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Essay and Opinion

The Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets

December 9, 2013

Noriho URABE
(Adviser, Japan Institute of Constitutional Law)

  A law to protect designated state secrets―The Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets (hereinafter called the secrecy law)―has just been approved. The ruling coalition forced through the crazy bill without explaining why Japan needs such a law now. No candidate of any party called for such legislation in recent elections; neither in the House of Representatives' election in 2012, nor in the House of Councilors' election in 2013. It was abruptly put on the agenda and forced through. The government limited the term for accepting public comments on the bill unusually short. It reluctantly disclosed that 77 percent of the comments through the Internet opposed the bill. All the speakers, including those who were nominated by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), opposed the bill in the public hearing in Fukushima, on the day before the steamrollering in the House of Representatives. Despite that the opposition parties resisted, and that voices against the bill was growing louder, and that a US intellectual commented that "the bill is the worst one among democratic nations in this century (Asahi Shimbun's report)," the ruling majority passed the bill. The LDP's Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba mentioned that "Those demonstrators against this bill are not much different from terrorists." We had known that the information about terrorism was included in "designated state secret" in this law. His comment sounded like disclosing that the information about controlling demonstrations is also designated as "secret" in the law. The ruling parties are now showing off their harmful nature, as they have absolute majorities in both houses and they don't have to worry about national elections for the next 3 years. They seem to believe that they can do whatever.
  The Japan Democratic Party (JDP) and some media criticize the law because it enables bureaucrats to hide some information. That is one important point. Furthermore, it marks a daring step toward the Abe administration's goal to make Japan ready to fight a war. It is inseparably linked to a law to create a Japanese version of National Security Council (NSC), which has already been approved. The Cabinet seeks to lift the ban on arms export, and to authorize the right of collective defense. The next agenda must be the establishment of the Japanese version of CIA or British SIS (dramatized as 007). I believe that they are all made for aggressive right-wingers, not for bureaucrats. It might have been a little too difficult for the JDP and the media, which either approved or tolerated Japanese NSC, to understand the real nature of the secrecy law.
  The Abe administration desired the secrecy law, in order to obtain more information, from the USA and the UK, that facilitates activities of the Japanese version of NSC. Protecting secrets is essential when receiving information from intelligence agencies such as CIA and SIS. The Japanese government may need to provide its information to the USA and some others without any domestic disclosure and arguments. Think about a collective defense action. How can you fight together without sharing information? In joint military actions with the USA, domestic arguments and objections should also be avoided. The Abe administration seems to visualize such cases and hope such actions go smoothly, secretly and successfully.
  However, isn't it too naïve to believe that the USA and some others will provide more information when secrets are perfectly protected? The USA may give Japan what they believe is useful to them, not us. In other words, the USA will give information to Japan in order to make us serve them. They will never give us what we need if they believe that the information hurts them. The CIA is notorious for its record of providing their made-up stories for the benefit of the US government or some political factions. "Iraqi government led by Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass-destruction." was one of their recent lies, which was used to justify the war against Iraq. Japan will have to take part in military actions based on such dubious and provocative information that only helps the USA. In other words, the USA will command Japanese troops to go anywhere on the earth to fight in the front line. That is the common goal of the Japanese NSC, the secrecy law and the collective defense. There is no doubt that Japan will have its share of collecting information. Japanese militarists will call for the establishment of the Japanese CIA, as Prime Minister Abe has already announced in the Diet that "The secrecy law will have little meaning without our capability to gather such information that is designated by that law."
  Lifting the ban on arms export is another important factor. The secrecy law will surely designate all the information on kinds, partners and purposes of export and joint development of weapons as secret. Japanese arms industry will be allowed to grow without limit while completely isolated from the public. Japan might grow into a military power with the most advanced weapons, without being noticed by its people.
  In other words, the Constitution of Japan will virtually be abolished before an official amendment. Former Vice Premier Aso's comment, "We might as well use Nazi's technique," was reported as a slip of the tongue. He simply described what the Abe Administration is now doing.
  Again, "Chinese threat" has been propagated so loudly since it unilaterally declared air-defense identification zone. These propagators ignore the fact that Japan has had its air-defense identification zone for a long time. What is more dangerous is the Japanese government's instructions, to major Japanese airliners including JAL and ANA, not to submit flight plans to China. The US government advises American airliners to meet Chinese request to submit flight plans, though it disapprove Chinese air-defense zone. The Korean government, which first reacted in the same manner as the Japanese government, now allows Korean airliners to submit flight plans to China. The USA and Korea put passengers' security first. Japan seems to be the only nation that refuses to submit civil airliners' flight plans to China. Japan puts political stance first, not passengers' security. According to Prime Minister Abe and his LDP, the purpose of the secrecy law is "to guarantee the security of Japan and its people." (a quote from the LDP's web site in Japanese). People's security comes second. To them, people's security has always been of secondary importance.