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Security firm hired by gov't planned to photograph 'provocation' by protesters in Okinawa

This partially modified photo shows a list of demonstrators opposed to the U.S. base relocation in Okinawa made by Risingsun Security Service Co. (Mainichi)

OSAKA -- A Tokyo-based security company involved in work related to the controversial relocation of a U.S. base within Okinawa Prefecture had written in its security plan that it would take photos of citizens opposing the relocation in order to "record acts of provocation" during their protests.

There is a judicial precedent stating that taking photos of individuals without their consent is permitted only if there is an urgent need to do so in criminal investigations. Therefore, experts have pointed to the possibility that the way the national government outsourced the security work may have been illegal.

Since the security plan was apparently submitted to the Defense Ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau, the national government will likely be held accountable for the case.

It earlier came to light that the security company, Tokyo-based Risingsun Security Service Co., made an internal report at the request of the Okinawa Defense Bureau in 2015. It consists of a list of demonstrators opposing the government's construction of a U.S. military base in the Henoko district of Nago, a city in the northern part of Okinawa Prefecture, to replace U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, a city further south in the prefecture. It also carries photos of the demonstrators.

The Mainichi Shimbun has obtained a copy of the security plan that Risingsun drew up between August 2014 and June 2015.

The document states that security workers would take photos of their operations for the purpose of "recording provocative, diversionary and seemingly destructive activities by protesters in order to prove that there were no illegal, unfair or inappropriate actions in (their) security work." It then adds that taking photos is meant to be a countermeasure against anti-base activists' possible attempts to fabricate stories.

The document also outlines procedures for taking photos, including installing digital cameras on vessels used in security activities.

General contractor Taisei Corp., which won a contract for the construction of piers and other relevant work off the coast of Henoko in preparation for building a substitute facility for the Futenma base, had farmed out security work at the Henoko site to Risingsun at the time.

According to the bidding documents, Risingsun compiled the security plan and Taisei submitted it to the Okinawa Defense Bureau. The proposal is said to require the approval of the defense bureau.

In response to a freedom of information request from the Mainichi Shimbun, the defense bureau refused in December 2018 to release the details of the security plan, citing fears that disclosure would "hinder the appropriate execution of security work."

In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled that from the viewpoint of protecting privacy, police officers can take photos of individuals without their consent only while criminal activities are taking place or shortly after such acts are carried out, and if there is an urgent need to preserve evidence.

Based on this ruling, attorney Tsutomu Shimizu, who is well versed in the protection of personal information, pointed to the possibility that the security company's activities infringed on the rights of demonstrators.

"Protests are citizens' free and open political activities and aren't crimes. The security company's photographing of protesters without their consent could constitute an infringement of their portrait rights. It's highly likely the Okinawa Defense Bureau overlooked such a possibility," he said.

(Japanese original by Yoshitake Matsuura, Osaka City News Department)

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