Committees in both chambers of the Diet overseeing government operations under the state secrets law held their first meetings last week. But their powers are so weak they may not be able to compel the government to reverse improper designations of state secrets. The Diet should earnestly search for ways to strengthen these committees.

The launch of the committees was delayed even after the law took effect on Dec. 10 due to a tug of war between the ruling and opposition forces over their membership and the setup of their secretariats. The eight-member committee in each house will receive a report annually from the government on its operations under the state secrets law. Their meetings will be held behind closed doors and committee members who leak state secrets will be punished.

The committees' first task will be to check 382 items that the government designated as state secrets last year. But the report will only feature lists that summarize the contents of these secrets. The descriptions of some listed items, disclosed at the request of the Democratic Party of Japan, are fairly concrete — such as "information on North Korea's nuclear and missile development," and "information on territory preservation and protection of interests in the air and the ocean in the East China Sea." But descriptions of other items are too vague and each item can include a large number of secrets — such as "information provided by foreign governments," "plans and methods for cooperation with foreign governments in the field of information on security" and "conclusions of National Security Council meetings in 2013 and 2014."