YOKOHAMA – A 34-year-old Maritime Self-Defense Force officer was arrested Thursday for allegedly taking highly confidential data on the U.S.-designed Aegis defense system from a computer system task force in violation of a bilateral agreement with Washington.
Lt. Cmdr. Sumitaka Matsuuchi has owned up to the charge of leaking information, saying he passed materials from the task force, including the Aegis secrets, to a colleague following a request in full knowledge that the data contained special defense secrets, investigative sources said.
The first arrest of a Self-Defense Forces member on suspicion of violating the Law Concerning the Protection of Secrets for the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement since its enforcement in 1954 was made by Kanagawa Prefectural Police and the police unit of the MSDF.
The investigators said they had found no evidence that the materials had been passed outside the defense apparatus, but given the gravity of the lax information management, police plan to pursue indictments for the other MSDF members involved.
The data leak came to light when police found a hard disk containing confidential data at the home of a petty officer second class of an MSDF vessel in a search conducted in January. The officer’s wife, a Chinese national, had overstayed her visa in violation of the immigration law.
Matsuuchi is suspected of taking the confidential materials, including “special defense secrets” used for training officers who handle the air defense system on the Aegis-equipped vessel, on compact disks in August 2002, when he was working at the computer system task force based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.
He then allegedly passed the materials, using a delivery service within the SDF, to a 43-year-old lieutenant commander who was an instructor at the artillery division of the First Service School in Etajima, Hiroshima Prefecture, according to investigators.
The materials are believed to have eventually been given to a 49-year-old lieutenant who was also an instructor at the school. The materials were copied and circulated among SDF members, who were taking courses at the school, as well as among the subordinates of the lieutenant who served on the destroyer Shimakaze.
Upon Matsuuchi’s arrest, Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba apologized to the House of Councilors Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“It cannot be denied that our response has lagged behind as the spread of (copied disks) was beyond our expectations,” Ishiba said. “We have to take it seriously . . . I apologize for that.”
The U.S. has expressed concern about Japan’s information management at a time when the two countries have been working to accelerate the integration of their defense operations, especially on a missile defense system using Aegis-equipped vessels at its core.
Matsuuchi and the other lieutenant commander who was an instructor were sent to the U.S. from May to July 2002 to learn the Aegis system. The lieutenant commander allegedly asked Matsuuchi whether he had “good materials,” according to the sources.
The materials concerned were compiled in 2000 by other lieutenant commanders working for the computer system task force in Yokosuka.