Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Secrecy is Incompatible with Democracy: Why are the US and Japan Increasing State Secrecy and Public Surveillance?

An anonymous commentator left this link at my blog, a discussion by Edward Snowden of Japan's state secrets law and growing domestic surveillance:
Shaun McGee (2017, November 10). Edward Snowden discusses Japanese Government surveillance findings. Nuclear News Net, https://nuclear-news.net/2017/11/10/edward-snowden-discusses-japanese-government-surveillance-findings/
Snowden argues that the US required that Japan increase its state secrecy, making the legal penalties worse for offenders.

Here is an excerpt from my book discussing Japan's growing state secrecy, Crisis Communication, Liberal Democracy, and Ecological Sustainability:

Japan’s “Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets” was implemented in 2015 despite strong domestic opposition to the law.[i] One survey found more than 80 percent of Japanese citizens distrusted the bill, believing it be used to hide corruption and troubling information.[ii]

Yutaka Saito, a member of the Japan In-House Lawyers Association task force, described its troubling ramifications: “Japan already has a very weak freedom of information act which this will cripple…The bill takes everything bad about national security laws in the U.S. and then removes all the safeguards and checks.”[iii]

Nobel laureates, Toshihide Maskawa and Hideki Shirakawa, spearheaded a public letter of protest signed by 3,000 academics, declaring support for “the pacifist principles and fundamental human rights established by the constitution” while calling simultaneously for the law’s immediate rejection.”[iv]

Non-fiction writer Kunio Yanagida noted that the bill reinforces Japan’s already “secretive” bureaucratic culture and warned it could be used to criminalize free speech.[v]

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations suggested the new law would enable government censorship of nuclear information, including radiation readings:[vi]
There is growing concern that the government may be tempted to keep sensitive information on the safety of nuclear power plants under wraps once the state secrets protection law goes into force…. One reason for this is that the legislation leaves unclear what matters will be designated as state secrets and who will have authorization to determine what should be withheld from the public.
“A tendency to hold back on vital information left nuclear power plants vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunami, resulting in the nuclear disaster,” said Yutaka Saito, a member of the federation’s task force on problems related to information. “We cannot fully engage in discussion about safety if information is withheld.”

Lack of clarity about the nature of state secrets allows the government to retroactively punish individuals who unknowingly leaked state secrets.

A scenario where people are punished for inadvertently revealing state secrets has Orwellian undertones. Japan may be working on realizing that scenario. On November 14, 2014 The Asahi Shimbun reported that its president was resigning “to take responsibility for the retraction of articles on the ‘Yoshida testimony’ in connection with the 2011 Fukushima crisis.”[vii]

This resignation followed others at the newspaper, which all concerned redaction of a May 20 Asahi Shimbun article on 28 hours of testimony made by Fukushima’s former plant manager Masao Yoshida, who died of cancer in July 2013. The redacted article, which circulated widely prior to redaction, indicated that 90 percent of TEPCO management and workers at Daiichi had evacuated the plant without plant manager permission. [viii]

The redacted version of the article available on the web in 2015 includes a message prominently placed in the middle of the screen:
In our coverage titled “The Yoshida Testimony,” reporting to the effect that workers withdrew from the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant against the general manager's order was erroneous. We deeply apologize to our readers and those at Tokyo Electric Power Co. Based on the views presented by the Press and Human Rights Committee, we have made revisions to the relevant parts in Chapter 1’s first section, titled “Reality of the ‘Fukushima 50.’” [ix]
The original version of the article had concluded that “Yoshida’s testimony is a convincing reminder of what a huge mistake it is to seek restarts of Japan’s nuclear reactors without trying to learn the truth of the disaster and making important decisions.” It is difficult to know if the most relevant information in preventing future disasters has been redacted from the revised version.

Rising secrecy has met opposition. After the state secret’s law’s implementation in early 2015, a Japanese legislative member leaked 140 designations of special state secrets codified under the law to The Mainichi.[x]

According to The Mainichi’s account, 10 ministries and agencies, excluding the Minister of Defense, participated in designating 387 cases of special state secrets, each case of which could include hundreds of documents. More than 400,000 documents were designated as state secrets. Images taken by data-gathering satellites and information relating to codes constituted more than 60 percent of the 140 cases. The Mainichi described some designations as simply opaque, particularly those relating to terrorist intentions and capabilities.

Japan’s increased emphasis on censoring journalists attracted international attention. In April of 2015 The New York Times ran an article titled “Effort by Japan to Stifle News Media Is Working” addressing concerns about free speech and information transparency in Japan under the LDP Abe leadership:
Many journalists and political experts say the Abe government is trying to engineer a fundamental shift in the balance of power between his administration and the news media, using tactics to silence criticism that go beyond anything his predecessors tried and that have frustrated many journalists.
These have included more aggressive complaints to the bosses of critical journalists and commentators like Mr. Koga, and more blatant retaliation against outlets that persist in faulting the administration.
At the same time, Mr. Abe has tried to win over top media executives and noted journalists with private sushi lunches….“The Abe government is showing an obsession with the media that verges on paranoia,” said Keigo Takeda, a former editor in chief at Newsweek Japan who is now a respected freelance journalist. “I have never seen this level of efforts to micromanage specific newspapers and TV programs.”[xi]

The crackdown on press freedom involves a number of hot-button issues as the LDP pushes through changes in interpretation of Japan’s pacifist post-World War II constitution.

[i] This discussion informed by Majia Nadesan, “Fukushima and Dispossession: The End of Liberal Democracy in Japan?” In Majia Nadesan, Antonio Boys, Andrew McKillop, and Richard Wilcox (eds) Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization? (100-129) (The Dispossession Publishing Group, 2014): 115-120.

[ii] J. Adelstein, “Japan: The new Uzbekistan of press freedom in Asia,” The Japan Times (November 30, 2013): http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/30/national/japan-the-new-uzbekistan-of-press-freedom-in-asia/#.U2cUIV7K3yi.

[iii] Cited in Adelstein, “Japan: The New Uzbekistan,” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/30/national/japan-the-new-uzbekistan-of-press-freedom-in-asia/#.U2cUIV7K3yi.

[iv] Ralph Nader, “The Fukushima secrecy syndrome – from Japan to America,” Common Dreams (January 24, 2014): https://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/01/24-8

[v] “Writer calls for change in secretive bureaucratic culture,” The Mainichi (January 7, 2014): http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140107p2a00m0na005000c.html.

[vi] Okuyama, T., & Sunaoshi, H. (2013, December 17). State secrets law raises concern about safety of nuclear power plants. The Asahi Shimbun. Available http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201312170006

[vii] “Asahi Shimbun president resigns; a board member to take over,” November 14, 2014. Accessed October 4, 2015. Available: https://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201411140092.

[viii] “The Yoshida Testimony: The Fukushima Nuclear Accident as Told by Plant Manager Masao Yoshida,” The Asahi Shimbun May 20, 2014. Accessed May 21, 2014. Available: http://www.asahi.com/special/yoshida_report/en/.

[ix] “The Yoshida Testimony: The Fukushima Nuclear Accident as Told by Plant Manager Masao Yoshida,” The Asahi Shimbun December 3, 2014 [Revised version]. Accessed October 4, 2014. Available: http://www.asahi.com/special/yoshida_report/en/.

[x] “Gov't list outlines designation of 140 special state secrets under new law,” The Mainichi (March 23, 2015), http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150323p2a00m0na010000c.html

[xi] Fackler, Martin (2015, April 26) “Effort by Japan to Stifle News Media Is Working” The New York Times (April 27, 2015) http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/27/world/asia/in-japan-bid-to-stifle-media-is-working.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=3

1 comment:

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    in: Real Adventures of Jonny Quest Wiki
    Race Bannon

    Race Bannon
    Roger T. "Race" Bannon is a special agent, bodyguard, and pilot from Intelligence One. After Dr. Quest's wife died, the government hired Race to protect Dr. Quest's son, Jonny. Governmental fears that Jonny could "fall into the wrong hands" resulted in Bannon's assignment to guard and tutor Jonny.

    The surname Bannon is Irish (from 'O'Banain') meaning "white".