that AUM would be ordered to disband was extremely high at the time the letter was composed.
Public Security Bureau officials said Asahara ordered the name change to make it appear as though the cult had reformed itself and could thus avoid being targeted by the Anti-Subversive Activities Law.
Although AUM escaped and returned in strength, new laws were passed in December that strictly controlled the cult's activities. In January, then cult leader Tatsuko Muraoka announced a set of reforms the cult promised to undertake to clean up its act. Among the changes Muraoka promised to implement were changing the cult's name to Aleph, and declaring Asahara as a "spiritual being" with no authority over the group's direction.
Immediately after his arrest in November 1995, Aum Supreme Truth cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, instructed the group through his lawyer to adopt a new name, "Aleph", should it be forced to dissolve, it was learned Tuesday.
The cult actually started calling itself Aleph in January this year, while
it announced reforms to distance the 45-year-old guru by referring to him merely as a founder.
However, a Metropolitan Police Department official said, "It is evidence that Aum is still under the influence of Matsumoto."
According to the MPD's Public Security Bureau, which searched the cult's Yokohama branch at the end of February this year, Matsumoto's 1995 instruction was found on floppy disks seized in the search.
A file entitled "Lawyer's Report," contained details of Matsumoto's instructions, which his former lawyer had passed on to cult members after seeing Matsumoto in an MPD building, police officials said.
TOKYO, April 11 (Kyodo) - The Public Security Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department has obtained documents revealing that AUM Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara ordered the cult's name to be changed to ''Aleph'' in 1995, sources close to the bureau said Tuesday.
The cult changed its name from AUM to Aleph in January as part of far-reaching reform plan, which included liquidation of the group's assets. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and the name of a company affiliated with the cult.
The group told a news conference in January that it was no longer under the influence of Asahara, 45.
However, investigators suspect the new name was decided after taking Asahara's order into consideration, the sources said.
The documents were confiscated during a February raid of the group's Yokohama branch, which functions as the de facto headquarters of the religious group, the sources said.
According to the sources, the documents, dated November 1995, are believed to be based on a conversation between Asahara and his lawyer at a detention house.
Investigators believe the group also changed the name of the affiliated company to Aleph in 1996 under Asahara's instruction.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is on trial for his alleged role in at least 17 major crimes, including masterminding the Tokyo sarin gas attack, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.
The cult has defined Asahara as a ''spiritual being,'' but clarified that he no longer has the authority to direct group members.
TOGIGAWA, Saitama - The 6-year-old twin girls of a former AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult leader attended an opening ceremony to admit them into elementary school here on Monday despite previous protests by many of the school's parents.
The daughters of Hisako Ishii, 36, who is currently serving time in prison for crimes committed by AUM (now called Aleph), will be attend the Myokaku Municipal Elementary School, in Saitama Prefecture.
A total of 58 new students including the girls, whose aunt brought them, were scheduled to attend the event.
Yukio Kubota, the school's principal, stressed the importance of making friends at school, in his opening remarks.
"Becoming friends is just as important as study," he said.
The town of Togigawa initially had refused to admit the girls to the school, but decided in the end to let them attend classes.
(Kyodo News Service, April 10, 2000)
URAWA, Japan, April 10 (Kyodo) - Twin daughters of a former AUM Shinrikyo cult member attended an entrance ceremony for new students at an elementary school in the village of Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture, on Monday, school officials said.
The 10-year-old daughter of AUM founder Shoko Asahara, meanwhile, did not show up for a ceremony at Sakuyama Elementary School in the city of Otawara, Tochigi Prefecture, marking the start of the academic year, the officials said. The academic year starts in April in Japan.
The girl's female guardian, an AUM member, earlier said that the girl would not attend ''to avoid troubling other children and their parents.'' The girl is to enter the school's fifth grade.
Asahara's 6-year-old son, who has also enrolled at Sakuyama school, plans to skip the school's entrance ceremony Wednesday for the same reason, the guardian said.
On March 2, education officials in Otawara and Tokigawa separately decided to allow the AUM children to enter schools in their communities, reversing decisions that denied them admission because of strong opposition by local residents.
The Tokigawa board of education last September refused to allow the 6-year-old twin daughters of Hisako Ishii, who is currently serving a prison sentence for AUM-related crimes, to enter a local school. Ishii later filed a lawsuit against the board.
After the Education Ministry and Tochigi prefectural education officials called on the Tokigawa board to allow the twins a ''normal admission to school,'' the board conceded and began convincing residents to accept the girls' admission.
The twins were admitted because it is likely they will only attend the school for one term. They are scheduled to move out of a nearby AUM facility, which is now their home, by Aug. 20.
At the Tokigawa entrance ceremony, principal Yukio Kubota appealed to new students ''to be good friends with one another.''
The ceremony ended without incident, and the twins were seen chatting with fellow classmates following a group photo.
The two sisters were placed in different classes. Their teachers will take extra care to prevent bullying, the officials said.
Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, is standing trial for his alleged role in at least 17 criminal cases, including the 1995 Tokyo subway gassing, which caused 12 deaths and injured more than 5,000.
AUM renamed itself Aleph in January.
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