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A Maritime Self-Defense Force lieutenant commander who allegedly compiled personal data on people requesting disclosure of agency information may be punished for violating the SDF law, Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani said Friday.

Nakatani, appearing before the House of Representatives Cabinet Committee, said the officer and other officials may be punished under the law for failing to protect agency secrets, in addition to receiving administrative penalties.

The 48-year-old lieutenant commander in charge of information disclosure at the Maritime Staff Office compiled a list containing the data. It included personal backgrounds on the individuals who had requested information.

The individuals’ occupations and the organizations to which they belonged were among the data, according to the agency.

The officer also allegedly passed the data along to other officials. The agency has admitted that his action may have violated the law on the use of personal information possessed by the government.

Nakatani told the committee that the agency is now investigating whether the data should be considered confidential information that the officer obtained in the course of his official duties. They are also probing whether he divulged the information to people who have no right to it, and whether it was used for purposes other than those relevant to the officer’s job.

In response to a question from Kentaro Kudo, a committee member from the Liberal Party, Nakatani said the agency will thoroughly investigate whether the officer violated his duty to keep the information confidential.

The scandal, which broke Tuesday, may affect current Diet debate on a set of controversial bills related to the protection of personal information. A proposed amendment to the law protecting such information held by government organizations does not provide for punishment for misuse of personal data.

Public management minister Toranosuke Katayama told the committee that once the proposed amendment is enacted, people will be able to ask the relevant government agencies to stop using personal information like that which was compiled by the agency official.

Yukio Edano, a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, criticized that explanation as nonsense, saying, “How can you know that the government agencies are compiling such data?”

“The latest case only came to light through media reports. (The proposed amendment) has no power to stop bureaucrats from secretly compiling such data,” Edano said.

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