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Friday, 18 July 2014

News Navigator: Who will select special state secrets?

The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about the decision-making system under the controversial special state secrets law, which is expected to come into force sometime this year.

Question: Who decides what should be designated as "special secrets?"

Answer: The law stipulates that "heads of administrative organs," such as ministers and directors general of government agencies, will decide what should be special state secrets. In practice, however, it is very difficult for ministers to decide everything on their own. Therefore, senior bureaucrats will be the ones who designate what will be secrets.

Q: How many ministries and government agencies have authority to name state secrets?

A: Presently, 19 government organs have been given authority in selecting state secrets. If provisions of the law are precisely applied, the number jumps to 61, including the Cultural Affairs Agency which has little to do with national security.

The government has narrowed down the number of government organs with authority to pick state secrets, and its decision was approved by an expert panel chaired by Yomiuri Shimbun President Tsuneo Watanabe on July 17. The provision concerning authorized government organs is still problematic, however, as such administrative organs include the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications as well as the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, whose jobs range over different fields. Furthermore, the Cabinet might change the authorized government organs as they will be named by a Cabinet order, which does not require a Diet resolution.

Q: Why not write the names of the authorized ministries down in the law?

A: The topic was debated during Diet sessions, but the matter was settled by just adding an article in the law, which stated that the prime minister is to give the state secret authority to administrative organs after consulting with the expert panel.

Q: The Nuclear Regulation Authority was included in the designated administrative organs with authority to select state secrets. Can officials hide information concerning radiation levels in case of nuclear plant accidents?

A: The government has explained that information concerning nuclear plant accidents will not be designated as state secrets. However, information on terrorist threats targeting nuclear plants will be included. House of Councillors lawmaker and former Akita Gov. Sukeshiro Terata pointed out during a Diet session that if nuclear plants become targets of terrorism, local municipal governments may not be able to issue evacuation orders as the national government would hold information as state secrets. (Answers by Satoshi Kusakabe, City News Department)

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