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2010年11月19日 (金)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 17
EDITORIAL: No arrest in video leak

Investigators probing the leak of Japan Coast Guard video footage showing a Chinese trawler ramming two Japanese patrol boats off the Senkaku Islands in September have decided to continue questioning the officer who admitted to uploading the footage on YouTube. But he will not be arrested.

Although the officer voluntarily appeared before investigators, his statements were vague and the storage medium believed to have been used to take the footage from his organization has not been found.

Opinions were split among the investigating authorities. But the decision not to arrest the officer was reportedly the result of an overall judgment on various circumstances.

We must not forget, however, that the foundation of criminal investigations is questioning suspects without arrest unless it would risk the destruction of evidence or flight.

Thus, there is no need to insist upon physical custody. The important thing is to get to the bottom of how the leak occurred.

The shoddy information management at the coast guard is stunning.

How was the footage stored and posted on the Internet. What rank of personnel could access it?

It was first explained that the video was rigorously controlled, but subsequent statements have wavered. This is a key issue for a judgment on whether the footage was a secret that should be protected to the point of imposing punishment.

The coast guard is the organization in charge of policing Japan's seas, and it has the authority to make arrests and use weapons. The agency's current state, however, makes us uneasy.

How are other important materials stored? Besides the obvious need to revamp the data-handling systems and awareness at the coast guard, stern questions remain about the responsibility of those involved in management operations.

As suspicions toward the coast guard mount, there has also been a swell of support for the officer's actions. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined the chorus in an online magazine, commending the officer for his bravery in releasing the images to the public.

But this is over the top. What will become of national management if frontline civil servants decide to leak intelligence at their own discretion simply because they disagree with government policy?

The officer's actions also fail to meet the requirements for whistle-blowing protected under the law. Praising him as a hero is a mistake and extremely risky. He stated he wanted people to act on their own ideas and judgments of the matter. We can only wonder what motive he had.

The Asahi Shimbun has tirelessly advocated the public's right to know. This does not extend, however, to the immediate release of all sensitive information on foreign relations, defense, security and other intelligence.

We must share the common awareness that information disclosure and the debate rooted in that issue are an indispensable part of democracy. Then, considering the overall interests for each case, judgments should be rendered on the validity and timing of disclosure. It is the accumulation of such efforts that tempers the very fabric of a society.

At the base of the current confusion lies distrust toward the current administration, which offered no policy consistency on dealing with the trawler incident, thrust the responsibility onto the prosecutor's office and failed to clearly explain its position to the people.

There has also been a jumble of raw sentiment and nationalism directed at China, a nation that continues to expand its status as a global power, along with the pursuit of partisan politics in Japan. Statements charged with emotion and ulterior motives are rife.

Meanwhile, the truth remains hidden. Investigators must shed light on the facts. This will also help promote level-headed discussions on how best to disclose and safeguard important information in the era of the Internet.


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