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Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets Three designation criteria disclosed

October 14, 2014

A cabinet decision on October 14 finalized the handling guidelines and enforcement orders for the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets.

The law was passed in December of last year and provides for the designation of information crucial to Japanese security as "designated secrets," with a maximum penalty of 10 years' incarceration for public officials and others who make unauthorized disclosures.

The handling guidelines contain "basic concepts" that explicitly prohibit expansive interpretations of the law and require the government to respect the people's "right to know." They also include three explicit criteria for the information to be classified as a designated secret: (1) that it satisfies the standards in a separate list of secret information; (2) that it is not already known to a large and indeterminate number of people; and (3) that it has the potential for serious harm to Japan's security if disclosed.

The "separate list" refers to a list of concrete examples of secrets consisting of 23 items in four categories (defense, foreign relations, anti-spying activities, anti-terrorism activities), with another 55 sub-items to provide further detail. The purpose of the list is to clarify the scope of what constitutes designated secrets. The designation is only allowed for the minimum scope of information and minimum period of time required.

The enforcement orders give 19 ministries and agencies the power to designate secrets, including the Cabinet Secretariat, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Defense. The law is scheduled to become effective as of December 10.

Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki held a press conference on the day of the decision, where he praised the act for "preventing arbitrary administration and providing rational checking measures."

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