The government's past three attempts to make it punishable for people to conspire to commit a crime — even if they don't act on the plan — has been so unpopular and widely criticized that the bills submitted to the Diet in 2003, 2004 and 2005 were scrapped without even a vote. The Abe administration's latest attempt to revive the controversial scheme — in an amendment to the law against organized crime — seeks to win public support by characterizing it as anti-terrorism legislation, ostensibly narrowing the scope of its targets and adding more conditions to establishing a criminal case.

It is important to bolster measures to forestall acts of terrorism. Whether the planned legislation is the correct way to do so is a question that should be answered when it is submitted to the Diet for deliberation. Ordinary citizens and lawmakers alike should also be aware that the very nature of criminalizing the acts of plotting and preparing for crimes will result in greater surveillance of people's activities by investigative authorities.

The government and the ruling coalition say the lack of such legislation keeps Japan out of sync with much of the rest of the world, pointing out that it is among only about a dozen countries that have yet to ratify a 2000 United Nations treaty aimed at fighting global organized crime because it lacks such a domestic law. Opponents say there's no need for such blanket legislation since the Penal Code already provides for the punishment of people who prepare to commit a range of serious crimes such as murder and that these provisions should enable the nation to join the U.N. convention.