Tuesday, November 26, 2013

(OT) New Japanese Secrecy Law Is Welcomed by the US, Japanese Citizens Worry About Return of Pre-War Regime That Suppressed Freedom

AP has a nice summary of the situation surrounding Japan's state secrecy protection law which easily passed the Lower House (House of Representatives) yesterday (11/26/2013) with votes from Liberal Democratic Party, Komei Party, and Your Party. There are 294 Representatives from LDP alone in the Lower House with total 480 Representatives.

One of the ostensible reasons for the ruling coalition (LDP, Komei)'s push for the passage of the law has been that, without such a law, no foreign country will share sensitive information with Japan.

From AP, via Fox News (11/26/2013; emphasis is mine):

New Japanese secrecy law welcomed by US but stirs fears at home

TOKYO – A proposed state secrecy law in Japan that imposes stiffer penalties on bureaucrats who leak information — and journalists who seek it — is spurring a public outcry, with opponents blasting it as a heavy-handed effort to hide what the government is doing and restrict press freedom.

The public's top concern is that the government won't say exactly what it wants to make secret. Critics say the law could allow the government to withhold information about whatever it wants and ultimately undermine Japan's democracy.

The ruling party says the "secrecy protection" law, which the lower house of parliament could vote on as soon as Tuesday, is needed to allow the United States and other allies to share national security information with Japan. Along with the creation of a U.S.-style National Security Council in his office, it's part of an effort by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to beef up Japan's role in global security, and make a more authoritarian government at home.

The moves are welcomed by the United States, which wants a stronger Japan to counter China's military rise, but they raise fears in Japan that the country could be edging back toward its militaristic past, when authorities severely restrained free speech.

"My biggest concern is that it would be more difficult for the people to see the government's decision-making process," said Kyouji Yanagisawa, a former top defense official who was in charge of national security at the Prime Minister's Office from 2004-2009. "That means we can't check how or where the government made mistakes, or help the government make a wise decision."

The bill allows heads of government ministries and agencies to classify information related to defense, diplomacy, counterintelligence and counterterrorism, almost indefinitely.

Critics say that it might sway authorities to withhold more information about nuclear power plants, arguing they could become terrorist targets. Or they warn that officials may refuse to disclose key elements of free trade talks to protect concessions that would make Tokyo or a partner look bad.

At a public hearing in Fukushima on Monday, the only one held by the government just before the planned vote, lawyer Hiroyasu Maki said the bill's definition of secrets is so vague and broad that it could easily be expanded to include radiation data crucial to the evacuation and health of the residents in the case of another nuclear crisis.

Ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers say Washington has repeatedly said that they feel insecure about sharing top security information with Japan due to its lack of legal protection for secrets. The U.S. is worried about leaks to China, they say.

"(The bill) is by all means necessary to step up Japan's intelligence levels. Many other countries already have legal framework like this but Japan does not," said Nobutaka Machimura, a senior ruling lawmaker and head of the party's secrecy bill team.

Under the bill, leakers in the government face a prison term of up to 10 years, up from one year now, if convicted. Journalists who get information "inappropriately" or "wrongfully" can get up to five years in prison, prompting criticism that it would only make officials to be more secretive and intimidate the Japanese media.

"This is a severe threat on freedom to report in Japan," said Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University in Tokyo. "It appears the Abe administration has decided that they can get a lot of what they want, which is to escape oversight, to decrease transparency in the government by passing a law that grants the government and officials broad authority to designate information as secret."

Experts including Repeta say the new law paves the way for Abe's drive to revise Japan's U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution to give more power to the government and stress civil duties over basic human rights.

Currently, Japan lacks a comprehensive legal framework to protect state secrets except for "defense secrets" that the Defense Ministry is allowed to decide. The proposed bill would complement a separate law, also due to be passed this week, to establish a National Security Council that would centralize the chain of command in the office of the prime minister and give him more power.

Washington sees the proposal as a positive step that would make Japan "more effective alliance partner," U.S. Charge d'Affairs Kurt Tong said in his recent speech in Tokyo. He urged Japan, however, to make the process transparent and to explain the policies to its Asian neighbors.

The former bureaucrat, Yanagisawa says he does not recall any instance Japan failed to obtain necessary information from Washington or other countries due to lack of secrets law. When the U.S. or other countries decide not to share information with Japan, it was because of their own national interest not because of Japan secrecy protection, he added.

Even without the new secrecy law, journalist Takichi Nishiyama, 82, was convicted for exposing confidential cables related to Tokyo's secret deal with Washington over the reversion of U.S.-administered Okinawa to Japanese control in 1972.

He said what he revealed was only a tiny part of the mountain of secrets that never surface. He said that most classified Japanese military or diplomatic documents often come out of U.S. archives, not Japanese.

"In this country, it's already difficult enough to get information to verify our own history," Nishiyama said. "The new law would only make it worse."

Japanese and foreign journalists, writers, academics and activists have opposed the bill. On Thursday, about 10,000 people gathered at a Tokyo park to protest the bill.

According to the result of government-sponsored "public comment" process in September, a policymaking procedure similar to public hearing, 77 percent of about 90,000 comments opposed the bill, most of them expressing concerns about a possibility of their civil activities being curtailed.

Some people worry that the law might point Japan back toward severe restrictions on freedom of speech and press imposed before and during World War II. Under the Maintenance of the Public Order Act in 1925, some 100,000 people were arrested.

Activist Kazuyuki Tokune says his attempts to access information about nuclear power plants may be considered illegal under a broad interpretation of the law.

"I may be arrested some day for my anti-nuclear activity," Tokune said during a recent protest against the secrecy bill outside the prime minister's office. "But that doesn't stop me."

The battle cry from the Japanese media - mainstream and alternative - over this law is that it will restrict press freedom. That is a bit preposterous, particularly coming from the mainstream media. Most have been little more than the government PR division, reporting what they are told to report without raising many questions or objections. What freedom will they lose? Freedom to report what they are told to report?

What's more preposterous is the comment by the US Charge d'Affairs Kurt Tong. For the current US administration to lecture Japan on transparency is a joke.

Now, more importantly, why is the Abe administration in such a great hurry to please the US by passing the law, particularly when not having such a law in place hasn't prevented Japan from obtaining information from the US or other countries? What would be the benefit that the administration would get in return, particularly from the US?

Many in Japan do not even think about the problem from that angle, and their answer to the passage of the law in the Lower House is to express fear that Japan is heading back to pre-World War II era of secret police and to vent frustration that Japan is nothing but a territory of the US with no sovereignty.

Quid pro quo for Japan, in my humble opinion, is the secret information collected by the US National Security Agency (NSA) on Chinese political and military intelligence. The article above hints as much, with "The moves are welcomed by the United States, which wants a stronger Japan to counter China's military rise".

And that for the US? Another information laundering hub for the NSA, I presume, where the NSA ships information it is not supposed to be collecting, and re-import as "foreign intelligence" back into the US.

Japan could do the similar thing: Have the NSA collect information on Japanese citizens, and receive that information from the NSA as "foreign intelligence". There is no penalty in the law for foreign entities to collect sensitive information in Japan.

Transparency indeed.

As to the Japanese citizens who are worried about freedom of speech suppressed, well they have let pass so many pieces of information of the government's misdeeds, willful neglect, suppression of critical information, even without the secrecy law. One of the most glaring examples in recent years is, in my mind, the very unusual NHK's documentary in the summer of 2011 that the Japanese government had known about the details of Hiroshima/Nagasaki atomic bombing and done nothing. (See my special posts for August 15, here and here.) Was there an outcry from citizens? Hardly. Were other news outlets covering the story? None.

It's better late than never, but it is rather late.


Frankly said...

TOO late.
Still have hope for the human condition?

Anonymous said...

No wonder the Police States of America loved that:

Anonymous said...

Disgusting beyond description.

Stupid government doesn't realize there won't be a country left to protect secrets of if they keep trying to cover up everything about Fukushima.

Priority fail much.

Anonymous said...

Also, that paragraph about Japanese citizens letting the government screw them... I think it's the same everywhere. Especially the US.

Fact is, most people don't want to express outcry or even acknowledge that problems exist. They just want to be happy, so they go into denial. "Ignorance is bliss", and all that. If there is ever a problem, they just blame it on outsiders or other countries.

News outlets don't cover these kinds of stories because they work for or are threatened by governments. Can you seriously imagine your local news saying "new law to screw everyone passes, let's rage"?

People don't want to hear bad news, anyway. If the news is anything like how it is where I am, they'd rather hear about kittens being saved from trees.

Out of so many people, only a handful of whistleblowers ever risk their cozy positions to come forward, and most of them get immediately screwed... or worse. Can't expect the Japanese to be any different.

That's not to say that this is all okay. But there isn't much that any average citizen anywhere can do. Especially in this day and age, when governments are so good at getting people to waste all their time fighting each other.

Vyse Legendaire said...

I for one see the rise of the police state/fascist state and the oncoming military confrontation with China as part of the same trend, not as opposed ones as it appears you're making it sound for rhetorical effect.

When countries gear up for war, they also clamp down on 'civil privileges' as they are more accurately known.

Reinaert Albrecht said...

No surprises here. The Japanese voted the LDP back to power and this is what you get with this party. Given the ramblings of the Chinese of late, I guess Abe won't have many difficulties to change the constitution into a non-pacifist one. If you live in Japan and have the possibility to move elsewhere, I think it's time to start consider it.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Arevamirpal,
I spoted your blog since the begining of the Fuku disaster, and was only doubtfull about some of your economics thinkings - not a big problem anyway - but here we have the same kind of thoughts, congratulations to you... and to myself !

Anonymous said...

Please don't blame "the US" as a whole on this. Most people have no clue this is happening. Those that do are as outraged as those in Japan that the US is encouraging this. The US govt has run amuck in certain sectors, stopping it is proving to be a considerable challenge for people who have little power anymore.

Paveway Mk IV said...

This is the ultimate affront to civil liberties the US supposedly cherishes. Japan has gone completely f*ing insane.

The US should immediately recall the US Deputy Chief of Mission to Tokyo Kurt Tong for making even mildly supportive comments about this thinly-disguised repression and bar him and any member of his family from public service FOR LIFE.

At the very least, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy should give a globally-televised apology on behalf of the United States for bastardizing - by her silence - the values and principles that President John F. Kennedy held dear and was assassinated for upholding. This would be immediately prior to her stepping down as ambassador and closing the U.S. embassy in Tokyo in protest.

Japan has stepped over the common man's red line for Stazi-like fascist repression of individual rights. If the U.S. had any principles left (it doesn't), it would be lining up the Tomahawks right now for an Abe regime-change party.

Anonymous said...

it's a bit simple to say that citizens of Japan should not be so upset about his new law, because they hardly oppose against misdeeds and so on of their government.
As you know, the Japanses school system is set up to confirm to the group, have no opion for yourself. And if you dare to have a different opinion, you will be left out by everybody. No critical comments to your teacher, you only give him an excuses to hit you and every one is approving the teacher is hitting you, even your own parents.

The Japanese have to be learned to be critical, to have your own opinion, even it might be different from the group.

With this new law, the Japanese government made this even more impossible and some Japanese seems to start to realize that. You should be happy that some are getting out of their 'coma' excistence and try to work from that point to influence people more and more.
Saying that they are very very late, doesn't bring you anything, and you might even have the opposite effect and they do not want to listen to you anymore what you have to say.

Hikarius said...

Arevamirpal, thanks for the idea about "information laundering" which is very inspiring. I must confess that I haven't thought of that as the idea of "authorized leak from the government (or procuratorate in particular) to media outlets" occupied my mind when thinking about "acquisition of intelligence in a way which infringe the management of such intelligence."

As a Hongkonger, I have no idea why the US Charge d'Affairs have the same last name of mine but, shame of it.

Ovid_Benelli said...

What happened to the live cam?

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