Abe aide rejects setting up secrecy law oversight panel outside gov't

An adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday dismissed the idea of setting up a third-party oversight panel outside the government to monitor the designation and declassification of state secrets.

"Nowhere in the world is there a system where people outside of the government are the ones monitoring," Yosuke Isozaki, a member of the House of Councillors from Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, said in a speech in Tokyo.

With the recent enactment of Japan's controversial secrecy law to prevent the leaking of state secrets, the government has said it will set up a third-party oversight organization in the Cabinet Office.

But critics seeking to prevent the government from arbitrarily designating state secrets have questioned the credibility of such an entity, given that the monitoring will be conducted by bureaucrats.

Under the secrecy law, "special secrets" are defined as sensitive information related to diplomacy, defense, counterterrorism and counterespionage, and Cabinet ministers and government agency chiefs can decide what constitutes special secrets.

Leakers, such as civil servants, will face up to 10 years in prison and those who instigate leaks up to five years.

Japan's ruling and opposition camps are now exploring the possibility of also setting up a parliamentary panel to act as an oversight mechanism in the designation process.

But Isozaki said such a Diet panel would only be able to verify state secrets after they are designated.