Japan: Anti-Democratic Secrecy Bill

ASIA--PACIFIC, 23 Sep 2013

Editorial – The Japan Times

The Abe administration plans to submit to the Diet a bill designed to protect state secrets that the government deems vital to national security. The bill will enable the heads of administrative organizations to designate a wide range of information as “special secrets” and mete out up to 10 years’ imprisonment to national servants who leak such secrets as well as those who obtain the secrets, including reporters, through “conspiracy, instigation and agitation.” The bill obviously would undermine the people’s right to know what their government is doing by strongly limiting their access to information. The government should rewrite the bill to ensure that freedom of information and freedom of the press — two pillars of democracy — are fully upheld.

The government says that the bill is necessary to ensure the effective functioning of the planned National Security Council, which is being pushed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Under the bill, the heads of administrative bodies would designate as special secrets an extremely wide range of information in the areas of defense, diplomacy, counterintelligence and prevention of terrorism if they think the information merits special protection. The bill’s biggest flaw is that the officials would have discretionary power and that the bill has no internal mechanism — such as an in camera committee — to verify whether the designation is justifiable from the viewpoint of protecting the people’s right to know.

The defense minister would be able to designate almost all information related to defense and the Self-Defense Forces if he wishes so, including plans, estimates and studies related to operations of the SDF and improvement of the nation’s defense capabilities; types and quantities of weapons and ammunition; capabilities and ways of production and uses of weapons and ammunition in the development stage, and designs and capabilities of defense-related facilities.

The foreign minister would be able to designate as special secrets information concerning “negotiations” and scope of cooperation with foreign governments or international organizations in the field of security. This concept is so wide and vague that the foreign minister would be able to expand the scope of special secrets as desired and the government would be able to conduct secret security negotiations with foreign countries. Information related to guarding of nuclear power plants to prevent terrorist attacks could also be classified as special secrets.

Once information held by the government is designated as a special secret, the status would be maintained for five years and it could be readily renewed by the heads of administrative bodies.

The bill’s proposed punishment of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for national servants who leak special secrets is far harsher than the current punishment of up to one year’s imprisonment for national servants who violate the duty of confidentiality and up to five years’ imprisonment for SDF members who leak defense secrets. The fact that the bill allows for the punishing of reporters who try to investigate special secrets is extremely worrisome. It is unclear whether reporters who press national servants to discuss about special secrets would be regarded as “instigating” them to talk.

The bill carries a danger of expanding the scope of special secrets ad infinitum and could undermine the fundamental democratic principles of freedom of information and freedom of the press. Lawmakers and the public need to recognize the danger posed by the bill and act to protect democratic freedoms.

Go to Original – japantimes.co.jp


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One Response to “Japan: Anti-Democratic Secrecy Bill”

  1. satoshi says:

    The negotiation on the TPP between the United States and Japan is carried out in secrecy. It is not a military agenda; it is an economic and business agenda. Nonetheless, the negotiation is in secret. Both governments know that the TPP is unfair to Japan/the Japanese economy and business, but there are some “secret” reasons for the Japanese government to join the TPP.

    When the negotiation is finished, the ratification of the TPP will be decided at the Diet. Article 56 paragraph 1 of the Constitution of Japan stipulates, “Business cannot be transacted in either House unless one third or more of total membership is present.” That is, if only one third of the total membership is present at the session, the decision will be legitimately made. That is easy for Abe’s LDP now because the LDP has secured the majority of seats both Houses. (Note that Article 56 is one of the few articles of the Constitution of Japan, which the LDP’s draft constitution of Japan preserves as it is.)

    With that same procedure, Abe’s government will be able to pass the State Secret Protection Bill soon. What actually is the State secret? Its definition is vague. Almost anything can be considered as the State secret, not only military issues but also critical information on radio activity of Fukushima, for instance.

    As mentioned above, Abe’s LDP maintains the majority at both Houses. Abe’s government has already founded the Japanese version of the NSA. Abe’s next step is to pass the State secret protection bill. Then, his goal is to amend the substantial part of the Constitution of Japan, including Article 9, so that Japan’s Self Defense Forces (SDFs) will be able to join almost any war anywhere in the world, upon request from the United States. Abe’s government is discussing the possible exercise of the right of collective defense (in order to justify Japan’s possible participation with the US forces in a future war).

    The Japanese government accepts almost any request from Washington DC (or the main figures of the Japanese government might fall from their status). One of the examples: It is reported that, “upon the request from the US government”, the Japanese government paid the cost of the Persian War (1991) of some 13 billion US dollars after that war whereas the United States paid allegedly 9.1 billion dollars for the war cost. Regardless of that huge payment, however, Kuwait did not acknowledge it. After the Gulf War, Kuwait expressed its gratitude to those countries that joined the Persian Gulf War to rescue Kuwait but did not mention which country paid the war bill. The Japanese government learned a costly lesson; “Send them Japanese soldiers, not money.”

    Who is pushing Abe’s LDP to take the above mentioned steps, including founding the Japanese version of the NSA, passing the State secret bill, and attempting to amend the Constitution to enable Japan’s SDFs (by then, it will be called the “National Defense Forces” or the “NDFs”) to go to war with the American forces? When Abe’s grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, the then Prime Minister of Japan, was signing AMPO in 1960, Abe was 6 years old. The one that was behind Kishi at that time is behind Abe now.

    Step by step, peace and democracy in the Far East Asian region are being damaged. The State secret bill this time is one of those steps. How to boil a living frog? Put it into a pot and raise the temperature one degree by one degree, of the heat under the pot. Do it slowly so that the frog is unaware that it is being boiled. The idea of “Abenomics” was reportedly given to Abe’s government by the United States. While most Japanese people are happy with the Abenomics policy that depreciates the Japanese Yen to promote the export of Japanese products to abroad, something serious things against their peace and democracy are quietly going on, step by step.

    Japanese people are sympathetic to Syrian civilians who are now in desperate situations. “Estimates of deaths in the Syrian civil war, per opposition activist groups, vary between 85,150 and 110,375. On 24 July 2013, the United Nations put out an estimate of over 100,000 that had died in the war. UNICEF reported that over 500 children had been killed by early February 2012. Another 400 children have been reportedly arrested and tortured in Syrian prisons. Both claims have been contested by the Syrian government. Additionally, over 600 detainees and political prisoners have died under torture. By early September 2013, the opposition activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported the number of children killed in the conflict had risen to 5,833, while at the same time 3,905 women were also killed. According to the UN, 6,561 children were killed by mid-June 2013. ” (Source: Wikipedia, accessed on 23 September 2013)

    Meanwhile, what is happening to Japanese people themselves?