YOKOHAMA – Prosecutors demanded Tuesday a three-year sentence for a Maritime Self-Defense Force officer charged with leaking classified data on the U.S.-developed Aegis system.
Lt. Cmdr. Sumitaka Matsuuchi, 35, pleaded not guilty to violating the defense secret protection law in the first session of his Yokohama District Court trial in July.
He admitted taking the data on the Aegis air defense system for warships but denied leaking sensitive defense secrets.
Matsuuchi, who was a member of the MSDF computer program development unit, is accused of taking the data from the unit, copying it onto the hard drive of his computer in May 2002 and passing a CD containing the data to a fellow officer that August.
Matsuuchi argued in the July session that because the colleague to whom he handed the data was a member of the teaching staff and an Aegis system expert at an MSDF service school, it did not constitute leaking defense secrets under the defense secret protection law.
Matsuuchi is the first person to be criminally charged with violating the Law Concerning the Protection of Secrets for the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement, which came into force in 1954.
His counsel has said most of the data Matsuuchi took can be obtained from the Internet, almanacs and yearbooks on defense affairs.
The law carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for leaking defense secrets handled in the course of the suspect’s duties, but carries a lesser term of up to five years for those who leak defense secrets that they do not handle as part of their duties.
At issue is whether Matsuuchi’s duties involved handling Aegis information, which he denies.
Matsuuchi has argued that even if he is found guilty, he should be given a more lenient punishment because the five-year statute of limitations on leaks by people who do not handle defense secrets in the course of their duties has already expired.
In contrast, the seven-year statute of limitations has not run out for leaking secrets by personnel who handle such information as part of their duties.
The prosecutors have said the data that Matsuuchi took included numerical specifics on the capabilities of the Aegis system and the destroyers’ fire control system.
When prosecutors indicted Matsuuchi in December, they said he had the authority to handle defense secrets.
The scandal broke in January 2007 when police searched the home of an MSDF petty officer second class, following the arrest of his Chinese wife on suspicion of violating immigration regulations.
Investigators seized a computer hard drive that contained the data on the Aegis system at the sailor’s home.
Last December, police arrested Matsuuchi and filed an investigative report with prosecutors for the possible indictment of his fellow officer and three other MSDF members for their alleged involvement in the leak.
The prosecutors decided in January against filing an indictment against the four, saying they had no authority to handle defense secrets.
In March, the Defense Ministry announced that 38 people had been found to have leaked data on the Aegis system and that two had been discharged.
MSDF sailor suicide
The government will not appeal a high court ruling that ordered it to pay compensation for the suicide of a Maritime Self-Defense Force sailor in 1999, Vice Defense Minister Kohei Masuda said.
The decision will finalize the Fukuoka High Court’s Aug. 25 ruling that recognized for the first time the government’s responsibility for suicides by SDF personnel.
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