The Foreign Ministry is investigating whether one of its bureaucrats breached confidentiality by compiling a secret list of requests for documents made by lawmakers to the National Diet Library and providing it to the ministry while temporarily assigned to the library in 1997, ministry officials said Saturday.
The probe is in response to a request by the state-run library after diplomatic documents declassified by the ministry showed that the list had been circulated within the ministry as an attachment to a document dated Jan. 7, 1998, the officials said.
“It was not appropriate. We will look into the matter,” said an official of the Management and Coordination Division under the foreign minister’s secretariat, adding that such a practice is not currently conducted.
The ministry will also check whether there was organizational involvement in compiling the list, as the document was believed to have been prepared so that the ministry could get a better grasp of what kind of themes Diet members are interested in and utilize the information in better handling Diet affairs.
If organizational involvement is found, that would suggest that the ministry continued the practice on behalf of the Liberal Democratic Party, the ruling party at the time.
The revelation also may be taken up in the Diet, given that the National Diet Library’s legally stipulated role is to provide documents regardless of partisan or bureaucratic bias.
The declassified document, created by the Management and Coordination Division, says it was being circulated as it was believed to be beneficial in terms of learning about lawmakers’ interests and has marks that indicate it was browsed by related sections.
The two-page list attached to it contains descriptions of requests for documents made by lawmakers from Dec. 19-25, 1997. A Foreign Ministry official said names on the list were blacked out before being declassified to protect personal information.
Many of the requests involved asking for documents such as publications and research papers on security policy issues, including the U.S. military presence in Okinawa Prefecture and missile defense.
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