National / Crime & Legal

Supreme Court orders partial disclosure of documents detailing Japanese government's secret funds

Kyodo

The Supreme Court ordered the state Friday to disclose some administrative documents related to the government’s secret funds but limited the disclosure to sections that do not carry information on how and for whom the funds were used.

It marks the top court’s first ruling on the disclosure on information regarding secret funds, which are state outlays for intelligence gathering and other activities in the national interest and disbursed under the authority of the chief Cabinet secretary.

How the funds have actually been spent remains little known to the public, although the government has released the sizes of such expenditures upon request.

In the lawsuit, members of a civic group sought the disclosure on the use of a total of ¥2.71 billion ($24.5 million) in secret funds spent under three chief Cabinet secretaries — ¥1.1 billion in 2005 and 2006 under current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, ¥250 million in September 2009 under Takeo Kawamura and ¥1.36 billion in 2013 under Yoshihide Suga.

The information disclosure law allows the state to keep certain information secret as an exceptional measure. The contention of the lawsuit was whether the use of confidential funds is subject to the exceptional step.

The Supreme Court ruling is largely in line with lower courts, which ordered the disclosure of three types of documents that do not carry the names of individuals for whom the government had used the discretionary funds.

“The government takes the ruling seriously. We intend to deal with it appropriately after thoroughly studying its contents,” Suga, the current top government spokesman, said at a news conference following the top court decision.

The secret funds, formally known as Cabinet Secretariat compensation expenses, is a budget that can be used flexibly to carry out national operations, such as for gaining cooperation from someone related to important national policies or paying for intelligence provisions. In the past, there were reports that secret funds were used for political maneuvering to counter opposition parties or for overseas trips by lawmakers.

Some ¥1.4 billion of the funds is budgeted yearly, including expenses spent by the Cabinet Secretariat’s intelligence investigation office.