Toshiba whistle-blower defends decision to expose company. His motive, he says, was to protect security of Japan and free world
The man who blew the whistle on Toshiba says he would be willing to testify before the United States Congress or the Japanese Diet (parliament). ``The US Congress seems intent on bashing Toshiba,'' said Kazuo Kumagai. ``They may do that. But to me, what is most important is how to stop illegal sales to the Soviet Union of high technology products that endanger the security of the free world.''
Punishing Toshiba, Mr. Kumagai said, puts the emphasis on retribution for what has already been done. The US, Japan, and the other principle Western countries, he says, should be getting together to see how they can prevent future Toshiba-like incidents.
Toshiba Machine and the Norwegian firm Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk have admitted selling to Moscow a special type of milling machine and its computer controls that have enabled the Soviet Union to dramatically reduce the noise level of its submarine propellers.
Drafts of laws now before Congress would deny Norwegian and Japanese companies concerned access to the American market for specified periods of time, particularly for the giant Toshiba Corporation, the parent of Toshiba Machine.
Kumagai exposed what Toshiba and the Norwegian firm had done in a letter to Cocom, the Paris-based coordinating committee of Western allies that makes rules for what may or may not be exported to Soviet-bloc countries.
A man of craggy visage and of somewhat saturnine expression, Kumagai has the air of someone who knows he has caused controversy, and yet is at peace with himself.
``Which is the greater patriotism,'' Kumagai asks, ``not to expose something that is harmful to Japan's prestige, or to expose it because it endangers Japan's security and that of the whole free world?''
He was responding to an accusation that a number of Japanese have made, questioning his motives.
``To expose a case like this at this time, when Japan is already being bashed by Congress for its huge trade surpluses, is clearly against the national interest,'' said an editorial writer of a leading newspaper here. ``Why did Kumagai do it? He must have had some compelling personal reason - some huge grudge against his employer.''
The comment in turn shows one aspect of Japanese society - an inclination to close ranks against a perceived threat from the outside, a reluctance to break ranks and to be seen pointing accusatory fingers at each other. People like Kumagai, who break these unspoken rules, must be prepared to face social ostracism and to have any skeletons they may have in their closet pitilessly exposed.
Kumagai, in this sense, is both vulnerable and not. He is vulnerable because he himself participated in the kind of rule-breaking he exposes. He is invulnerable because he has already been through his crise de conscience and made his decision to go public, come what may.
In a Monitor interview earlier this week with Daniel Sneider, Kumagai explained the kind of work that his company Wako Koeki did in Moscow, his growing uneasiness over its flouting of Cocom rules and the consequences for Western security, and his final decision to take action.
In Tuesday's interview with this correspondent, he reiterated that what originally impelled him was anger - anger with his company that, after years of doing ``dirty work'' for it, he had not been promoted as he thought he deserved. This anger in turn led him to reexamine what he had already been uneasy about - the kind of life he had led and why, and what satisfaction he had obtained.
Kumagai freely admits that he was one of the culprits, but he angrily denies that he was motivated by greed or that he tried to blackmail anyone. ``Can't people believe that it's possible to expose something that may harm Japan's prestige in the short run, and still be a patriot?'' he said.
Kumagai also points out that Wako was far from being the only company that flouted Cocom rules. Many other companies, Japanese and Western, did the same. He says he has mentioned some names other than Toshiba in his letter to Cocom as well as in his statements to the Japanese police when they investigated him following the letter.
``In quantity, it's quite correct to say that the Toshiba case was only the tip of the iceberg,'' he said. ``In quality, it was by far the most serious case.''
Now that Toshiba is out in the open, what about these other cases? ``The police are investigating them,'' he said. He did not want to mention names because he had no proof.
In that sense, Kumagai feels, his exposure of Toshiba has been a success. In the changed climate brought about by his action, Japan is now hurrying to tighten its Cocom-related laws and procedures. Other countries may be doing the same.
``But to be effective, there must be a coordinated effort,'' Kumagai said. That is what he very much hopes will be the next stage in this unfolding story.