The Defense Ministry has been advised to lift the state secrecy designation of a file that a government oversight body says contains no applicable restricted information under Japan’s secrecy law, the Cabinet Office said.
The ministry was also asked on Aug 9 to take corrective actions in relation to two other cases of designation procedures deemed inappropriate in a government-wide audit of the classification of documents in 2015.
The corrections were the first to be requested since the law took effect in December 2014, allowing government ministries and agencies to classify information they deem sensitive in the areas of defense, foreign policy, counterespionage and counterterrorism.
While the Defense Ministry has complied with the requests, the revelation could raise suspicions about the ministry’s handling of information, amid strong public concern about arbitrary designation of state secrets.
The Cabinet Office, however, said its oversight body’s audit found no ministries or agencies had misclassified particular information as state secrets.
The Defense Ministry file concerned a directive on the implementation of information management. The audit body said the file contained no information that could be classified as secret and called on the ministry to “swiftly remove” the designation.
The ministry was also asked to correct a case in which it had effectively expanded an existing category of state secrets on its own, rather than applying for the establishment of a new category as it was required to do.
The classification pertained to the collection of data from satellites belonging to the state or its affiliated agencies.
The oversight organ also took issue with the ministry’s failure to mark specified secrets in red in some documents and advised the ministry to use the color. The information in question was marked in black.