National

Overseas work, study seen as negative point for anyone handling state secrets

Kyodo

The Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office has warned government offices before the new state secrecy law takes effect Wednesday that people who have studied or worked abroad have a higher risk of leaking secrets.

According to the 2011 documents obtained at the request of Kyodo News, the Cabinet Secretariat, the office that will supervise the controversial law with tougher penalties for leaking state secrets, pointed to the need to check educational and employment records in examining which public servants are deemed eligible to handle sensitive information.

Under the secrecy law, which was enacted in December last year, civil servants and others who leak sensitive information on foreign policy, defense, counterterrorism and counterespionage face up to 10 years in prison.

The legislation has drawn criticism over the possibility of arbitrary classification of state secrets that will undermine the people’s right to information.

The government plans to screen those who may be given access to state secrets, including public servants and defense industry workers.

Their background, links to spying or terrorism, mental condition, criminal records, drug use, drinking habits and debts will be checked. Only those who are believed to have no risk of leaking secrets will be approved to handle classified information.

Those being vetted will be asked about their educational history from high school and employment record over the past 10 years.

The documents presented by the intelligence and research office at a meeting with other government bodies in November 2011 state that the experience of attending schools overseas or foreign schools in Japan as well as working abroad or working for foreign companies “could be an opportunity to nurture a special feeling about foreign countries.”

The papers said such people “tend to be influenced by” approaches from foreign countries and there is a “risk” that they “prioritize the benefits of foreign countries and voluntarily leak secrets.”

The office of the Cabinet Secretariat said that academic and employment backgrounds are just “one of the check points” and will not solely decide who is deemed capable of dealing with classified information.

The office said the view of overseas experience was presented as part of a free exchange of opinions with other government entities to create an effective system to control state secrets.

Masahiro Usaki, a professor at Dokkyo Law School who is familiar with the secrecy law, said that “the government has been encouraging young people to go abroad amid the trend of globalization. So it doesn’t make sense that it will now judge (overseas experience) as a negative factor.”

“From the viewpoint of the right to privacy, research (on people’s background) should be minimum,” Usaki added, adding that checking only final educational status would be sufficient. He also said the period of 10 years covering past employment records is too long.