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2013年11月18日 (月)

秘密保護法案 将来の「原則公開」軸に修正を

The Yomiuri Shimbun November 18, 2013
Secrets bill should be revised to ensure eventual disclosure
秘密保護法案 将来の「原則公開」軸に修正を(11月17日付・読売社説)

An envisaged law to ensure protection of specially designated state secrets is essential in enhancing the functions of a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council, which will play a key role in the nation’s security strategy.

We expect both the ruling and opposition parties to thoroughly discuss the legislation and search for common grounds to avoid public skepticism.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, have begun negotiations on amendments to the special secrets protection bill separately with Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party.
The envisaged law allows for harsher punishments for public servants who leak state secrets.

We believe the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which considered similar legislation when it was in office, also should join the negotiations.

With the increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan, the risk of leaking classified information is growing. A system to prevent secrets from being leaked is necessary for Japan to exchange and share important information with other countries.

Negotiations on amendments to the bill are based on the recognition of such fundamental factors. We will watch the course of the negotiations carefully.

In deliberations on the bill at the House of Representatives Special Committee on National Security and interparty negotiations on changes to the bill, a major point of contention is the extent of information relevant to defense, diplomacy, and antiespionage and antiterrorism efforts to be designated as special secrets.

It is deeply feared that the government might designate as much information as it likes as special secrets to conceal information detrimental to its interests.

Public right to know

According to the bill, the period of confidentiality is set at a maximum of five years with the possibility of extending this period. But some people believe the envisaged law will enable the government to conceal special secrets semipermanently because the period could be extended to more than 30 years with the Cabinet’s approval.

We believe it is important to stipulate in the bill that special secrets be made public as a matter of principle after passage of a certain period of time. If special secrets are to be eventually disclosed to the public, even in the distant future, such a provision is expected to be effective in preventing the government from designating information as special secrets in an arbitrary manner.

Of course, some exceptional secrets cannot be publicly disclosed, such as secret codes and intelligence involving other countries. We believe it would be difficult to include in the bill a stipulation that all secrets should be disclosed without exception.

Meanwhile, creation of a third-party panel that would monitor the appropriateness of the government’s designation of special secrets is under discussion. However, we wonder if outsiders would be able to properly evaluate a huge number of secrets. With their responsibility, heads of administrative bodies are really the only people who can judge whether to designate information as special secrets by considering the nation’s strategy and interest.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his intention to transfer government documents, including special secrets, to the National Archives of Japan and disclose them to the public after the effective confidentiality periods for such secrets expire. It is important to put rules in place that would enable future generations to check whether the designations were appropriate.

How to guarantee the people’s right to know has also become a point of contention. Asked if the press would become subject to investigation if a special secret is leaked, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said it was difficult to generalize.

If the press is investigated at the whim of authorities, the freedom of news gathering and reporting would be significantly hampered. We can never make any concession on this point.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 17, 2013)
(2013年11月17日01時43分  読売新聞)


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