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EDITORIAL | Security Clearance Bill Addresses Protection of Confidential Info

The security clearance system would also apply to the private sector, still allowing business opportunities without compromising sensitive national interests.



Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Sanae Takaichi, Minister for Economic Security, and Taro Kono, Minister for Digital Transformation attend the February 27 Cabinet meeting. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

It is an important step for effectively responding to the issue of economic security

The Cabinet has approved legislation and sent it to the Diet. It would establish a "security clearance" system limiting access to sensitive information related to economic security. Under it, only prescreened individuals in the public and private sectors would be allowed access. 

As the security environment becomes more and more severe, an increasing amount of sensitive economic information is escaping overseas. This threatens the security of the nation. The new system aims to safeguard sensitive internal government information that should be kept confidential. Meanwhile, it still allows the public and private sectors to use such information. 

Why Now?

Establishing a system for protecting confidential information on par with those found in Europe and the United States is imperative if we are to deepen collaboration with these countries regarding economic security. It was, therefore, appropriate for the government to submit the bill. Hopefully, the ruling and opposition parties will move expeditiously to make it law. 

The proposed legislation is called the "Act on the Protection and Utilization of Information Vital to Economic Security." It would designate as confidential economic information that is considered especially important because its leakage could "impede" national security. Information related to cyber attacks, R&D regarding strategic technologies, and key infrastructure is expected to be covered by the new law. 

Exposure of some confidential information could "significantly impede" national security. It would be handled through a review of the application of the existing Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Sanae Takaichi, Minister for Economic Security attend the February 27 Cabinet meeting. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Implementing Security Reviews

It will be necessary to assess the degree of confidentiality for various types of information. Then there must be an assurance that a consistent legal system can operate smoothly. Of course, the public's right to know should not be impinged upon by labeling information "confidential" without adequate justification.

Individuals will be authorized to handle designated information only after undergoing a background investigation. These will look at individual or family involvement in terrorism or espionage activities, criminal record, a history of drug or alcohol abuse, debt, and so on. The individual will have to agree to the process before a background investigation is conducted. 


We disagree with criticisms that the new system will impinge on individual privacy. It is certainly true that people in the private sector as well as public officials will have to undergo background checks. But we are talking about matters of national security. It is only natural that the suitability of individuals to handle confidential information should be rigorously screened. 

Responding to the Private Sector's Needs

Furthermore, the new system responds to the desire of the private sector to increase business opportunities through involvement in projects with foreign governments and other entities handling confidential information. Therefore, using the new system appropriately is important. Public and private sector cooperation will enhance its effectiveness and help dispel any doubts.

Many issues remain to be ironed out. For example, how do we protect highly confidential information that belongs to the private sector as well as the government? Key infrastructure is one example. 

Have other risks been sufficiently investigated, including interactions with members of the opposite sex that raise concerns about espionage? These risks must also be constantly reappraised. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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