OSAKA -- A senior official at a Tokyo-based security company made an internal report that the Ministry of Defense's Okinawa Defense Bureau requested in 2015 a list of demonstrators opposing the government's controversial U.S. military base relocation in Okinawa, record copies obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun show.
The existence of such a list was reported by an Okinawan newspaper in 2016, but the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied in a Diet statement later that year that the government made such a request. This explanation runs counter to the record left by the security company senior official.
The contractor in question is Risingsun Security Service Co. based in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. The firm was contracted by the Okinawa Defense Bureau to carry out maritime security work, including preventing demonstrators from entering waters near the Henoko district of the Okinawan city of Nago. Henoko, where landfill work has gotten underway, is to be the new location for a facility to replace U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the city of Ginowan, under a 1996 Japan-U.S. agreement. Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki and many residents are opposed to the relocation project.
The Mainichi Shimbun obtained copies of multiple reports written under the name of a senior Risingsun official. The official was the on-site manager of the Henoko security work at the time, and the documents are addressed to the company's representative director.
In a report dated May 15, 2016, it is said the deputy chief of the Okinawa Defense Bureau's procurement department, who was identified by name, asked around February 2015 for the firm "to make something like a list of protesters and monitor them in order to understand trends of people and vessels engaged in demonstrations continuously and ensure the safety of work." Further down, it was written that such a list was actually made.
The list contains the names and photos of 60 demonstrators. According to people familiar with the matter, the document was placed on patrol boats used by the security firm. Demonstrators who could not be identified by name were described with special nicknames such as "white beard" or "dull." Another document contains information including the age and background of some of people, and it was stored at the company's local office in Henoko. The paper includes references to the political party a female demonstrator from Nago belongs to and her alma mater.
A day prior to the internal report, on May 14, 2016, the Okinawa Times newspaper reported on the existence of a list of demonstrators with photos of their faces, saying that the document was created by a guard involved in the patrolling of waters off Henoko.
In response to the press report, the senior Risingsun official in charge of the security work and others visited the Okinawa Defense Bureau the same day and explained to senior bureau officials how the list came to be created. An individual close to the matter told the Mainichi Shimbun that the "(Risingsun) official in charge explained that 'it was made based on the deputy chief's instructions.'" The security company has since stated that the list was discarded.
Meanwhile, the government has denied it instructed the firm to make the list in a Diet statement approved by the Cabinet on Aug. 8, 2016. The decision was made in response to a question from then House of Representative lawmaker Toshinobu Nakasato, elected from Okinawa. The legislator pointed out that the list possibly violated the demonstrators' privacy and was illegal.
The government's Diet statement said, "There is no truth to the claims that the government issued instructions to the firm take the pictures of citizens, make a list of their names and faces, collect personal information about them and report the information to the government."
The senior Risingsun official told the Mainichi Shimbun that they "may have written" the reports in question. As for the "request" from the deputy chief of the Okinawa Defense Bureau's procurement department, the official explained that the request was to the effect that the company "figure out trends (in the actions of demonstrators)." The security company said the list was not provided to the defense bureau.
Meanwhile, a Defense Ministry official commented, "It is not true that we requested the creation of a list." Kazunori Inoue, a lower house member of the Party of Hope, who was the head of the Okinawa Defense Bureau from July 2014 through June 2016, said he does not think the bureau issued instructions or requested that the security company make the list.
Maritime security for the Henoko district was included in an Okinawa Defense Bureau contract in June 2014 to build a temporary pier and other facilities. Taisei Corp., which won the contract, subcontracted the security work to Risingsun. The security firm then signed a contract directly with the defense bureau in July 2015.
(Japanese original by Yoshitake Matsuura and Masakatsu Yamasaki, Osaka City News Department)