National / Crime & Legal

High court upholds disclosure of some documents on government secret funds

Kyodo

The Osaka High Court on Wednesday upheld two lower court rulings that ordered the state to disclose some documents on so-called secret funds, saying the content, if declassified, would not be sensitive enough to interfere with national affairs.

In the lawsuits, civic group members sought the disclosure of documents on the use of about ¥250 million ($2.2 million) in secret funds in September 2009, as well as about ¥1.1 billion used from October 2005 to September 2006 when Shinzo Abe was serving as the chief Cabinet secretary.

The secret funds, disbursed under the authority of the chief Cabinet secretary, are known to be outlays for intelligence gathering and other activities in the national interest. But how the funds are actually spent is not made public and doubts linger over whether they are properly used.

In either case, the presiding judge, Atsushi Tanaka, said the documents the court ordered to be disclosed do not contain data on recipients or the date of the disbursements.

They “do not clarify how much was paid to whom and when, and do not pose a problem for (the government’s) work,” he said.

An official with the Cabinet Affairs Office said the rulings were “harsh” in that the arguments presented by the state were not fully accepted. “We will deal with the matter appropriately by discussing it with related entities,” the official said.

The high court findings were in line with rulings issued by the Osaka District Court in 2012, which acknowledged that the state’s decisions not to disclose some documents were illegal.

The plaintiffs and the state both appealed the lower court rulings.

The state is legally allowed not to disclose information when there are reasonable grounds that the content, if made public, “is likely to cause harm to national security,” or be “a disadvantage in negotiations with another country or an international organization.”

The government is also not obliged to disclose information that could hinder the proper execution of business conducted by a state organ or a local government.

During the appeal, the state said some people may be able to “guess” how the funds were used based on information contained in the documents.

The state argued the documents, which note such information as the balance of funds set aside to be used as payments in exchange for intelligence or cooperation, even though they may not contain exact details, could be crosschecked for such things as the timing of payments when domestic or diplomatic situations were taking place.

Tanaka rejected the argument.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5