National

Prosecutors to be tapped for secrecy panel, in hopes of mollifying law's opponents

Kyodo

The Abe administration plans to appoint public prosecutors to a review body for the state secrets law, which enters into force Dec. 10, government sources said.

The law has drawn criticism from experts who fear it could lead to arbitrary classification of state secrets and excessively tough penalties for leakers.

Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government hopes to promote the review body as fair and independent by appointing public prosecutors, it is unclear how impartial a review process kept entirely within the public sector will prove, the sources said Saturday.

According to guidelines for applying the law, the third-party review body will be tasked with overseeing the designation and management of classified information from government entities, and with reviewing whether to repeal classification. It will also have power to rectify inappropriate applications of the secrecy law.

Working under this review body will be an information protection committee of around 20 people.

Another body, a surveillance committee in the Cabinet consisting of the chief Cabinet secretary and officials at the vice ministerial level, directed and supervised by the prime minister, will supervise classification of secrets and the process of evaluating who can access them, and will remedy inappropriate application of the law, if deemed necessary.

But none of the powers to rectify violations of the law are binding. Heads of government entities can refuse to submit documents to the oversight bodies by claiming the information may have a significant impact on national security.

Some 19 government entities have the authority to designate state secrets, including the Foreign and Defense ministries and the National Police Agency.

Under the new law, designated information must be concealed if it prevents a threat to national security in the areas of defense, diplomacy, counterespionage or counterterrorism. Leakers could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment.