The government will likely designate around 460,000 documents as “special secrets” in the areas of diplomacy, defense, counterterrorism and counterespionage after the contentious state secrecy law takes effect on Dec. 10, a Kyodo News survey of 19 government offices said Sunday.
The documents are considered highly confidential secrets in national security and diplomacy based on a 2007 government guideline. The Cabinet Secretariat was keeping the bulk of the documents, which were tallied at some 353,000 items as of late last year.
Signaling the opaqueness of the new system, which toughens penalties for leaking state secrets, only three of the 19 government offices provided concrete answers regarding how much information they plan to label as “specially designated secrets” when the law takes effect.
Others said they are still considering the matter or “refraining from answering” just weeks before the activation of the controversial law, which has triggered concern that the public’s right to know will be undermined.
But it is believed that the 460,000 documents deemed highly confidential are destined to be treated as special secrets under the law.
Many offices did not answer questions on issues such as which section will be in charge of dealing with whistle-blowers who develop suspicions about the arbitrary classification method used for state secrets by the government.
Kyodo News asked the 19 government offices in mid-November to respond to its questionnaire and had received answers by Tuesday.
In addition to the Cabinet Secretariat, the Foreign Ministry had 21,826 documents deemed as secrets requiring special control as of late last year, the Public Security Intelligence Agency had 15,292 documents, and the National Police Agency had 13,951 documents.
The Defense Ministry, which has its own system for controlling secrets, had about 45,000 documents categorized as secrets.
The Finance Ministry and Financial Services Agency said they would not designate any documents as special secrets under the law on their own, because they would share such secrets designated by other government bodies through budgetary requests and other sessions.
The Cabinet Office said it might have one document related to defense that could be designated as a secret.
Asked whether current secrets will be labeled as special secrets under the new law, the Foreign Ministry said it will “narrow down” the items and add other documents.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said “nearly all” the documents currently categorized as secrets will also be treated as secrets under the new system.
The Cabinet Office, meanwhile, said that it might add other information as special secrets.
Yukiko Miki, the head of nonprofit organization Access-Info Clearinghouse Japan, said she senses “excessive secretiveness” in the government offices because it is difficult to imagine that the contact points for whistle-blowers or other details have not yet been decided at this point.