• Kyodo

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A Lower House panel has voiced concern about the classification procedures of state secrets, warning that the nation’s controversial secrecy law was being overused.

In a report released on Wednesday, the intelligence surveillance panel stopped short of issuing official recommendations, saying its comments were simply opinions.

The panel has been tasked with curbing the arbitrary use of the secrecy law, which has been in force since December 2014. It submitted its second annual report to House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima on Wednesday.

Among its concerns was the growing practice of classifying too much information — in some cases marking nonspecific information as state secrets “in advance.”

Secrecy designations were removed from five files last year for this reason, according to the report.

“The law, intended to prevent the boundless expansion of what can be designated secret, is being used in ways that diverge from its basic principles,” the panel said.

The panel also pushed for further inquiries regarding discussions within the National Security Council, the minutes of which the government has refused to release.

“The government will examine the report and consider the necessary actions based on what it says,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday.

The report is based on questions to Cabinet ministers and expert witnesses from May last year about 443 files designated as state secrets up to the end of 2015.

An Upper House panel is expected to submit its own report to Upper House Speaker Chuichi Date in the coming months.

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