Richard J. Samuels' on his Book Special Duty: A History of the Japanese Intelligence Community

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Friday, March 13th, 2020

Friday, March 13, 20204:00PM - 6:00PMBloor - 1st floor Boardroom/Round Room/Library, 315 Bloor Street West
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Professor Richard J. Samuels of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will visit the Munk School of Global Affairs on March 13, 2020, to talk about his new book, Special Duty: A History of the Japanese Intelligence Community (Cornell University Press, 2019). There will be a book sale and signing by the author following the talk. A foremost expert on Japanese politics and foreign policy, Professor Samuels is the Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the Center for International Studies at MIT.

About Special Duty: A History of the Japanese Intelligence Community

The prewar history of the Japanese intelligence community demonstrates how having power over much, but insight into little, can have devastating consequences. Its postwar history―one of limited Japanese power despite growing insight―has also been problematic for national security.

In Special Duty, Richard J. Samuels dissects the fascinating history of the intelligence community in Japan. Looking at the impact of shifts in the strategic environment, technological change, and past failures, he probes the reasons why Japan has endured such a roller-coaster ride when it comes to intelligence gathering and analysis, and concludes that the ups and downs of the past century―combined with growing uncertainties in the regional security environment―have convinced Japanese leaders of the critical importance of striking balance between power and insight.

Using examples of excessive hubris and debilitating bureaucratic competition before the Asia-Pacific War, the unavoidable dependence on US assets and popular sensitivity to security issues after World War II, and the tardy adoption of image-processing and cyber technologies, Samuels’ bold book highlights the century-long history of Japan’s struggles to develop a fully functioning and effective intelligence capability, and makes clear that Japanese leaders have begun to reinvent their nation’s intelligence community.


“With deep mastery of Japanese and American archival material and a raft of interviews with key players, Professor Samuels has captured in a single, valuable volume the successes and failures of Japanese intelligence since 1895 and, above all, the political cross-currents and unique restraints under which its agencies have operated since 1945.” – Joel Brenner, former head of US counterintelligence, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and former Inspector General of the National Security Agency

“Special Duty is a timely book, and a suitable next installment in Richard Samuels’ influential oeuvre on modern Japanese security policy.” – Michael Green, Georgetown University, author of Arming Japan

“This book is a masterpiece that incisively analyzes the Japanese intelligence community and its activities. I learned a lot from this book. I think that Japan wants to overcome the various problems facing its intelligence and become a part of the Five Eyes as soon as possible.” -Satoshi Morimoto, Former Minister of Defense, Japan

“This is a truly wonderful book written by a leading and highly respected scholar in the field of Japanese security and politics. It offers much needed insight to academics and policymakers alike as they seek to understand the changes in Japan’s security choices.” -Sheila Smith, Council on Foreign Relations, author of Intimate Rivals

“Focusing on intelligence gathering by the modern Japanese state from 1895, the author’s insights into pre-war “hubris and debilitating bureaucratic competition” and postwar reliance on the U.S. will attract fans of both geopolitical and military history.” -Japan Times

“This engrossing history of Japanese intelligence demonstrates how such changes have made Japan a better security partner for the United States while preparing the country to stand on its own if the U.S. security guarantee loses its credibility.” -Foreign Affairs


Richard J. Samuels
Ford International Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Main Sponsor

Centre for the Study of Global Japan


Centre for the Study of Global Japan

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