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2014年4月18日 (金)


April 17, 2014
EDITORIAL: Diet must keep vigilant eye on state secrecy cases

What role should the Diet perform to prevent arbitrary enforcement of the newly enacted state secrets protection law?

Earlier this month, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner New Komeito set up a project team to thrash out ideas for a new monitoring organization to be created within the Diet.

More than 100 local assemblies across the nation have passed proposals to scrap the state secrecy law. That indicates strong and widespread concerns about the controversial legislation.

The ruling coalition, which rammed the bill through the Diet late last year by taking advantage of its sizable majority in both houses, has a duty to at least give the Diet’s monitoring body as much power as possible in order to ease public anxiety about the law.

But the LDP’s proposal about the new watchdog is too timid to ensure rigorous monitoring of the way the law is enforced.

The LDP has proposed setting up an entity with the tentative name of “information review commission” in each of the two Diet chambers.

In situations where the government refuses to heed a demand from a standing or special Diet committee to turn over certain documents on grounds state secrets would be compromised, the committee would be able to ask the review panel to examine the case, according to the LDP’s plan.
In response, the panel would discuss it. If it concludes the government should submit the document, it would demand disclosure of the secret and examine it.

The LDP’s original proposal contained a passage saying the new body would not determine the appropriateness of the government’s designation of specific information as a state secret. But the passage has been removed in response to criticism from both in and outside the party.

Still, the revised proposal doesn’t clearly state that the watchdog will make a judgment on the appropriateness of the classification of certain information. As a result, it is unclear how the envisioned entity will respond to cases of questionable implementation of the law.

New Komeito, for its part, has proposed the creation of a body, tentatively named a joint “information committee of both houses,” for constant monitoring of the ways the government classifies and declassifies information. The body would have the power to advise the government to take remedial steps in problematic cases.

In their talks over the issue, the two parties should seek to work out a blueprint of the monitoring body based mainly on New Komeito’s proposal. They should also make serious efforts to figure out additional steps the Diet could take to ensure rigorous monitoring.

The law stipulates that Cabinet members and other heads of administrative organizations can refuse to disclose state secrets to the Diet if they think that doing so could cause serious damage to national security.

There are still strong and legitimate concerns that this provision might restrict the Diet’s power to investigate and monitor the government’s actions, turning the separation of powers into a mere shell.

We still find it hard to fathom why the Diet hastily passed a law, which ties its own hands, in such a forceful manner.

Under Japan’s parliamentary Cabinet system, ruling party lawmakers inevitably tend to feel a sense of unity with the government. But Diet members are representatives of all the people.

In addition to supporting the government’s policy agenda, lawmakers are duty-bound to also do things for the sake of the people. They should not forget that.

Some opposition lawmakers, mainly members of the Democratic Party of Japan, are exploring the possibility of submitting an alternative proposal to the Diet.

Lawmakers of both the ruling and opposition camps should jointly create a monitoring organ with sufficient authority as a way to demonstrate their pride as members of the Diet.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 17


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