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2013年10月25日 (金)

秘密保護法案 国会はどう機密を共有するか

The Yomiuri Shimbun October 25, 2013
Diet must seek ways to share top state secrets while protecting them
秘密保護法案 国会はどう機密を共有するか(10月24日付・読売社説)

It is important to create a mechanism to preserve state secrets involving national security while also protecting the people’s “right to know.”

The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito approved the government’s revised draft of a bill for a special secrets protection law that is designed to toughen punishments on civil servants who leak classified information. The bill is scheduled to be submitted to the Diet on Friday.

To protect Japan’s peace and the safety of its people, it is indispensable to promote the sharing of information concerning terrorism and military matters with the United States and other allied countries. If such classified information is easily leaked, our mutual trust with our allies will be undermined. This is why such a law to prevent leaks of important information is necessary.

The bill designates especially highly confidential information as “special state secrets” in four categories: defense, diplomacy, prevention of espionage activities and prevention of terrorism. In addition to leaking information, inducing someone to leak such information is subject to punishment under the bill.

For this reason, many people are worried that the freedom to gather and report news will be restricted.

The revised draft stipulates, “Full consideration will be given to the freedom of the press and to gathering news, which contributes to people’s right to know.” This is steady advancement toward wiping out such worries.

Regarding efforts by members of the press to gather news, a provision was added to the bill to regard them “as lawful business activities unless they are illegal or extremely unjust.” We expect the provision to prevent, to a certain degree, normal news gathering activities from being treated as criminal acts.

Worries remain

However, the punishment for leaking state secrets is up to 10 years in prison, much more severe than the maximum of one year stipulated by the National Civil Service Law. We cannot deny the possibility that public employees will shrink from cooperating with news gathering.

Concerns also remain about the possibility that administrative organs will casually designate as state secrets information that it would be inconvenient to have known by the public.

The revised draft says the government will decide on unified criteria concerning the designation of secrets and lifting such a designation. It obliges the government to listen to opinions of experts when making such criteria.

To prevent arbitrary application of the law, the government will need to devise criteria that strictly define the range of special secrets.

There has been insufficient study on the disclosure of state secrets to Diet members who do not belong to administrative institutions. The bill says special state secrets can be provided to a Diet committee under some conditions, including closed-door sessions. However, there has not been a decision about the range of Diet members who will be provided information, or concrete measures to prevent leaks of such information.

The issue is whether the future course of Japan can be decided if the legislative branch and ranking members of ruling parties are never informed of state secrets that seriously affect national security.

In the U.S. Congress, there is already a mechanism for the disclosure of state secrets from the government in closed-door meetings.

Information gathered through public authority should not be monopolized by bureaucrats. We believe the legislative branch should also independently study the establishment of a system to share state secrets and protect them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 24, 2013)
(2013年10月24日01時41分  読売新聞)


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