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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 March 30 - April 5  > What information is considered ‘special secrets’ is up to government: watchdogs’ reports
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2016 March 30 - April 5 [POLITICS]

What information is considered ‘special secrets’ is up to government: watchdogs’ reports

April 1, 2016
Parliamentary panels which are tasked to monitor the government’s operation of the state secrets protection law on March 30 presented their first reports to the chairpersons of both Houses of the Diet. The reports indicate that it is up to the government to decide what information to designate as “special secrets” in addition to the limitations of the panels’ role as watchdog.

The panels, which are called the Board of Oversight and Review of Specially Designated Secrets, each of which consists of eight parliamentarians, examined 328 cases (about 189,000 items) that ministries of the Abe government in 2014 designated as special secrets.

In the Lower House panel’s report, in response to a panel member’s request to disclose the minutes of National Security Council of Japan meetings, the government said, “The meetings took place with the aim of exchanging opinions between Prime Minister Abe and relevant ministers in a candid manner. They of course should be held behind closed doors.” Regarding the panel’s question about the Self-Defense Forces’ rules of engagement, the Defense Ministry in its response said that information regarding the rules should be withheld, although they are not designated as special secrets.

The report criticized the government for declining to make public even unclassified information. This represents the Abe government’s stance to hide inconvenient information from the public. Nevertheless, the Lower House panel only called on the government to respond to the panel in an “appropriate” manner.

The Upper House panel’s report gave an example of the government’s intention to keep an unjustifiable range of information secret. In response to the panel’s request, the Justice Ministry submitted documents in which the ministry blacked out information regarding who in the ministry staff have access to state secrets.

In the December 2015 panel meeting, the Democratic Party of Japan (currently the Democratic Party) proposed a disclosure of information designated as special secrets by the NSC and National Police Agency. However, the proposal was dismissed by the Liberal Democratic and Komei parties.

Past related articles:
> Secrets law to allow PM to check secret info to suit gov’t need [November 5, 2014]
> PM will classify state secrets all by himself: JCP Akamine [February 22, 2014]
> What the secrets protection bill is all about [October 27, 2013]
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