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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 January 29 - February 4  > Company even tried to obtain fingerprints: ex-arms company worker
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2014 January 29 - February 4 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

Company even tried to obtain fingerprints: ex-arms company worker

February 3, 2014
A former employee of Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. (KHI) told Akahata about his involvement in conducting unconstitutional background checks on workers who had access to secrets.

The former male employee was assigned to a general administration division of a factory of Kawasaki Aircraft Corporation (currently KHI) in Gifu Prefecture in 1957.

At that time, the Defense Agency (currently the Defense Ministry) was going ahead with preparing for the production of Lockheed’s F104 Starfighters in Japan. The agency requested that companies wanting to join the aircraft production establish rules regarding background checks on employees who were eligible to handle secrets.

Defense authorities requested that based on a bilateral agreement, a secrets protection system “similar” to the U.S. be established in the licensing of fighter jet production technology from the United States.

The former Kawasaki Aircraft employee said that only his boss and he were directly involved in the creation of rules for employees’ background checks. They received an order to come up with a draft of the rules by consulting a copy of Lockheed’s rulebook which was given to Kawasaki Aircraft by its U.S. business partner Lockheed.

The draft rules allowed the company to collect personal data not only on workers working near secrets but also on their family members and friends. This made it possible for the company to exclude workers from jobs dealing with classified information if they had what the company considered as “persona non grata” among their family members or friends.

The draft also incorporated a provision enabling the company to take the fingerprints of workers handling classified information or materials.

The employee said that he adopted the provision from the Lockheed’s rulebook. “I don’t know what the U.S. aircraft manufacturer did with the fingerprints. Kawasaki Aircraft planned to file employees’ fingerprints on cards,” said the man.

Noting the fact that he visited the Defense Agency twice to explain the draft to relevant officials, he said, “After listening to my explanation, defense officials said, ‘It seems good,’ and gave a green light to the draft,” he said.

A Kawasaki Aircraft union at that time expressed strong opposition to provisions regarding background checks and filing of fingerprints. It, however, accepted the company’s argument that failure in establishing the rules on background checks would severely affect whether or not the company succeeds in entering into the production of the F104 aircraft. The union reached a compromise with the company on the draft by having the fingerprint provision removed. The draft was finalized in 1958.

Recalling this experience, the ex-Kawasaki worker said that as his job of creating the rules went against his conscience, he was highly stressed and felt emotionally exhausted while engage in this task.

In the late 1950s, arms companies established rules for collecting personal information about their workers with access to secrets and since then they have continued collecting such information.
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