Aum Shinrikyo. Stealing of military secrets from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Hiroshima DAVID E. KAPLAN AND ANDREW MARSHALL MAGAZINE DATE OF PUBLICATION: 07.01.96. 07.01.96 TIME OF PUBLICATION: 12:00 PM. 12:00 PM THE CULT AT THE END OF THE WORLD
Aum Shinrikyo. Stealing of military secrets from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Hiroshima
Next to Murai's Ministry of Science, no part of Aum was more vital to the cult than the Ministry of Intelligence and its 25-year-old chief, Yoshihiro Inoue. And no mission was more important to Inoue than the pilfering of sensitive data from Japan's top high-tech companies. To the enterprising Inoue, the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries compound in Hiroshima was a virtual library of classified military secrets. MHI designed tanks, escort ships, and nuclear power plants, and its Hiroshima facility was a technological gold mine – one that Inoue was about to plunder.
It was about 11:30 p.m. on December 28, 1994, a dead hour in the middle of the slow holiday season. While millions of Japanese lived it up at overseas resorts, Inoue's five-man team sped through MHI's front gate in a rental car. Sergeant Tatsuya Toyama, a member of an elite Japanese paratrooper unit, was at the wheel. Inoue sat beside him. There was another paratrooper in the back, one more curled up in the trunk.
Also in the backseat sat cult member Hideo Nakamoto, a 38-year-old MHI senior researcher. Nakamoto had provided Inoue's squad with the MHI uniforms they now wore, and his company ID ensured an easy passage through the 24-hour security at MHI's gates. Once inside the compound, Toyama stood guard, swinging a flashlight. The others walked swiftly into the building.
Then the thieving began. Inoue's team logged onto MHI's mainframe and downloaded megabytes of restricted files onto a laptop computer. What they couldn't fit on disks was photocopied or simply pilfered. Among Inoue's loot was a description of laser sighting devices for tank guns, and a document – marked "Top Secret to Company Outsiders" – containing data on laser technology to enrich uranium. Afterward, Toyama helped carry cardboard boxes full of documents and disks out to the car. Then Inoue and his squad drove out the way they'd come in – through the front gate.
Breaking into MHI was so easy that Inoue returned again – and again. The information he stole was funneled back to Aum scientists, injecting new energy into the sect's grandiose designs to develop a dazzling variety of futuristic weapons.
Chief among them was the laser, which Aum had been studying for several years. In fact, just two months before the MHI break-in, residents at Mount Fuji had witnessed a bizarre sight – a sharp beam of red light streaking across the night sky. It was 4 inches wide and emanated from one of Aum's buildings. For two hours, the beam was locked on to another sect facility about a mile away. Cultists later told locals that Aum was merely conducting a "laser irradiation experiment." The real reason was less reassuring. They were out to make laser weapons.
The cult's firearms factory had used laser cutters capable of slicing through iron plates since April 1994. But the guru had long been obsessed with the dark beauty of lasers. "I believe that in the end a giant laser gun will be developed," Asahara preached in 1993. "When the power of this laser is increased, a perfectly white belt, or sword, can be seen. This is the sword referred to in the Book of Revelation. This sword will destroy virtually all life." The guru's passion for lasers was easy to understand. After all, what was a high-tech death cult without the classic "death ray" seen in a thousand sci-fi movies?