Penalties Urged for Leaking Economic Security Information; Japan Government to Submit Bill Based on Panel’s Proposals

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Diet Building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

An expert panel intends to recommend penalties for people who leak confidential information related to national economic security, according to a draft of the panel’s proposals regarding the creation of a security clearance system.

Under the clearance system, the government will certify government officials and people in the private sector who are allowed to handle highly confidential information related to economic security. The panel is discussing proposals to be submitted for the introduction of the system.

In addition to the inclusion of a clause stipulating penalties for leaks, the panel’s draft will stipulate the need to have a single organization handle investigations into whether to authorize people to handle confidential information.

A meeting of the panel will be held, possibly on Wednesday, to formalize the draft proposals.

The government plans to submit a bill based on the proposals to the ordinary Diet session that is to convene on Jan. 26. The bill would create a new law on the protection and utilization of important information for national economic security.

As practical matters concerning the new system, the draft contains ideas regarding the types of information to be covered and investigations to authorize clearance. It cites such things as measures against cyberattacks and information about supply chains as “information related to protecting the economic foundation that supports the safety of the nation and the people.”

The draft recommends that information be handled in multiple categories, depending on the level of confidentiality.

Regarding the investigations as to whether people can be certified, the draft stipulates a basic premise of obtaining consent from the people to be checked. It also produces introducing a system in which a person’s certification would be valid for a certain period of time, even if they moved to different organizations or divisions.

About the penalty clause, the draft states that “from a viewpoint of deterrence, it is necessary to more effectively protect [economic security information].”

Punishments for leaking highly confidential information need to be on the same level, the draft says, as those contained in the Law on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, which stipulates measures for protecting information in four fields — defense, diplomacy, prevention of spying, and prevention of terrorism.

Under the law, violators face up to 10 years in prison.

In addition to establishing a security clearance system, the panel’s draft calls for the government to publicize easy-to-understand standards and strengthen cooperation with allies and like-minded countries.