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Secrecy legislation carries potential for serious government cover-ups

Under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, which remained in force from 1890 until 1947, the Board of Audit of Japan faced limitations on checking military-related budgets. Since secret funds of the government and military were exempt from auditing in those days, the bulk of military-related budgets remained in a "black box."

    The book "Kaikei Kensain Hyakunenshi" (100-year history of the Board of Audit), published in 1980 by the Board of Audit of Japan, states that there were considerable constraints on auditing under the Military Secrets Protection Law (revised in 1937). The law was designed to punish those who leaked military secrets.

    Based on lessons learned from this past, Article 90 of the current Constitution stipulates that "Final accounts of the expenditures and revenues of the State shall be audited annually by a Board of Audit ..." This means that the Board of Audit is independent of the Cabinet. There have been no provisions so far even in the Self-Defense Forces Act that limit the provision of defense secrets to the Board of Audit.

    Specially designated state secrets include documents on budgetary measures for defense and foreign policies.

    Regarding Section 1 of Article 10 of the Act on Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, Hiroshi Arikawa, former commissioner of the Board of Audit and professor of public policy at Nihon University, said, "If those who are subject to auditing can select which documents to submit, I would have to say it infringes on Article 90 of the Constitution."

    The special secrets act, which imposes heavy penalties on those who leak important state secrets and those who obtain such information through unauthorized means, carries the potential for serious cover-ups of information. The government should make efforts to allay such doubts.

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